Napoleon Hill on why you should spend less time at work

Napoleon Hill on why you should spend less time at work April 18, 2018

Simon Migaj via

Do you like your job? If you’re like me, this question gives you pause to think. Because as much as you may enjoy what you do, for most of us work is ultimately a means to an end—the end being the weekly or biweekly deposit that appears in our checking account.

Given the choice, you’d probably prefer to spend your time in more leisurely or rewarding pursuits. But since most of us don’t have the option of devoting our lives to windsurfing in Maui or studying the world’s great spiritual texts, we should strive for the next best thing.

Do the least amount of work for the most amount of money.

The maxim above was coined by a friend of mine and involves a delicate work/life balancing act. It’s easier to do if you’re self-employed OR work as a freelancer and can take time off between gigs OR your employer appreciates your talents and gives you the ability to occasionally work from home or take mini-sabbaticals. (And if you don’t have that type of job, you may want to rethink your priorities.)

Do you know who wants you to spend less time working? Napoleon Hill. This may seem surprising, as Hill is the author of Think and Grow Rich. If you’ve read this book, one of the best-selling inspirational books of all time, you’d know that Hill preached the merits of hard work, along with the positive effects of visualization and a can-do attitude.

Yet, you may not be aware of a far lesser known sequel to Think and Grow Rich, published 40 years after the original. In 1967, a now 84-year old Hill had come to a slightly different conclusion about what success really meant and shared his sentiments in a book titled Grow Rich—with Peace of Mind.

With the wisdom of age, the older Hill had a different perspective on work.

After a lifetime of writing, researching and speaking on the work habits of the rich and successful, Hill began to whistle a slightly different tune about the role of work in our lives. In Grow Rich—with Peace of Mind, the author explained that while we should strive to be successful at work, we need to have a life, too! He believed the key to achieving real happiness was to “make a time budget”.

Spread out over a 24-hour day, Hill’s time budget looks like this:

  • 8 hours a day for sleep and rest
  • 8 hours a day for work at your profession
  • 8 “particularly precious hours, devoted to things you wish to do, not have to do.”

I have to note here that Hill does not account for the time-consuming chores and errands that are a part of our daily lives. But even with that caveat, it’s easy to agree with Hill’s idea that we need to find time, in his words, for “play, social life, reading, writing, playing a musical instrument, tending a garden, or just sitting and watching the clouds or the stars.”

Hill is very serious about putting our time to “good use” and had he known about the time we waste on our smartphones, I’m not sure that scanning social media would have made the list. Still, it’s up to us to decide what these activities might be and your list can include any activity, or non-activity, you enjoy. Hill tells us:

Do not let a day go by without taking some time for yourself — some time you spend in pure pleasure, as you see it.

The author also points out that you should try to work less than 8 hours a day as you become successful. In Hill’s words, once you meet even a small amount of prosperity: “You should increase your hours of pure enjoyment. Do not allow these hours to be eaten away by business or anything else.”

The bottom line is that, yes, we all (or at least most of us) need to work and make money. But let’s remind ourselves—and those close to us who need reminding—that success is measured by more than our status at the office or the money in our bank accounts. Success is measured by our personal fulfillment and happiness.

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