If you are an entrepreneur, chances are you are working too many hours and focusing on the wrong things. Generally speaking, we are working more hours and taking less vacation than ever before and suffer from more anxiety and stress than previous generations. While this isn't a new issue for business owners, it's one that really should be addressed before it gets worse.
Thirty years ago, Boyd and Gumpert (1983) suggested that 60% of SME owner-managers worked more than 50 hours a week, with 25% working over 60 hours. More recently, similar numbers were reported by Torres (2012), who also noted that 60% of owner-managers took three weeks' vacation or less per year and 10% took no vacation at all.
So today I want to look at the psychological cost of being an entrepreneur. What happens when you invest all your physical, financial and intellectual capital on one single asset: your business? What is the true cost of such a decision?
As a business coach for over twenty five years, I see a lot of business owners on the brink of burnout. Brilliant individuals with a passion for their industry and their product come to me ready to quit. They are tired of working seventy hours a week and their family life is suffering. And over time the burnout leads to others issues.
In order to combat burnout, it is imperative that you take time for your family and your friends. Structure your business in a way that you can step away for an extended period of time without sacrificing growth or sales. This can be done through a series of systems and controls as well as developing a leadership team that has the strategic depth to handle the business while you are away.
Depression and anxiety is another psychological cost of being an entrepreneur. Working long hours in isolation with no one to turn to for advice or help can quickly turn into something more serious. And that coupled with problems at home can really impair your ability to grow your business and feel fulfilled.
The best way to combat these feelings of depression and anxiety is to join a mastermind group, find a business coach or get a mentor. Having someone who is in your corner to bounce ideas off of and discuss your business can help you scale and grow in a way that is healthy for both you and your business.
If you are burning the candle on both ends and focusing too much on your business, efforts get scattered and poor decisions get made. This leads to underperformance, which pushes you to chase after more control to set things back on the right path, which further robs the business of depth as you're not prioritizing your time. It's a negative reinforcement loop.
Lack of clarity is evident when you feel like you spend your days putting out fires and unable to come up for air. You are overwhelmed by emails, messages and app feeds. And what do most people do to escape this? They take the easy, low-value tasks first. And spend the weekend and after hours working on the things that they really should have been working on all along.
Keep your judgement sharp by focusing your time on activities that provide the most value for your business. Stop putting out fires and start building your business.