Everyone defines success differently. For some, success could mean making a certain amount of income. While for others, it is determined by the level of happiness you are able to achieve. But, regardless of how you define success, everyone wonders this same question: if you want to become successful, how long will it take? How many hours do you need to put in a week until you are considered a success?
How many hours does a successful person work? Because each person is different, and our definitions of success are different, there is no one clear answer. However, on average, a successful individual may work up to an average of 40 hours per week.
When it comes to how many actual hours a person needs a week to be successful, there are many different factors to consider, such as your personal motivation and life goals. The remainder of this article will discuss what success means to different people, the average amount of hours successful people work, and how you can leverage time spent toward becoming successful.
Success is different for everyone. It can be measured in monetary value or it may be an expression of something unquantifiable. In truth, the only measure of your success that matters is your own. No one can tell you that you are not successful if you are living your life according to your values and principles.
Although the meaning of success can change between individuals, one thing that success does have in common among all of us is that it inherently provides us with peace of mind, as the late Coach John Wooden of UCLA once noted.
There are also shared characteristics that many successful people share with one another.
Successful people often:
- Are driven by the challenge of the impossible.
- Embrace failure and view it as a learning process.
- Identify who they are, what drives them, and pursue self-exploration.
- Desire to make a change and improve things.
- Are goal-oriented.
- Have confidence and conviction in themselves.
- Have a great relationship with time and how to manage it.
- Are optimistic.
- Simply don’t multi-task. Instead, they focus on a few things at a time.
Successful people who have these traits often love reaching their goals and reaping the benefits that stem from them. And you can easily become one of them, too!
The Average Work Week
The time that a worker spends on the clock depends on their industry or trade. Some jobs are only part-time, meaning employees work an average of fewer than 30 hours a week. Full-time jobs usually require 35 to 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday. However, not all businesses stick to this standard.
Over the decades, the amount of time a person spends at work has increased. It is clear that people are working more today than we have throughout history.
- Societal Changes – In the past, men were expected to work eight-hour days while women had the option to stay home to care for the children and take care of chores and errands. Today, things are different. Everyone in a household is expected to work once they’re able to.
- Higher Cost of Living – In addition, as the cost of living has increased over time, so have the number of hours spent at work. Some people work more simply because they want to guarantee they can make ends meet for their household.
- Changes in Work Week – Traditionally, the average workweek has always been Monday through Friday for full-time employees. However, some employers now require that you are available for at least one day on the weekend, as well.
- Position – A person who is a salary-based employee may find that they are often working at least 47 hours per week. The higher you are in upper-level management, the more hours you seem to be putting in at the office.
- Paid Overtime – Some, and not all, companies allow employees to earn additional income through paid overtime, in which they can work extra hours outside of their regular work schedule to make more. Many workers feel the need to volunteer for the extra hours just so they have enough money to contribute to the cost of living or to put away in savings. Other employees may feel required to work overtime to complete projects on time.
How to Be Successful in an Average Work Week
Success, for some, comes as what sometimes seems to be pure luck—knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time, and having the right ideas in mind. However, others, on the other hand, may need to work hard for a long time before they achieve their ultimate goals. Fortunately, you can start becoming a success just by applying yourself during your normal workweek.
You can be successful working your average hours for a workweek by being in the moment and having a distinct plan for the day. A lot can be accomplished as long as you remain focused on the tasks at hand and finish them step by step. If you are trying to strive for success, try following this formula:
- Ask yourself what you want and where you want to go.
- Create goals, make a plan to reach them, and set deadlines for yourself.
- Take action every day to move closer to your goal. It does not matter how big or small a step you take, as long as you are moving!
- Keep going until you succeed, and never give up. Believing in yourself is key and a very important step in reaching your goals.
Many people use the SMART method to create tangible, reasonable goals:
- Specific – What is your goal? What do you want to happen? Write it down!
- Measurable – How will you know you reached your goal? Is it the amount of money you earn? The time spent on a project?
- Attainable – Is the goal realistic? Do you have the tools you need to succeed?
- Relevant – Why is this goal a priority? Why is this a goal for now rather than later?
- Time-Oriented – What is your deadline to reach this goal? Do you need to set milestones to work your way up to it?
By following the SMART method, you can establish realistic goals and stay focused on them from start to finish.
How to Be Successful with More Hours
The hours that CEOs, millionaires, and company founders work are usually different from employees.
Many of these individuals will say that being successful with their business sometimes requires working more than the regular nine-to-five. In fact, many of them claim that at some point, they have worked as much as 60 hours each week!
It may seem like these business owners and investors end up taking on a job and a half to be successful, but there is a reason why they put in so much time.
When you are first building a company, all of your attention should be on the business. This is one of the reasons why new companies fail within the first two years. People do not realize how much of their time and effort is required to make it take off. There is also a lot of time spent trying to grow a business in its early stages, which may involve calling or emailing potential clients or customers, vendors, partners, and more.
