How To Work An Hour A Day And Thrive Professionally

Almost everyone, in the post-Tim Ferriss world, has dreamed of working only an hour a day. But innovation author and speaker Steve Shapiro has actually done it. Since this January 1st, he’s stuck to his hour-a-day plan, occasionally modifying it (three hours of work one day means he takes the next two off) but never abandoning the plan.

Part of Shapiro’s motivation is practicing what he preaches to clients. “I’m a big believer in leverage,” he says. “How can you do one hour of work and get 100 hours of result? You can’t have a limited mindset.” In his own life, he realized, he achieved the greatest leverage from “the creation of intellectual capital – writing. If I can create new content that’s different than what others are saying, that’s all I should be doing – nothing else.” So how is this possible for a thriving professional?

Outsourcing. Shapiro works with a ‘relationship manager’ who handles his invoicing, administration, and logistics, as well as a business development specialist who hunts for licensing opportunities. On an as-needed basis, he also employs a web designer, PR agent, and others. He handles his own email but uses an app called SaneBox to keep it under control.

Don’t Waste Time on Social Media. “For social media, I use slivers of my time,” says Shapiro. He’s a big fan – and early adopter – of blogging, but limits his use of Facebook, Twitter, and other similar services to “when I’m waiting in line and have nothing else to do. For the people who hire me, I don’t think social media is where they find me,” he says. Indeed, with his reputation well-established (including through his most recent book Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition), buyers often seek him out specifically or discover him through his blog.

The Fun Stuff Isn’t Work. To be fair, not everything business-related is counted as work in Shapiro’s reckoning, including our lunch meeting and interview. The trick is making it genuinely fun: he invited me to a seaside restaurant steps from where he lives, with scenic views of Boston Harbor.

Make Your Actual Work Count. Shapiro doesn’t waste time on outbound sales and has never made a cold call in 12 years of working for himself. Instead, he focuses on finding ways to access the people he wants to reach; some of his favorite strategies are doing webinars (reaching hundreds of potential buyers at once) and offering to send copies of his books to interesting prospects. Additionally, during his one hour of work a day, he asks himself, “What’s the one thing I need to do today, or the one person I could reach out to who will have the greatest impact?” If there’s not a pressing agenda item, he may place calls to 3-4 past clients to catch up and reconnect.

Overall, says Shapiro, “Most people spend 80% of their time thinking about their current business and 20% on the future,” he says. “I want to shift that around.”

Working one hour a day may seem impossible to busy professionals who can’t get everything done without putting in late nights and weekend hours – but Shapiro is making it happen. Have you tried to limit your work hours? Was it successful? What was your strategy, and what proved most effective?

This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on July 25, 2013.

Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.