Last winter was a frantic time for my company. The entire team was being pulled in a thousand different directions. I could barely keep my head above the flood of emails, calls, and meetings — each one was more urgent than the last. We were all pushing ourselves to work beyond our capacity, and it was exhausting.
It’s hard to feel productive when every minute of every day is crammed with work. Our client relationships suffered. So did our community outreach. The things that were essential for business success — team unity, fulfillment, and happiness — were all failing.
So my team and I made a change. It was subtle and didn’t cost a dime, but it changed everything.
The Rebirth of Our Company Morale
Our company’s rebirth began with a self-audit. We needed to take a step back and evaluate the work we had been doing. I decided to take a hard look at how I’d been spending my time.
Pouring through my sent items and project materials, I was stunned at how joyless I had become — even in casual conversation. No longer did I prioritize the truly important over the merely urgent. My heart wasn’t in the work anymore.
It turned out that our entire team felt job satisfaction had become a luxury we couldn’t afford. With only so many hours in the day, what could we do?
We weren’t doing poorly financially. In fact, our company was growing rapidly, but the emotional cost of that growth was hurting us in immeasurable ways. We needed to clearly define what positive, successful growth looked like, and we needed to recalibrate the standard by which we measured it.
What Was Our Time Really Worth?
If time is money, then why don’t we treat it like currency? I wondered what would happen if we significantly increased our rates. For instance, if each of us were to charge $300 an hour, it would transform the way we managed our time. We could each focus on the projects we were passionate about, and we could cut the ones that drained our energy. A raise — a mental raise — would make all the difference.
A Mental Raise
My team decided that we were each now officially worth $300 an hour. This was just a mental raise, though. It didn’t change what we actually charged clients. It did, however, radically transform our workforce.
Our company measures client satisfaction using the Net Promoter Score system. After the change, we improved our satisfaction scores more than 30 percent. Clients were remarking how much more invested we seemed and how our ideas — and our execution of those ideas — were better. Here’s how:
• We took back control. We could now decide how to spend every minute of the day. We had a renewed sense of purpose, and we could now focus on the projects of our choice. So far in 2013, we’ve said “no” to more projects than we’ve said “yes” to. We’ve turned around our client production schedule — now working ahead with new annual, at-a-glance planning calendars, plus built-in margins for those inevitable pop-up client crises. We’re more invested because we have headroom and time to think.
• We changed the way we carried ourselves. We had to make sure that we were delivering work that was valued at $300 an hour to clients and to each other. We became more confident and intentional in everything we did. Work became satisfying and fun again. We have time to remember why we like these clients and why we believe in their success. When you’re doing work that you care about, it’s amazing how quickly you can achieve high-quality results.
• We changed the way we thought. My mental raise was nothing more than a shift of mindset, but the effect it had on my work and my life was incredible. Each day, we decide how we want to feel: happy, enthused, and hopeful about work — or none of the above. We made a conscious decision to feel differently, and it snowballed to affect everything else we did.
What Are You Worth?
What would change if you were suddenly worth $300 an hour? What about $500 or $1,000 an hour? Which projects would you take on, and which ones would you turn down? How would you spend your time?
Your time is worth more than any amount of money. When you truly value every minute you have, you live how you want to live. Awarding yourself a mental raise is just another way of keeping this in mind. Even if it’s just for a day, thinking that you’re worth $300 an hour can change the way you feel about work. Make decisions and take action as if you were charging a hefty sum for your labor. See what changes.
Give yourself a mental raise. You’re worth it.
Written on 6/30/2013 by Tim Miles. Tim Miles is the Founder & CEO of The Imagination Advisory Group, a communications firm that advises owner-operated companies across North America. He wrote a bestselling book about life and how we live it — and work and how we work it — called “Good Company.”
Photo Credit: David Flores