Are you working too much?
In the United States culture, working hard is seen as not only a way to get ahead, but also 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. Yet, still 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.
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 its own icon. For example, the hashtag #nevernotworking has over 340,000 posts on Instagram, with 84% 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 really helping us? Helping our health? Our happiness?
- Scientists studying the brain have conclusively determined that our brains are not wired to multitask. In fact, 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 (that is, the ability to reason and think critically and creatively) and the quality of our work suffers.
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 worked 10 hours.
Consistently working long hours increases mental errors, safety errors, health issues, and, of course, burnout. Further, when you work tired, you start to suffer from decision paralysis. 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 leads for guidance, culture cues, and as role models. If they see the leader as constantly stressed, frazzled, second-guessing things, or burning out they will 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.
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 week:
- 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 repetitive tasks, study and document these. Find ways you can automate them or create processes to reduce the workflow.
- 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, up improve morale as it takes the drudgery 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, up improve morale as it takes the drudgery out of the workday as you are able to focus on your money-making skills.
- Schedule in 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. Much has been written about knowing one’s personal ‘why.’ If you are working consistently and forgetting the ‘why’ you are going it, you will burn out. Many business owners I work with have to actually schedule downtime, time without emails/calls, or getaways to force themselves to take the time and do it.
Everyone business person is hustling 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 in your business or career will not only give you time to build your passion and business/career but will also will you to help you keep your ‘why’ in perspective and spend time doing things that will provide you lasting relationships and happiness.