In the United States culture, working hard is seen as not only a way to get ahead but also as a trait that is to be admired. I used to think that being a successful business owner meant that I had to work an insane number of hours per week and be hustling all the time. However, after years in business and working with lots of other business owners, I realized that I could not have been more wrong. There is such a thing as work burnout. Yet, still, I hear many business owners proudly claim their only hobbies are work, or that their leisure activities are work.
Building a successful business requires passion, dedication, and hard work. But it also requires you to work smarter, not harder. While you need a hustle to start your business, you need a strategy to grow it.
Facts About Overworking
Here are some facts that all business professionals should take note of:
- In a Dscout study, the average person touches their phone over 2,000 times a day. They also found that the U.S. is one of the most overworked countries in the developed world.
- Being busy has become an icon. For example, the tag #nevernotworking has over 400,000 posts on Instagram, with most of its followers from the United States.
- In another research study, Columbia University Medical Center and five other universities tracked 8,000 employees over the age of 45. They found, among other things, that employees who chained themselves to their desks for 13+ hours a day were twice as likely to die prematurely than those who spent a mere 11.5 hours at their desks. Is working longer hours helping us? Helping our health? Our happiness?
- Scientists studying the brain have conclusively determined that our brains are not wired to multitask. The new term many are using is ‘switch-tasking.’ An effect of long hours and multitasking is being mentally tired, which causes major drops in the quality of our decision-making ability. To add more insult to injury, research shows that when you clock in more than 50-55 hours a week, cognitive performance and the quality of your work suffers. It may even increase your risk of death by heart disease and stroke.
Don’t Get Burned Out
Leaders and business owners often believe that they have to always be on, and at the top of their game. This is impossible. We are not robots. There is a law of diminishing returns with the amount of time we spend working in a day or a week. Several studies have shown that workers working 8 hours have the equivalent productivity as workers who work 10 hours.
Consistently working long hours increases mental errors, safety errors, health issues, and, of course, work burnout. Further, when you work tired, you start to suffer from decision paralysis or decision fatigue. Mental fatigue causes people to second-guess or procrastinate decisions. Mental fatigue also leads to playing things cautiously, as fears come more and more to the surface. The result can be staying in our comfort zone, rather than being innovative or moving our career or business forward.
Not only do extreme hours hurt us, but it hurts employee’s morale. Employees look to their leaders for guidance, cultural cues, and role models. If they see the leader is constantly stressed, frazzled, second-guessing things, or burning out they will often mimic the leader’s behavior until they burn out or leave the company. As a leader, you should be setting the standard of how to work and how to be productive. When you cultivate a culture of balance, you will see your employees thrive and profits skyrocket.
Ideas to Avoid Work Burnout
So how do you get ahead without working 10- to 12-hour days?
Here are some tips to help you design a more balanced, productive, and profitable work week and avoid work burnout:
- Tackle highly cognitive tasks when you are at your best. For most people, this is early to late morning. Then schedule tasks that take more creativity in the afternoon. This is when most people come alive creatively.
- Don’t skip lunch. Use this time to replenish your body and mind. Get out of the office and away from technology.
- Build better processes for repetitive tasks. Every job requires repetitive tasks, studying and documenting them, in order to find better ways around them. Find ways you can automate them or create processes to reduce the workload.
- Use technology to your benefit. Technology can be a distraction and often is. But, there are many software tools to make your life easier. Whether it is time tracking, calendaring, or data input, find technology that can streamline and fill the gaps. This will not only speed things up but improve morale as it takes the monotony out of the workday.
- Acknowledge when you need help. This may mean delegating tasks to an assistant or hiring a bookkeeper to handle the books that you are not suited to. This too can not only speed things up but also improve morale as it continues to optimize your work so you can focus on your money-making skills.
- Schedule rest and fun. Being a leader is not just about getting the job done, but about getting results. To do this, a leader has to know when they need to kick back and relax to rejuvenate themselves or others. If you are working consistently and forgetting ‘why’ you are doing it, you will burn out. Many business owners I work with have to schedule downtime, time without emails/calls, or getaways to force themselves to take the time and get off the clock.
Every business person is working hard to improve their business or career. We have been taught that being busy is a badge of honor, but ‘busy’ doesn’t add to your income or happiness. Working smarter and more strategically will not only give you time to build your passion and business/career, but will also help you keep your ‘why’ in perspective and spend time doing things that will provide you lasting relationships and happiness.
If you need help, or maybe just an outsiders objective perspective: