We hear quite often about the grueling hours startup founders put in. How many hours in a week does it take to run a business?
I've watched quite a few presentations from MicroConf and The Business Of Software, and several times I've heard the dreaded triple digit 100 hours per week thrown around.
As an experiment, I started keeping track of my own time spent in front of the computer, using a nifty little time tracking app that sits seamlessly in the background of my desktop called RescueTime.
So now, I have that data for myself, and here it is:
Weekly: May 3 - May 9
These snapshots are more or less typical, which means a normal week is probably somewhere in the 50s for hours worked, as some of those computer hours are not all work related.
And what about our contract developer - how much is he working?
Even though we have been very busy building our web app, the developer is putting in about 45 hours a week.
Is This Standard?
It's difficult to define standard with such a broad question, however, if you look at the top ranking answer for a similar question on Quora, you see the following answer:
In short, 2am work nights are rare, and 60 hours seems to be a common upper limit reference.
Is This A Lot?
We can go back and forth about whether or not a 50-60 hour week is a lot, but there are a lot of reasons that make it feel like less.
But first, let's consider that the average American work week is now 47 hours, according to a recent Gallup poll.
On average, Americans spend about 30 minutes commuting to work, which is about one hour per day, or five hours per week. I wake up and can get started on my computer right away.
This alone makes a 40-hour week effectively a 45-hour week.
On the contrary, I wake up and can get started on my computer right away - no commute.
Let's face it - not all hours are created equal. There are some days when I only want to work about four hours. Maybe it is a Thursday, and I have errands to run.
There are also days when I want to work 11 hours, including very late at night. These are days when I don't have much else going on.
The ability to move hours around to the times you actually WANT to work, makes the hour not feel nearly as drudgerous.
I don't enjoy everything I do, but I enjoy a lot of it.
Unfortunately, most Americans don't.
According to another Gallup Poll, only 13% of Americans enjoy going to work. Would you be willing to work a few more hours a week to do something you actually enjoy (assuming you could)? I think most would.
There is a lot that is difficult about running a startup. It cna be stressful, unpredictable, expensive, and a host of other things.
It is also hard work - but then again, a lot of people are working long, hard hours, and they're doing it with much less upside potential.