meaningful work podcast

Episode 19: Do less, do better

Oct 12, 2023 | Podcast

Every business owner I speak with nowadays is overwhelmed, a little weary or downright burnt out, and ready to simplify, streamline, and work fewer hours. In fact, that’s the number one reason why owners seek me out for business coaching: because they want to work fewer hours while increasing their business profits and take-home pay.

So let’s do less then, shall we?

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Behind-the-scenes of the Leverage Mastermind launch, while Brook is traveling in Europe with her family.
  • How to wrangle your screentime and daily mobile use WITHOUT ‘white-knuckling it’.
  • The 111 day work year and 20-hour working week. Whether ‘work life’ balance is more or less relevant today than 10 years ago.
  • Why distractions, trivial work, and busy work is stressing you out – and how to make the shift into deeper, more meaningful, more profitable work.
  • Why holidays often don’t work for owners – and what to do instead.
  • Better boundaries and why energy vampires need to be kept at arm’s length.
  • Why a song-writing course that Brook did was so valuable
  • The most valuable activities you can do – and when to do them.
  • What you should NEVER outsource – and why.

Want to earn consistent $10K+ months in your business, without working longer hours, without hiring staff or contractors, without spending thousands on social media ads, or getting a huge influx of cash (though it’d be nice…)? Grab your Blueprint to consistent $10K+ month:


Welcome to Meaningful work, Remarkable life. I’m your host, Brooke McCarthy, and I’m a business coach, trainer, and speaker, living and working on the, unceded lands of the Cammeraygal people here in Sydney, Australia. In this podcast, we explore the paradoxes inherent in working for love and money, magnifying your impact and doing work you feel born to do. We explore the intersections of the meanings we bring to work and the meanings we derive from work.

Pretty much every client who comes to me for help growing and scaling their business has the same goal at heart. And that is to earn more money by working fewer hours, to be more intentional with their time, to be focusing on more meaningful work, more in depth work, to do a better job doing less in fewer hours.

Now, in the last five to six weeks, I think it’s five weeks now, my two children and my partner and I have been traveling. We’ve been road tripping around southern Italy before we flew to England, and then we drove to Wales. Now we’re over, esconced at West Cliffon Sea in Essex with my parents in law. And I have been keeping a work travel diary, which I’ve been sharing with clients. And I found the experience quite illuminating in how many hours or how few hours we can work while still running the business, servicing clients, and getting paid. And this has also been really interesting because I’ve just wrapped up, the Leverage Mastermind launch with my collaborator, Simon Kelly. And I’ve run a lot know, low tech, low fuss, minimum viable launching over the years. But this was probably one of the most relaxed launches I’ve ever done, and we hit our goal, which was brilliant. And the other thing as well is my partner, Pete, is not working as much as he has done. he’s also self employed. And the industry that he works in, which is the property industry, is in a downturn at the moment. So he’s certainly spending far less time on laptops than he normally does. And we’ve had many of these kind of longer trips, longer holidays before where we’ve had the laptops, and we’ve certainly put in more hours than we have on this particular trip.

The other thing that I’ve noticed while traveling is the reduction or the removal, the lack of school and life admin. And I really think that this is a growing problem. I know a, lot of my friends don’t moan about this in the same way I do. Maybe there’s still a bit of taboo about complaining about anything related to children or our darling our darling children, but I really do think the volume of hours expected of parents is a little unreasonable, or a lot unreasonable and inefficient. And I’m not talking about sitting with your child and doing homework. I’m not talking about meaningful kind of time spent with your children. Of course, I’m talking about admin. I’m talking about relentless communications with school and extracurricular activities and the, inefficiency of it and the volume of it.

