How many hours are in the day?

The simple answer is 24 of course (on Earth), and it's actually not exactly 24 (more like 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds give or take)... but close enough for our purposes.

But the less obvious question is how far you can push yourself before you break. It's different for different people of course, and as you age it tends to change as well. Babies tend to sleep a lot for short periods, but for most of us, pushing the envelope is when you get down to 4 hours a day, and sleep in once a week. Less than that and folks tend to get sick. Of course drugs can change this, but we'll stay natural for now.

In those now 20 hours a day 7 days a week, you also need to do some other things like eat, move, clean, shop, remove waste, etc. So that will bring even the most efficient of us down to about 18 hours. So now you have 18 hours a day 7 days a week to spend on your business.

When to do what

In most locations, other people you are likely to interact with locally are only working during about 12 of those hours (some start earlier and some stay up later). Which 12 hours is another issue, and of course if you are going to be reasonable with other people, most of them will only be interacting with you during an 8-10 hour period. That leaves about 4 hours a day not interacting locally.

Thank goodness for the Internet. I send out emails early in the morning when I wake up and find I have nothing else critical to do. Take the morning emails in, read the critical ones and respond, then send out secondary emails that are a normal part of doing business. In my case, I sent about 15 emails this morning as follow-ups to things that happened in the last week. Then invitations to present, than going through business cards from last week's conference I attended.

On Thursdays (today is a Thursday) I have regular calls starting at 0800 locally. With an hour for lunch and a break, it's a call every minute until about 4PM. Today, one cancelled out at 4AM, but since I didn't know it till then, I couldn't plan around it - giving me a free hour during the day to do things that are important but not urgent. I also get time to call the East coast of the US after 5AM here (8AM there).

On this particular Thursday, I also have a meeting about 2 hours away from 1830-2030 local time. That means on the road for about 4 hours and getting home at 2230. Shower and bed, imagine it's done by 2300, leaving 5 hours for sleep to get up tomorrow at 4AM. The real problem is the drive home when I will be tired, it will be dark, and the highways will be crowded. But the 2 hours on the way outbound are still in the part of the day where I can make local calls (4-6PM), if I eat dinner after arriving.

How much can you (or I) really work?

If you want a decent life, you really cannot keep up this schedule for too many years. You need to have fun, you need more sleep to be well, you need more exercise, you need to spend time with friends and family, and you need the rest of a life (or at least I do). Otherwise, why are you doing all of this?

Don't get me wrong. Working long hours and paying attention to your business is a good thing you may need to do to succeed. It gives you an advantage over others because you are more committed and dedicated. You get more done because you spend more time doing things. Up to the point where you are less productive per hour.

But there comes a point where you get more done in less time by taking a break. People are not robots (and robots need down-time for repairs as well). You can only drive yourself so hard before you get past the elastic region and into the plastic region. In the elastic region, you can bounce back after some rest. But when you get into the plastic part, you do long-term harm to yourself. Whatever your work is, it's probably not so important to harm yourself in order to do it. Of course there are exceptions for the martyrs among us. But I am not one of those.

In summary

So it's 0530 in the morning and I am getting ready for my first calls to the East coast, having spend almost 30 minutes on this writing. But I think I'm going to take a break now and get some breakfast. Then, after a leisurely bio break, I will get on that call at 0600. By the time it's done the Sun will be up and I will go for my morning walk. Then a quick email check, and off to my first meeting. And maybe I'll skip that evening thing today if I don't feel like it will be safe to be driving for 2 hours after only 6 hours of sleep last night and being awake for 16 hours before I start the drive. All work and no play is no good for anyone.

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