If you are wondering where some successful people are getting the ENERGY to work so many hours…
I highly recommend Jim Harmer’s book: Work Energy: Finish Everything You Start and Fearlessly Take On Any Goal*. Jim Harmer is a very successful online entrepreneur, who started from scratch and was able to pay off his student debt and become very wealthy by working on his websites. He currently spends his time and energy on Income School and its Project 24 program*, which helps regular people (like me!) replace their full-time income with passive income generated by niche websites.
Jim started his side-hustle as a hobby, while he was a Law student. Needless to say, he had to put in so many hours of work to become successful as he was pursuing his law studies AND business at the same time.
His book tells the story of his journey but also revolves around the concept that every individual has a different type of “work energy”. In order to unleash your full power, you need to “know thyself” and find out what type of work motivates you enough to put in long hours without feeling like you are overdoing it.
Starting a business requires playing many roles at a time since you cannot afford to hire people just yet.
It can take years to really see your business take off. But with hard work and extra time spent, new owners can eventually become successful. However, because all of these people are working nearly double the average time to have their investments pay off, sometimes they do not have enough time to take care of themselves.
Because these individuals have to work extremely long, difficult hours to make a business work, they often lose their work-life balance in the process. Yes, in some cases, they may end up successful, but at the cost of their personal lives, relationships, and even health.
That’s what happened to Arianna Huffington after she put every minute of her time into her business for years. She just collapsed. And she had to face the hard truth: you can’t just keep working all the time without paying the price for it at some point. She tells her story and shares her lessons learned in her book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder*.
That is where self-care should come in.
Self-care involves truly taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health, from the inside-out. Following a self-care regimen can improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and eliminate stress. It is about taking care of your needs first, and not last.
Self-care can involve many things that can make a big difference in how effective you ultimately work. Some examples of self-care habits include:
- Practicing mindfulness or meditation
- Getting quality sleep each night
- Stress management
- Blocking quality time with your partner, friends, and family
When you work additional hours, it is easy to forget that your needs are important too. Practicing these self-care techniques and more are necessary to take care of yourself as you work toward success.
Mental fitness is just as important as your physical fitness, but it is often neglected. Practicing mindfulness helps you gain clarity amongst all the chaos that a typical workweek can bring into your life. It can shift your thought process to be more objective and inspire positive change.
- The most obvious way to practice mindfulness is meditation. Meditation allows you to clear your head of negative thoughts and take the time to listen to your body.
- Another way you can keep your mind strong is by reading and learning as much as you possibly can. Knowledge really is power. Try reading something related to the goals you want to reach to inspire you to keep going after them. Alternatively, you can read articles or books on subjects related to the kind of success you want to achieve.
- A final example of how to practice mindfulness is by keeping up with a journal that you use to write down information, ideas, and thoughts; this is a healthy form of self-care and being mindful. It can help you evaluate your direction in all aspects of your life. You can also use a journal or planner to make prioritized lists to be more productive with your time.
If you’re willing to try journaling, my personal favorite is Intelligent Change’s science-based Five-Minute Journal*.
Get Enough Sleep
In some cases, working more hours can do more harm than good, especially when it comes to your health. For one, you can lose out on needed sleep.
People who work long hours usually do not get enough quality sleep. Although some people claim to be well-rested with only four to five hours of sleep compared to the average of seven to eight, quality sleep is what is more important here.
Sleep is essential for your mental and physical health. Not getting enough quality sleep will affect the following areas:
- Emotional balance
- Brain and heart health
- Immune system
Being well-rested is essential to having the energy and focus you need to be successful in all things you do throughout the week.
Being successful—and maintaining that success—can be extremely stressful for some, which results in an increase in cortisol levels. Stress can also cause physical, emotional, and psychological problems. Many do not realize that the headaches, stomach aches, or high blood pressure they are experiencing are a symptom of stress.
In fact, I’ve been there myself! A few years ago, when I did my first attempt at building a business, I literally collapsed a few months in. And I honestly did not even believe that I suffering from stress, because I was doing something I loved. If you want to read more about this story, here’s my article: How I Struggle(d) to Focus on ONE Goal as a Starting Entrepreneur.
Other common symptoms of stress include:
- Decreased energy
- Problems sleeping
- Frequent colds or respiratory infections
- Chest pain and fast heart rate
As you can see, stress can negatively affect your life, so it is important to have an outlet to release stress whenever possible.
There are many different strategies that you can do to reduce stress. Many people find exercise to be a great outlet for stress, but there are other things that you can do, such as spend time with friends and family or participate in hobbies that you enjoy.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
If you want to start and grow a successful company, working hard during long hours and making goals in-between can certainly help get you there. But spending excessive hours working is the fastest way to burn out and lose momentum. On top of that, it is much easier for mistakes to occur when people are overworked.