I also know that a lot of people right now, a lot of self employed people post COVID in this weird, not post COVID era, are over it. We are over the long hours, we are over the stress. We are doing the deep and meaningful navel gazing. We are wondering if this is all it’s about. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? I know a lot of my clients struggle with emails. I know a lot of business owners who don’t respond to emails and take way too long or just never quite get around to it, who I can only imagine are completely overwhelmed when they look at their inboxes. So, five and a half hours a day is the average screen time for Australians as part of Australia’s, Tech Guide website, a ah, 2021 article. And that figure of 5.5 hours a day includes the Silent Generation in the US. This is 7 hours, four minutes staring at a screen every single day. That’s a hell of a lot of screen time.

So last year, I did a mastermind with an American coach, Hunter Welling from the agency. And Hunter had built a reputation around this idea of 111 day work year. And when I first heard that, when I first heard this kind of claim to fame, I probably rolled my eyes, I’m sure I rolled my eyes internally at least, and thought, oh my goodness, how unrealistic to expect we’re going to shoehorn the building of a business, the running of a business, into 111 days a year. But of course, this is hunter is one of a few different people, one of many, perhaps a growing group. Tim Ferris, of course, with the four hour work week, although I’m not entirely sure, I believe the Tim, he strikes me as a very, know overachiever. Rachel Cook from the CEO Collective, has been reporting to work 20 hours a week for a number of years now, using the model calendar approach. So if we break down our hours in the day, and let’s say you wake up at seven, which more or less I do, depending on the day, and you’re in bed at nine, which, again, more or less, I am in bed at nine, because I am that kind of saddle. That’s 14 hours of awakeness. 14 hours awake each day, which translates to 98 hours of the week or 5096 hours of the year. So what do we do with that time?

And this is not just an episode or a conversation about work, my dear friends. This is a conversation about life, right? This is a conversation about what we value, what we deem as important, and how aligned or in sync we are with that. how much alignment is there between what we claim to value, what we say we value, and what we actually do with our time. So that idea of uninterrupted work or deep work getting into the flow with a kind of a high value activity is of course been massively disrupted by phones and internet. And not only by phones and internet. There’s many other things as well. For hundreds of years, women for example, have had far less great swathes of unbounded time. They’ve been constantly interrupted. They’re not able to do the deep work to write the philosophies oftentimes. And obviously, I’m very broadly generalising here, but they didn’t have access to uninterrupted time and much of it in which to pursue high value activities.

We’ve also got a few more complications or a few more layers to introduce. Of course, firstly is the privilege of this conversation. The privilege of even having the luxury to discuss what do I do with this great unbounded time, 14 hours a day. For a lot of people listening to this, I could understand how you might want to throw the phone at the wall right now and go screaming into the void. because I might sound like a privileged pratt, but I want to acknowledge that firstly, there are many, many people who don’t have the luxury to be owning that time and to be thinking about how they’re going to spend it. But I think it’s even especially important the less time you have. Let’s say your time is extremely limited and you have demands on your time. You are a carer, for example, for multiple people and you have m far fewer hours in which to actually spend, then these questions are even more important.

Perhaps the other thing that I want to introduce, and certainly this is something that’s caused me a lot of frustration over the years, is there has definitely been an anti hustle movement for a number of years. It kind of changes not direction, it changes definition. People use different words to describe this, but for a number of years there’s been this anti hustle kind of backlash. And whilst a lot of it’s kind of well meaning, a lot of it, is steeped in privilege, a lot of people that are opting out of technology are oftentimes able to do so because they’re heavily reliant on their spouses to kind of keep up with things because they’ve decided they’re not going to check their mobile or they’re not going to own a mobile. So hustle and grind culture that kind of need to sell and to market and to raise your visibility and reach this is part and parcel of being in business. I’m sorry, I don’t really give a flying stuff about being offensive right now. If you are building a business, it is very hard to do so while opting out of marketing and opting out of sales. Like, I don’t see how it’s possible, right? Unless you’re some kind of person who’s being gifted 100 grand or half a mil to start and you can just sit in your glass office and delegate to your sales director, or maybe your sales director can just run everything. Who knows?

