From the October 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

Traditionally, businesses require increased production to maintain their competitive edge. If someone arrives at the office early and leaves late, that person is labeled a "hard worker." We've been taught that to attain economic freedom and professional success, we must spend many hours with our noses to the grindstone.

For most entrepreneurs, starting a business leads to greater financial and personal freedom. As our businesses grow, we learn a simple rule: It's not about the number of hours we spend on a goal, but the ultimate outcome of our efforts. Taking the right actions is much more powerful than just working.

In order to achieve success, we must discover how to balance the time spent on our work with our personal lives. Our families, friends and colleagues support our success by providing exceptional strategies and fantastic resources that propel our goals forward. Follow these practical steps to embrace life as an entrepreneur and experience real results with less effort:

1. Remember that time is not an adequate measure of hard work. Hard work does not have to be associated with pain or long hours--it's simply the action of applying effort to produce favorable outcomes. No one else can define the number of hours you must spend working; it is an individual choice. The true measure of your hard work is the personal awareness that you have worked to the best of your ability to complete a goal. You can thrive as a business owner by continually taking thoughtful, action-oriented steps and inventing new ways to stay ahead of the competition.

2. Periodically review your work habits to eliminate nonproductive tasks. Perfection does not equate to being productive. Free up your time for completing vital duties by eliminating tasks that add unnecessary burden without adequate reward. Learn what you don't need to spend time on by trusting and acting on your instincts. If you are always taking the time to neaten your desk or you are continually refining your filing system, consider eliminating one of the tasks for a week, and analyze the outcome. You may find that you're still able to achieve your goals, but with less stress.

3. Give guilt a rest, and delegate. At times, being your own boss means that you spend less time doing what you love because you become bogged down with the day-to-day duties of your business. Identify two time-consuming administrative tasks, such as accounting, customer service or collections, and delegate them to an employee or outside vendor. As the leader of your business, your success depends on your ability to spend time developing and fostering your dream.

4. Continually follow through on your commitments. Time spent worrying about anything is time squandered. Complete each task before moving on to something new. If a particular undertaking is frustrating you, write down the next steps you need to take, and include a specific time frame. This allows you to quickly revive your momentum when you return to the task.

5. Work passionately. All aspects of your life demand hard work--both on the job and at home--but constantly burning the midnight oil is often ineffective. By ensuring that each of your actions moves you forward, you'll find that your hard work will be more productive and less stressful.

Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Dream Business.