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Working More Hours Leads to Burnout, Not More Productivity

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In the early days of my company, Market Domination Media, I worked around the clock. I would be knee deep in work before the sun was up and I wouldn’t stop until the early hours of the next day. My Red Bull and Adderall-fueled days were almost a necessary evil -- while not ideal, it was something I had to do if I planned on launching and growing a successful digital agency.

I’ll be the first to admit I used to believe that an entrepreneur had to work insane hours if he or she planned on being successful -- I think many believe this. Heck, I used to glamorize the fact that I put in an 18-hour day. Thankfully I’ve become a bit wiser over the years and now realize that more hours doesn’t necessarily equal more productivity -- it actually equals burnout.

Related: Finding Work-Life Balance Between the Margins

I read an article recently, in which Yahoo CEO for the time being, Marissa Mayer, talks about how she worked 130 hours a week and why it matters. Mayer’s has been hailed the hardest working woman in Silicon Valley, which is great, but one has to wonder if all of those hours led to burnout, ultimately having a negative impact on her performance.

It’s very possible to be a successful entrepreneur and work semi-normal hours, while still having a life outside of work and experiencing the things that really matter.

Become more productive, work fewer hours.

These are just a few things that have helped me improve my productivity, while cutting down on the amount of hours I work:

Related: 6 Secrets Smart Leaders Employ to Achieve Work-Life Balance

  • Have your daily goals identified before you start your day: I end each day by writing out my goals and to-do list for the following day. This way, as soon as I start my day I am diving into tasks, rather than scratching my head wondering where to start. As an entrepreneur you are always going to have an endless list of things that need to get done and you will be pulled in a million different directions. This approach allows you to stay focused and on track all day.
  • Get adequate rest: When I was working insane hours I was always tired. Four hours of sleep? No problem, just drink caffeine all day long. I was so physically exhausted some days and my productivity so low, that I was actually hurting my business. Get quality sleep every night and try to take the weekends to recharge your body and mind.
  • Workout daily: You will actually have more energy if you make it a point to hit the gym daily. Let’s also not forget about the health benefits.
  • Start your day as early as possible: I’m a huge fan of early mornings -- I have a major chunk of my to-do list completed before 9 a.m. -- this distraction-free time can be ultra productive. I hear many people say, “I’m just not a morning person,” and that is simply an excuse. One thing that every entrepreneur has the ability to do is hustle – you either want it so bad that you are willing to do anything, including waking up early, or you let someone that wants it more out work you.
  • Learn to delegate properly: This was my weak point when I started, and what was responsible for my ridiculous hours. I refused to delegate. I thought I was the only person capable of handling certain tasks -- after all, it was my business. Once I learned to trust more and delegate smaller tasks, it allowed me to focus on more productive tasks.
  • Establish your ‘quitting time’ and stick to it: There are always going to be emails to answer and tasks on your to-do list. I used to attempt to have all emails answered and all tasks done before quitting for the day. It was a never ending battle that had me working into the early mornings. Establish a time to stop each day and stick to it -- no matter what.
  • Utilize all available technology: There is absolutely no reason to be trapped in your office all day. Smartphones allow us to operate on the go -- from email access in the palm of our hand to enterprise cloud-based phone systems we can tap into via a mobile app -- these conveniences empower entrepreneurs to cut down time spent in the office.

Final thought.

Once I realized that working more hours was actually burning me out and crushing my overall productivity, I began to look at the big picture a bit more. I’m going to share a personal story from a couple weeks ago.

My fiancé and I decided to take my 6-year-old niece to Disney before she started school. It meant seven days “away” from work -- something I would have never done years ago. This was her first trip to Disney, and the look on her face when she first saw Cinderella’s Castle is something I will never forget. This is something I wouldn’t have experienced if I didn’t switch my way of thinking. 

Related: Adopt These 12 Habits for a Better Work-Life Balance

My business didn’t suffer -- I was able to keep up, simply working early in the morning and then in the evening, often times by the resort pool. Oh, and I closed a deal waiting in line for Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Working less hours will not only improve your productivity, but it will allow you to experience things in life you might miss otherwise.