Anyways, back to what we were talking about. The point is that when we’re trying to take control and I’m going to get to some practical points, I promise I’m going to get to some things to try. Andphasize what is the point of all this? The point is when we allow our phones to rule our days, when we allow the person with the loudest voice to pull our priorities, when we allow for the constant distractions of which there, are countless to haphazardly bounce from this to that to this to that throughout the day, then we’re left completely and utterly not just dissatisfied, but burnt out. And I want to make the point that you can absolutely, definitely be burnt out and stressed through living a very quiet, humdrum, not so exciting from the outside looking life.

When you are doing trivial stuff all day, every day, when your days and hours are full of distraction and crap, that doesn’t mean anything. When you are doing work that you know in your heart of hearts you don’t really care about, that is extremely stressful and draining and not to be dramatic, it absolutely, definitely can lead to anxiety, depression and the rest. All right, ask me how I know. So the other thing, too, is my opinion on all of this has kind of been my opinions, of which I have plenty, as you can hear, have been hard won. I have definitely burnt out in my business. I’ve had multiple extremely stressful periods over the last 15 years in business, and even ten years ago, if you ask me. I’m sure I’ve said this before on other podcasts and articles over the last ten or so years, are work life boundaries relevant? Ten years ago, I would have said, no, they’re not. Not in this day and age, they’re not. Because Peter and I, we were on the computer all the time. We had that poorest work life thing happening. When you’re self employed, you know, why wouldn’t you just jump on and do that thing? Because you can. And because it’s your business, right? Because you’re building your business, so it’s only you. It’s not the boss that you’re giving the time to.

Now, I would absolutely, definitely say that those work life boundaries are far more relevant. And maybe it’s because I’m older and time is a wasting and it feels like each year passes and I go, great, I’m proud of this and I’m proud of that. I am kicking some big goals. I’m excited by I’m excited by my first ever mastermind yay leverage. But there are other things on the list that I’m no closer, to doing.

All right, let’s get into it. So here are some things that I’d love you to try and face, if you don’t already have a pen or pencil, please grab one. Now, in the age of information, you do not just want to be a passive consumer with your mouth hanging open in front of the TV, right? We need to use this information to actually enact change, run experiments, try it on for size, see what happens. Report back, please. So number one is creating time and creating space. This is always the first thing. This is the same process I do with all of my clients. We cannot keep Piling to do’s on top of an already overstuffed list. So one of the things that I do and that I teach is self binding. And self binding is what we do when, for example, we put out the sneakers, next to the bed, and we set the alarm the night before so that we’re going to get up in the morning and go for a walk. And we can use technology to bind technology to bind ourselves from technology.

So nothing on my phone tings or dings. My phone is always on silent. There are very few notifications apart from text messages that pop up on the screen. Definitely no pings on the computer. I have sat with so many CEOs, it’s kind of shocking. I think people who I believe should know better. It’s certainly not new information, right? And their computer is constantly pinging at them. So definitely none of that. Turn all of those things off.

Number two, create some kind of plan or map or idea of what you want to do intentionally. Now, this is harder than it sounds. For some people, it’s relatively straightforward. But I know for a lot of my clients and myself, it can be really tricky, and certainly for myself. One of the things that I find most frustrating is that I’m interested in so many things. I am so interested in so many things. So I can look a bit haphazard sometimes. But the point is to not do things haphazardly. The point is to do things intentionally, things that you actually want to do. So that includes absolutely, definitely hobbies. Especially if you’re self employed. That goes double if you’re self employed. Creativity, health, relationships, friendships. How many of us bemoan the fact that we don’t see our friends enough? You go to a funeral and you go, oh, my goodness, we really need to catch up more often. We shouldn’t leave it till somebody dies. And then what happens? You see the same person the next funeral and have the next conversation.

So the third thing is boundaries. And asserting those boundaries. And this is, again, boundaries are one thing. Asserting the boundary is something else entirely. So that includes clients. And certainly ten years ago, when I had far fewer, work life boundaries, I had fewer, boundaries with clients. Far fewer boundaries. I shudder when I think what I put up with, what I tolerated, and I modeled that to clients. So, of course, why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t they? whereas now, my processes, my client processes and my boundaries and my terms are clear, and they are enforced. And as a consequence, I don’t have bad behavior from clients. I don’t have nearly so much bad behavior from clients. And if I do, then it’s normally just a case of, hey, this is how it works, and this is the process, and this is why the process is there. And people say, thank you very much.

