How many 12-hour days have you worked in the last month? If you are like many small business owners, the number is probably quite high.
Trust me, I understand—in my decades as a business owner, I have never experienced a day where there has been nothing left to do. There’s always something more that could be done.
But longer days don’t mean more productivity. It may be counterintuitive, but sometimes the best thing you can do is just to stop. It’s impossible to sustain a high level of focus for hours at a time. And, the longer you work, the more your energy wanes. As your focus and your energy decline, the likelihood of mistakes skyrockets.
I had a conversation just recently with a client, the CEO of a very successful small business. At one point during the call, he mentioned that he’d been in the office for ten hours already that day and didn’t plan on leaving for another four. And trust me, this is not unusual.
As I told my client, working long hours is not the answer. Instead, the key is to create a process that enables you to function at a high level, so that when you are working you’re being as productive as possible. For instance:
Attack the toughest tasks while you are at your best. For many of us, the morning hours are the most productive. If that’s the case, tackle the toughest tasks first thing in the day—so that as your energy wanes, so does the difficulty of the work you must do.
Schedule breaks throughout your work day. As humans, we need time to recharge our batteries. Schedule a number of 10 to 15 minute breaks each day, in addition to a lunch break. You’ll find that you return from these breaks focused and ready to go.
Break up the monotony. Spend enough time doing the same thing and your eyes will start to glaze over, your focus will disappear, and mistakes will pile up. I know that I have experienced this phenomenon—have you? Avoid it whenever possible by staggering the order of your work. You’ll find that varying the type of work you do throughout the day will keep you more energetic, more focused, and more interested in your work.
Many business owners assume that the more hours they put in, the more successful they will be. This isn’t the case. Pay attention to your energy levels throughout the next week and look for ways to improve your routine in order to become more focused and more productive. Then, let us know what you discover!