Studies Show Working Overtime Is Basically Pointless
How many hours per week do you work? If you run a business, there’s a good chance you’re putting in more than 40 hours. My guess is you’re working 50 or more hours per week -- maybe more.
Related: Working Endless Hours Does Not Make You a Hero (Infographic)
Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. Despite the recent popularity of passive income and business automation, most entrepreneurs still work irregular hours and put in at least 60 hours per week.
For some of you, it may be tough to even answer the question about hours, because your workday blends seamlessly with the rest of the day. You’re at a point where you don't even know what to call the part of the day you’re not working. (Maybe you just call it the "rest of the day.")
It's a sad reality, but somehow we've come to believe that it's not only okay to work all the time, but that successful people actually strive to put in endless work hours. After all, opportunity never sleeps, right?
Opportunity does sleep.
Well, as it turns out, opportunity does sleep. It also takes breaks. It knows when it's time to turn work off and it prefers that you do too. Researchers have found that putting in all those extra hours of work, specifically more than 50 hours, can end up being a waste of time from a productivity standpoint.
Here's what research from IGDA says: "Productivity drops immediately upon starting overtime and continues to drop until, at approximately eight 60-hour weeks, the total work done is the same as what would have been done in eight 40-hour weeks."
So, if 60 hours is too much, how many hours per week should we strive for? Well, a Stanford study found that when people worked more than 50 hours, output per hour started to fall. Fifty hours is the ideal range, according to that research. But what does that look like for an entrepreneur?
Related: Working More Hours Leads to Burnout, Not More Productivity
If you're part of the normal working world, you start at 6, 7 or 8 a.m. and actually stop at 4, 5 or 6 p.m., respectively. For entrepreneurs, that’s a novel concept. If that sounds like it’s not enough time to get everything done, you might need to change how you work in order to maximize productivity.
For example, try breaking up your work hours into multiple shifts to help keep your brain refreshed during the time you’re actually working. Studies have found that working for one to two hours, then taking a 20- to 30-minute break, keeps your brain fresh and enables you to accomplish more in less time. The fancy word for this is "Ultradian Rhythm."
Regardless of how your work hours are structured, the main thing to remember is you’re better off planning to work reasonable hours. That means no sending tweets while you brush your teeth and no speech-to-text notes and blog posts while you’re cooking dinner.
Of course, like most everything else in life, there’s always ebb and flow to your work schedule. Sometimes you need to put in those extra hours to hit a project deadline or launch date; and that’s different. The problem comes when there’s only “ebb” and no “flow.” Phases are one thing, but justifying workaholism with whatever project you’re working on at the time can turn into a major problem.
Ultimately, science has shown that you need a little balance in your life if you want to maximize your productivity and your happiness at the same time. So, as bad as it hurts to admit, your spouse is right. You do work too much. Eight to 10 hours a day is reasonable, and you won't get much more accomplished by working past that.
Related: This is What You Need to Do in the Wake of the Overtime Injunction
And, let's be honest, no matter what anyone says, you’re probably going to push it a bit over the 50-hour mark on any given week. I mean, hey, you’ll take a cut in productivity in order to pump out a few extra hours, right? So, throw in a few hours on Saturday to wrap up the week, but be aware of the number of hours you’re putting in so you don’t let it get out of hand.
And don’t forget to give yourself at least a day-and-a-half a week to rest (i.e., Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday). Turn it all off and spend time in the real world, with your family and friends. In short, have a life.