So beyond work, of course, we have children, we have parents, we have friends, we have colleagues. For a lot of female, business owners, children, and that includes adult children, are a huge distraction. And the business owner will kind of drop everything. That’s fine when it’s necessary, right? When it is actually an emergency. But oftentimes it’s actually what you need to teach your kids, some goddamn life skills and independence. Right? They should know how to bloody do a lot of this stuff that they’re interrupting you for.

Number four, computer, not phone. This is a big one, and I am just as guilty as everybody else here. This is one of the reasons why I feel like I’m, able to talk on this topic, is I am just as addicted as the next person. And they’re designed to be addictive. So do not beat yourself up with the computer cable. they are designed to be addictive. You are not smarter than the engineers at these big tech companies. So what can we do? Well, we can put the phone outside the office. We can put the phone in another room. We can turn the phone off. We can put the phone out of reach. We can turn the screen down. We can turn the sound down, the sound off, and we can use the computer, not the phone, because there’s more intentionality there. Right. Number five, deep work. This is the point, right? This is one of the points of all of this. How are we going to do better work? Do less, do better is we can do deep work. And how do we do that? How do we get in the flow? Exactly? Well, I think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding, or there has been a misunderstanding.

I hear, some conversations about sometimes owners say, oh, look, it’s not in your zone of genius. That’s a really interesting book. Guy hendrix the big leap. The Big Leap, I think, has some interesting ideas, but I think there’s a lot of people interpret it very strangely sometimes. And, there seems to be this misunderstanding that if it’s not easy, then you shouldn’t do it. It’s not in your zone of genius. And I just think that’s a load of bullshit. The thing with flow and the thing with deep work is that it is hard. It is hard. As my songwriting teacher, I, feel extremely funny saying that because I wrote some shockingly shit songs. Keppy coots from how to write songs. She said, if it’s not hard, you’re not learning, you’re just rehearsing. And I think that is a major point worth dwelling on, because it has to be stuck at in order for it to be in the flow, in order for it to be deep, in order for meaningful work to result, there needs to be difficulty. And difficulty will bring self doubt, difficulty will bring hardship. That’s kind of the nature of it. Right? And the tendency to want to quit and to want to pick up your phone or respond to an email. Get that quick. Dopamine hit cross off something that’s easy off the list. That will be at an all time high. Right. Because we procrastinate to get away from uncomfortable feelings. So knowing that hopefully is halfway to tolerating that, that it is supposed to be difficult. There are many things I do in my business which feel extremely hard. There are many decisions that I postpone or procrastinate on.

All right, number six to front load your week. This is what I teach in my quarterly business planning sessions. In business reset is to front load your week, particularly Mondays and Tuesdays, to not relegate your business development and marketing to after hours or weekends or public holidays. Yes, I’m looking at you. I know this is common. I know this is common because people tell me all the time your business development activities, your sales activities, your marketing, your visibility and reach activities are your most valuable activities. And, relegating them to after hours, relegating them to evenings or afternoons. It makes no sense. Yeah. High value task, high work hours, where you’re at your best, which is normally mornings. Not always, but eight times out of ten, perhaps. Most people work best in the mornings, and the low energy parts of the day tend to be the afternoon. Again, this is very personal. You might explore this. Please do and experiment and try things out.

