When you're an employee, your schedule is (at least roughly) fixed by your employers, as is your salary. You can work more, but in the short term you usually won't earn more. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, face a constant dilemma--you're always free to put in more hours in the hope of earning more money. Should you?
The key to finding the right balance is to remember what you're actually chasing. Money and success are pretty meaningless in themselves. We chase them not because a bunch of zeros on your bank balance or an impressive résumé is inherently awesome, but because we believe these things will make us happier and more fulfilled.
Up to a point, that's correct. No one suggests being poor is anything other than stressful and unpleasant. But once you reach a point of financial stability, science shows that there isn't a linear relationship between more dollars and more happiness. In fact, a whole bunch of studies show that other things that take time away from work have a much greater impact on your happiness than another hour toiling away at the office.
For instance, much of Latin America is materially much worse off than America. But when researchers do international surveys, they find people in many of these countries report being much happier than their economic circumstances would seem to predict. What's going on?
As this short video from UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center explains, scientists think the answer is relationships. Latin American culture puts much more emphasis on being there for your loved ones and even sometimes curbing your own preferences to make others happy. That might sound like unpleasant obligations to American ears, but these close ties seem to make Latin Americans happier than their material circumstances might suggest.
The suggestion here isn't that you need to move to Costa Rica or even adopt a Latin American mindset. The research is simply a reminder that giving up some material ambition in favor of nurturing your relationships is likely to pay off in greater well-being.
Similarly, entrepreneurs often sacrifice their physical health in pursuit of their dreams. In the frantic early days of building a company, that might be unavoidable, but research out of Yale suggests you should think long and hard before you give up time at the gym in pursuit of material success longer term. The study found regular exercise will make you feel as good as an additional $25,000 a year. Can you earn that much in the hours you'd otherwise spend working out?
3. A shorter commute
Or here's one more example: People often opt for a longer commute in order to afford a bigger house (or at least they did before the pandemic) or to access a promising career opportunity. But a British study showed that for each additional 20 minutes you add to your commute, you lose as much happiness as you would if you took a 19 percent pay cut.
Again, the lesson here isn't that any particular life path or work-life balance is right for everyone. Instead it's a reminder from science to think critically about the tradeoffs you're making. It's easy to keep mindlessly chasing one more dollar or one more deal, but all the evidence suggests that there comes a tipping point where other things will make you happier than more "success."
Make sure you notice when that tipping point arrives.