It is easy to practice a “work smarter, not harder” mantra. Give yourself enough rest so you can resume your work with a clear-thinking head. Get in the habit of thinking positively as you re-approach a goal. Ultimately, you want to end up with a balanced life where you have time for work, relationships, fun, and relaxation—all while gaining the resilience to meet the demands of your goals.
It is important to remember that there is no correlation between the number of hours you work and how successful you are.
By setting SMART goals and deadlines for yourself, you can just as easily obtain success working a normal 40-hour workweek or less as topping off at 60 hours.
Here are two books that I would highly recommend to those of you who still find it hard to believe and want to keep working 60 hours+ a week to be successful:
- The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results*, by Gary Keller. The author tells about his personal story, and how he went from working too much and burning out, to focusing on just ONE THING 4 hours per day and reaching his goals much quicker and easier this way.
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less*, by Greg McKeown. This book is amazing and helps you examine your life and attitude by asking the RIGHT QUESTIONS every time you are confronted to opportunities. Because, if you want to work SMARTER, not harder, you’ve got to learn to say NO to good opportunities, in order to be able to say YES to great opportunities!
How to Be Successful with Fewer Hours
Of course, not everyone has to work a full 40-hour workweek or more to be successful. Working more does not necessarily mean you will be more successful, either.
Believe it or not, people are usually most productive for only three hours out of a standard eight-hour workday!
But how do you get even more done in less time?
All you need is good time management.
1. The 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule is useful for helping people identify areas or times that are less productive than others. It essentially means that 20 percent of the activities you do will account for 80 percent of the results you get. And what you need to do, is figure out which activities have this high leverage potential.
2. Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s Law shows that assigning less time toward a particular task gives us the ability to focus on that task and complete it in less time compared to if we were to dedicate more time to it. This can be extremely powerful. Can you relate? When you have only a limited time to get a big chunk of work done, you’re sometimes surprised to see that what usually would have taken you a full 8-hour workday suddenly fits into just 2 hours, right? You should use this to your advantage and set yourself a hard time limit so as to optimize your working hours and leave room for FREE TIME!
3. Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro method is designed to guide people in working intensely for short periods of time (generally 25 minutes) and then resting in-between intervals (5 minutes, or up to 25 minutes about every 2 hours). It allows you to take a mental break in-between challenging tasks. I personally use the Pomodoro method every day. It helps me stay relaxed while performing at my best. Also, it can help you take a step back from your task and sometimes realize that you’re focusing on the wrong thing.
4. The 10–Minute Rule
The 10-minute rule assigns tasks a 10-minute time frame. If you cannot complete a task in 10 minutes, then it needs to be broken down into smaller, doable tasks.
With good time management skills, you can be more productive and get more things done without having to work more hours. It becomes easier to focus on important tasks and not waste valuable time on inessential tasks.
In addition, being successful with fewer working hours could improve other areas in your life. For example, many career advancements and other opportunities could present themselves if you are able to develop sound time management skills.
One Example: Building Niche Websites To Generate Passive Income
I’m a huge fan of automated, online business models. Current research, conducted and summarized by Elaine Pofeldt in her book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business: Make Great Money. Work the Way You Like. Have the Life You Want*, was able to show that this type of business holds tremendous potential, and keeps growing exponentially.
Besides the possibility of earning an income WAY HIGHER than any regular salary-based job, this type of business can lead to more freedom and less working hours, hence more space and time for your friends, family, and hobbies.
There are more and more ways to go about it. But if you’re new to this, I highly recommend starting with Income School’s Project 24 program*. Yes, I do earn a commission if you click and buy through this link, at no extra cost to you. Yet I only recommend this program because it really blew my mind. The strategies taught are working!
They do, however, require you to put in the time and effort beforehand. But if you follow the 60-step course, 1 step at a time, every day, you are most likely to be able to earn a full income 24-months from now.
The 4-Hour Work Week
If I’ve sparked your interest and you want to learn more about how to be incredibly successful by putting only A FEW HOURS a week into your business, I’d highly recommend Tim Ferriss’ book: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich*.
This book was an eye-opener for me and led me to re-evaluate my way of working.
In case you may wonder, no, I’m not yet working just 4 hours a week 🙂 But I evaluate every single task I do under the efficiency loop. I’m trying to focus ONLY on very few high leverage tasks. And this means that my workweek averages about only 20 hours… yet I’m still seeing the desired results, and can take time to relax and work on myself.
Anyone can work as little as 12 hours a week or as much as 60 hours, and still be successful. Why? When it comes down to it, success is how you define it. If you know that you spend every minute of your day doing the best you can at your job, working toward a goal, or any other benchmark you set for yourself that you believe leads to success, then you are on the right track.