How hard do you work on your business? Do you push yourself to the point of exhaustion? Or do you know when to take a step back and focus your energy on the things that really count?
In today’s digital age, where consumers are constantly tempted by the next shiny object, it has become increasingly important for business owners to figure out how to stay competitive. And the pervading dilemma is—to hustle or to anti-hustle?
Some entrepreneurs feel they must work hard on every detail of their business in order to be successful (hustle). While this is true, it isn’t always the case. Working smart can equal working hard in delivering results (anti-hustle).
Hustle Vs. Anti-Hustle – What Is The Right Approach These Days?
I’ve been running my own businesses for over two decades now and when it comes to how people approach work, it seems like I’ve seen it all. Every few years, someone comes up with the next new thing to get your business off the ground.
Recently, it has been a close match between the veteran hustle and the newbie anti-hustle.
The Hustle Approach: Work Hard Above All Else
This entrepreneurship practice has been around for centuries. It’s based on the idea that if you work hard (really, really hard) and take advantage of every opportunity, you’ll be successful. Meanwhile, family and self-care must take a backseat.
From the father of America’s steel industry Andrew Carnegie in the 19th century and automobile magnate Henry Ford in the 20th to Tesla’s Elon Musk and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, hustling has been hailed as the secret ingredient of every trailblazer’s success.
And this thinking is not going away anytime soon. “I don’t believe in being lazy,” says Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington who believes that “if you want something badly enough, and you’re willing to put in the time and effort, nothing should be able to stop you.”
Nothing. Not even sleep, which hustlers famously evade. VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk attributes his success to waking up earlier than the rooster and working like a beast until the dead of night. The result? He grew his inherited family business from $3 million to $60 million in five years.
In his moving piece, While You Were Sleeping: Thoughts on Competition and Complacency, Anthony Iannarino beautifully illustrates the hustler’s fear of what their competition could be achieving as they were blissfully “wasting time” in dreamland.
The Anti-Hustle Approach: Work Smart With Higher Productivity
In 2007, Huffington, who previously used to be very vocal in favor of the Hustle Approach, collapsed from exhaustion. She has since embarked on a crusade to inform the public of the effects of sleep deprivation, starting with her book The Sleep Revolution: It is our delusion that overwork and burnout are the price we must pay in order to succeed. Huffington says – “I wish I could go back and tell myself that not only is there no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and high performance, performance is actually improved when our lives include time for renewal, wisdom, wonder, and giving. That would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout, and exhaustion.”
This, among other things, gave birth to the anti-hustle culture. The relatively new concept promotes the belief that working less can actually help you be more productive and successful. It gained traction and blossomed into a movement during the COVID-19 pandemic when workers quarantined in their homes rediscovered rest, relaxation, and recreation.
Along with these discoveries was the entrepreneurs’ impetus to find ways to maintain them while still growing their businesses. Thanks to technology—digitalization, outsourcing, and automation—they’ve transcended meaningless busywork to high-impact tasks done in less time.
Work-life balance is now reclaiming its all-important place in the lives of hustlers as well. Flexibility and efficiency are the new names of their game.
Both hustle and anti-hustle approaches have their respective pros and cons. Let’s go through them so you can figure out the best one for you and your business endeavors.
What Does Hustle Look Like Today?
In the business world, hustle has come to mean many things. For some, it’s working around the clock to get ahead. For others, it’s being strategic about how you spend your time to make the most of every opportunity. But the common operative word is “more.”
But, is more always better? And at what point does hustling lead to burnout and unhappiness?
A recent Harvard Business Review study found that entrepreneurs with an obsessive passion are more prone to burnout. Another study, conducted by Stanford University and the Institute for the Study of Labor, showed that working over 50 hours a week lowers productivity levels.
These studies confirm that no matter how hard we work, we can only put in so many hours before we become ineffective.
So, where do you pause your hustling? When will the drawbacks start to outweigh the benefits? And how do you know when it’s time to cut back or stop altogether?
The answers will vary depending on what you want to achieve. If it’s something specific, like building a new store or launching a new product line, then it may be worth the extra effort to keep going so you can reach those goals.
However, if your objective is just increasing revenue but not changing anything else about your enterprise, then there may be little benefit from continuing. Your next two hours could be spent doing something else that would bring in more money instead.
How Does Anti-Hustle Work Better For Some People?
For certain individuals, hustling just isn’t sustainable because working long hours leads them to burnout, fast. And constantly chasing new opportunities prevents them from getting around to the important tasks that will actually move their business forward.
That’s where anti-hustle comes in.
Anti-hustlers – like Ruth Newton, founder of Anti-Hustle Project – focus on quality over quantity and are not afraid to say no to opportunities that won’t help them reach their goals. They prioritize work time, toil only at the workplace, and take time off when needed.
Anti-hustle means saving your energy for what really matters—tackling those projects with a high return on investment (ROI).
The ROI is often based on the time it takes to complete a task. Let’s say a 1-hour activity that provides a $1,000 value equals 100% ROI. If it takes 10 hours but yields a $100 value, then the ROI is 1%.
Ergo, you should be spending more time doing those 1-hour activities instead of the 10-hour busywork.
Resolving The Hustle Debate
Hustle and anti-hustle have been staples of the entrepreneurial landscape for years, and these polarizing schools of thought both have their own merits.
There’s no denying that the business world is a competitive place, and that’s only putting it lightly. To succeed, you often have to put in long hours and seize every opportunity that comes your way. And what those in favor of hustle promote.
On the other hand, anti-hustle advocates working smarter instead of harder. That is, spending less time on tasks that don’t contribute to your bottom line and focusing on big projects that promote long-term business growth.
Some people argue that the anti-hustle mindset is actually more effective these days. The idea is that by working less, you can focus on tasks that will make the most money and avoid wasting time on busywork. In her book, The AntiHustle, Nicole Purvy offers a blueprint for growing your business into a 6-figure enterprise by applying this principle.
Both sides make good points, but which one holds more weight?
It seems the answer isn’t as simple as one side or the other. The truth is, it depends on your business and what works for you.
In a high-growth industry, hustling may be necessary to stay ahead of the competition. For example, if you run a restaurant, you probably cannot help but hustle because there are so many opportunities for customers to walk through your door at any given moment.
But in a slower-moving trade, anti-hustling could help you move forward without stress. If you offer freelance services, for instance, you have the luxury of taking care of yourself first before investing all your energy into a project.
The key is to find that sweet spot that best fits your personality and the demands of your business. Powered Down, a website dedicated to helping individuals do a 360-degree switch from rat race to work-life balance, aims to prove the potential of making it happen without sacrificing success. Just like Tired As F*ck author Caroline Dooner did, after decades of diet, self-help, and hustle burned her out to exhaustion.
An entrepreneur adept at creating systems to eliminate chores and making time for thinking and self-development will find anti-hustling the right approach. Conversely, working hard might just pay off for a business owner who can discover areas of opportunity by putting more hours into the day without burning out.
When you can’t decide whether to hustle or not, it will help to take a step back and assess your goals. Is it to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible? Then hustling could be the right approach for you.
But if you aim to create a sustainable business that will bring in a steady income over time, working less and focusing on the right things may be a better approach.
In some cases, though, there may not be an obvious choice between hustle and anti-hustle. You might need to employ different strategies for various aspects of your business. And when that happens, remember that both approaches can work as long as they’re used appropriately.
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