If you could accomplish all your business goals, and not work an ungodly amount of hours to make it happen, would you jump at the chance?
Most of us would say yes. But in reality, as entrepreneurs we often do the opposite.
In many business circles, the notion of "always be hustling," or "sleep when you're dead," or even highlighting that while you're resting, "someone hungrier than you is out there stealing all your clients," can make you feel a bit paranoid.
I got caught up in this cycle too.
Last year, I was tracking my time trying to get real data on where I was spending all my waking minutes. On the days when I could see that I worked 8 hours, I remember feeling guilty. Guilty, for putting in a full day's work! I thought it should have been more, since I'm still working to grow my business.
Thankfully I've changed my ways. Especially after reading all the data showing that working all the time can actually do you more harm than good.
The truth about chronically working long hours
It doesn't actually help you get ahead. Over time, it actually diminishes the quality of your output.
Studies show that chronic overwork leads to stress, which causes a number of health problems. One meta analysis revealed that consistently working long hours causes people to drink more heavily.
Other research concluded that working all the time diminishes your ability to engage in interpersonal communication, which is essential in many roles.
Data also highlights that you're more likely to make mistakes and poor decisions when you're tired, which is often what happens when you consistently work long hours.
Another study showed that when you work too hard, you are more likely to get stuck in all the tiny little details that don't make big difference, rather than focusing on the bigger picture.
And just in case you need more proof, another study showed that bosses couldn't tell the difference between employees who worked 80 hours a week and those who worked much less.
The data is in and it is overwhelming. Overwork is for the birds. And it makes you less effective at your job. Besides, there is a way for you to thrive and enjoy life more while working less.
What to do instead of hustling all day every day
Focus on higher leverage activities.
Devote your energy on the strategies and tactics that bring you the biggest return for the time and resources you invest.
Need help getting started with this?
Give yourself working restrictions. Set a standard number of hours to work each week. Research shows there is no benefit to consistently working more than 50 hours a week, so make it 50 or less.
Then work backwards.
What are the most important things you have to get done to advance your business? Once you've got your list, write down how much time you need to do it and then time block it.
This force fitting, will help you figure out which things are the must do's to reach your business goals vs. the "nice-to-do's." It'll put your attention on the activities that will give you the biggest return.
This laser-like focus on what you need to accomplish in a limited amount of time can even make you more productive.
Henneke Duistermaat is a copywriter, marketer, and founder of Enchanting Marketing. She described herself as a self-proclaimed workaholic. She picked up the habit in her corporate career, and carried it over to her work as an entrepreneur.
But after a health challenge limited her ability to work long hours, she discovered increased productivity was a major benefit to a limited work schedule:
It really changed my whole life around, because at once I saw my whole approach to work was wrong...what I found actually was that when you work fewer hours but when you're concentrated and you're focused, it's amazing what you get done. I think I probably get more done in 25 hours a week than what I used to get done in 50 or 60 hours.
Entrepreneurship brings the promise of freedom. But it will be difficult to realize that freedom if you're working all the time.
Rid yourself of the need to always be hustling. It is counterproductive. Instead, get more focused on your most important work during the time you do have. As a result, you'll be able to accomplish more, and live more, while working less.