I’ve heard the you’re working too many hours advice hundreds of times since starting Printfection back in 2004. I’m only now starting to believe it.

It really is great advice. And the advice applies to anything you’re passionate about, not just starting a company.

Take it easy. This whole startup thing, this whole rush thing. You’re thinking about it as ‘I’m going to put in all this work right now and then I can just coast away from there. It’s never going to be less work. In some ways, it’s just going to get to be more work. So if you setup your practices right now of working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, you’re just going to be stuck in that treadmill for the rest of your time working. The patterns you set, the practices you choose to adopt when you’re a startup will stick with you.

David Heinemeier Hanson, 37signals podcast #5

Kevin and I used to keep track of how many hours we were working each day. And god forbid, if we took a day off we made a note in our spreadsheet to justify the time off. We were really hard on ourselves.

An example note in my spreadsheet: Family in town – 1/2 day.

How pathetic! When family comes to town once a year, take the day off and don’t worry about it! No need to justify spending time with family.

But if you’re in the early stages of your startup, you probably think I’m full of shit.

Maybe you’re keeping track of your hours like I was. And you probably think I’m just another idiot with a blog. So be it. But I’m going to give some advice anyways:

Looking back, I could have worked a lot smarter and spent more time thinking about what would really move our business forward. And what stuff I was doing that had little impact. I would have got 80% as much done. And probably been a lot happier overall.

There’s a period of a few years between 2005-2008 I barely remember. Thinking back, I can hardly remember fun stuff outside of work I did during those years. All I remember is we worked every day, all day. That’s no way to live your life!

While we’ve cut back our hours, we still work way more than 40 hours a week. Someday I hope to work just 40 hours a week and still double revenues every year. That would be an accomplishment!

But for now, we’ve learned to take most weekends off, a weekday here or there, long weekend trips now and then, and generally try to have a semi-balanced life.

And you know what? Our business is better than ever!

It really is a marathon. There will never be less work. Yes, you’ll eventually hire more people. But then you have to manage them and figure out more strategy and deal with more problems. And when you get more customers, there will be more requests and more things to do.

Work doesn’t pause for life. It’s up to you to take control, set a realistic schedule, and live your life in a way that makes you happy.

Still don’t believe me? Wait 5 years and re-read this post. You’ll have either burned out and killed your own startup, or changed your mind!

PS – if I’m slow to respond to comments that’s because I’m currently in Spain on my first two week vacation, ever!