If you're an entrepreneur, you know well that feeling of deciding when to leave work for the day. In your mind, you weigh the mountain of work against things like exercise, family, kids, friends, sleep, etc. Unlike most jobs, YOU have to make (and often second guess) the decision of when to punch out. Every. Single. Day.
If you're in the first few years of starting a company, your mountain of work may rightfully win out. Hard work and long hours are the reality, and anyone who says otherwise hasn't actually started a company themselves. But if you are at the helm of a company that has some stability, the habit of always working overtime that you've probably developed over many years is one to strongly consider breaking. Here's why.
Always working overtime ruins your productivity.
When you feel like you can just "do it later tonight," you give yourself the illusion of having a lot more time than you actually have. By entertaining this illusion, you deprive yourself of the pressure that comes with knowing you have to stop. Committing to leaving by a certain, reasonable time every day creates boundaries, and can give you the motivation to carefully identify and prioritize the highest-yield work you should be doing.
Leaving on time forces you to be disciplined.
Leaving on time but still getting your most important work done means you have to be disciplined. No more meandering meetings. No more reading or writing three-page emails. No more popping out to run unnecessary errands. And far less procrastination. Not only will this discipline have a positive effect on your ability to get the most important work done, it will have spillover benefits throughout your job and life.
If you take time for yourself, your work quality will be better.
On another note, if you regularly leave on time, it means you get to do things like exercise, spend time with people you love, sleep, relax and explore other interests. As long as you have a good way to keep work-related stress at bay when you're out of the office, all of these things are going to result in your work quality improving.
Not to mention, you'll probably be a better person.
If you're even somewhat deliberate about what you do with your extra time out of the office, you'll likely grow as a person. Who would you rather be (or be around): someone with no life out of work, or someone who takes care of themselves, cultivates their mind, and is enriched by spending time with people they love? Taking time for yourself helps you do better work, but the real reason to do it is so you can live a multi-dimensional life.
And you'll definitely be a better manager.
If you're at work at all hours, your employees are going to feel implicit pressure to do the same, regardless of what you tell them. Save yourself and them the headache by setting a good example and leaving on time regularly. This gives everyone permission to do the same, and it will also earn you the ability to ask people to stay late when it really does matter.
What does "on time" mean for your business? With many of my entrepreneurial clients that I work with on executive functioning, figuring the timing out is a process of trial and error, often best facilitated by a coach or mentor. I generally suggest picking a small change, implementing it and then seeing how things go. The goal is not to tackle a big change gung-ho for a week and then stop, but rather to build a habit over time.
Try it. Leave on time and see what it can do for your business and your life.