I recently read a Gallup poll stating that most Americans who work a standard “40 hour a week” job don't actually just work those 40 hours a week. In fact, half of us report working far more than that and 40% say that they work more than 50 hours a week. The average number of hours worked by people who work these standard jobs is actually 47 hours a week.

I can hear many of you saying “DUH, Leah. Do you know how much I have to get done?!” These numbers are perhaps not surprising to you.

Gallup Poll - Avg Hours Worked

I hear you. You’ve got a ton of demands and pressure on you, far more than may be realistic. My question is, do you love it? How many of you think it’s great to leave your house at 6:30 a.m. only to return at 7 p.m.? How many of those nights in front of your computer do you crave? My guess is most of you hate it. I know I did. Why are Americans doing this to themselves? When did the “great American dream” become the “great American workhorse?” I don’t have a problem with working hard. In fact, I am totally on board with getting my hands dirty, down to it and getting stuff done. The problem is, there are only 168 hours in a week. If you get 7 hours of sleep per night, you spend nearly 50 of those hours sleeping. According to Gallup, most of us work about 47 hours per week, instead of the typical 40. That leaves less than 60 hours in your total week. Those hours have to include your commute (don’t remind you, I know) eating, caring for kids, spending time with family, etc.

If that seems totally backwards to you, you’re not alone. There are other options. I’ve only recently realized this myself when I felt that I was trapped and had no choice but to let someone else dictate the majority of my waking hours. How many of us in our offices are slaves to our email each day, checking several times an hour? Just one short email from a client or a boss can derail our productivity causing us to lose precious hours. Since cell phones and email have offered us 24/7 access to communication, our lives are totally out of our control and dictated by the demands of our clients, customers, bosses, etc.

In addition to those many times unrealistic demands, how much of your time is wasted during the day? There’s that coworker who wants to tell you about her weekend or the guy from accounting who just wants to chat. I’m not saying that you give up all your relationships…I’m asking you how long it would take to get your tasks done if you to really focus.

There’s a whole other side to this too. Employers are paying for you to have your butt in your chair from 8:15 til 5:15 p.m., IF you’re a good employee. And you get the stink-eye for trying to sneak out early (I’ve been there, I know). You’re looked down upon if you have to leave for a doctor’s appointment, a school assembly, or to take care of a sick child. God forbid you get pregnant as a female employee in a man’s world. If you’re anything like me, leaving the office causes you extreme anxiety just from worrying about what other people think. Not to mention the email pileup.

I felt so trapped, like you. This is no way to live life. It also doesn’t make any sense. It’s expensive for employers to be paying you for time that you’re not spending working. You’re unhappy. You could get your work done in less time, if it were on your own time. Not to mention the insurance, payroll taxes, 401k and everything else that your employer has to contribute to.

If you’re like me, by this point you’re asking WHYYY?!

It’s better for employers to have contract employees  - there’s significantly less overhead. It can be better for you if you decide your time is valuable enough. Of course, I can’t make the decision for you on which is the best for you individually, there’s ups and downs to both. I’ve decided that my time is far too valuable to be dictated by someone else, especially when I can get more money per hour and get more done in less time.

On the employee side, your time tends to be far better respected if you’re a contract worker. They know you’re being paid by the hour, and they respect that time. No bogus meetings that drag on for hours. You can get your work done when YOU want to get it done. It all comes down to time, and how valuable yours is. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but you owe it to yourself to investigate the other options available to you.

It takes guts. It takes hard work. It’s the best choice I’ve ever made. I know you can do it too. Take control of your time and break out of the 9-5 mentality!