Okay, number seven you have a hard start and a hard stop. End of day. Yeah. So you start the day at a particular hour. You end the day at a particular hour. Of course, sometimes I might have an event on in the evening, or I might have something I’m preparing for that I put a lot of extra hours into, and then perhaps the next day I’ll take off or I’ll start late. But there is some kind of end of day ritual as well, because this is a huge, big deal for a lot of business owners. Like, it is not uncommon, very, very common for work to bleed into the evenings and tell me if this sounds like you you log out, perhaps, or you just close the screen. Close the screen down. And then it takes you another two and a half hours to stop thinking about work or feeling slightly anxious. Low level anxiety thinking, did I do enough? I don’t think I did enough. I think I just need to put in another 15 minutes. If I could just finish off that task, I could feel so much better about relaxing in front of this TV program or whatever. Yeah. Does that sound familiar? Does that sound familiar? No. Shame if it does.

Really, really common number eight is to delegate tasks. So we are not superhuman, we are not robots. We do need to delegate some things. And it is an issue at a certain point. There’s many times where I look at a business owner who is earning a good income, earning a decent amount of revenue, and spending time doing tasks that are well beneath them that they could be delegating out. Asking for help and receiving help are, two different things. Ask me how I know. I’m great at asking for help, not so great at receiving it. So you’re delegating your low value task. You’re delegating the things that don’t make a lot of efficient sense to be doing yourself. But please don’t outsource the high value task. Do not outsource creative thinking. Do not outsource key decisions and responsibility that will end in tears, your visibility, your sales. Yes, I know we all dream about having some unicorn salesperson to do it for us, but unless you’ve gotten to a certain level of revenue and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, let’s say half a million. But there are plenty of businesses at Half a Million Revenue who are still the business owner is still doing the sales. It is hard to find an excellent salesperson. and most small businesses, to be brutal, simply cannot afford it. It is a great skill. It is perhaps the primary skill of business is sales. And it’s a skill that relates to so many other things, including empathy, including marketing, including messaging services, service delivery, offer creation, so many other things.

Number nine, hierarchy of important tasks versus unimportant tasks. Now, I use this all the time. If I’m feeling scattered or overwhelmed or I know I’m not being efficient or effective, sometimes I’m having a bad day. And I’ll do this on the hour, every hour. I’ll do this every half hour if I need to. Where I feel scatterbrained, I don’t feel focused. I’ll ask myself, what is the most important thing I need to get done now? Yeah. Ah, having that hierarchy is super important. And the quick dopamine hit is not it. The email responding is not necessarily it. And I know earlier I said you need to respond to your emails and get your inbox under control. But that’s different from kind of responding to emails because you’re like, yeah, I can do that, I can do that, I can do that. The high value activities that have the long term gratification things like building your professional reputation, they’re hard to do right, because there’s no sure fire outcome and you’re not getting the gratification for, perhaps years. Right. So it doesn’t make it any less important. Yeah.

Final point number ten. Everything is habits. We are making habits and breaking habits every single day. Everything becomes habitual. And we are habit seeking people. We are habit seeking creatures. So habits include your thoughts. And these thoughts, of course, when they’re habitual harden into opinions and beliefs that we take for granted as truth. That become the lens through which we view the world. And that, of course, will influence our decisions. So be super careful with that. You can break habits, including the habits of a lifetime. I need to work hard. I derive my value. I derive my self esteem as a human from how productive I am, for how useful I am, for how relevant I am to other people. I need to earn the right to rest. These are, habitual thinking as well. These, are inherited cultural socialization structures that are hundreds of thousands of years old. Are they serving us? I don’t know. You tell me.

Okay, so that is ten practical things to try on for size. Please report back. I would love to hear from you. I always love hearing from people. If you want to disagree with me, great. Send me a message. Send me a DM on Instagram. I’m Brooke McCarthy. Noe, Brooke McCarthy. Double C MCC on Instagram. Or send me an email. Send me a message. Send me a carrier pigeon. Send me a love note in the mail. Let me know what you think and what happened with these experiments on the road to doing less and doing better.

Brook McCarthy Business Coach

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We acknowledge the Cammeraygal people, the traditional and ongoing custodians of the lands that Hustle & Heart creates and works on. This lush land is just north of Sydney Harbour Bridge. We also acknowledge the traditional and ongoing custodians of the land, skies and seas where you are, and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. We recognise that these lands were never ceded.

Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

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