How many hours did you work last week? How about the week before that? Without knowing anything about you -- other than the fact that you’re reading Entrepreneur -- I can guess it was probably more than 40. A lot more.
As entrepreneurs, we romanticize the late nights and long days we put into building our businesses. We trade stories of how busy we are and how much we cram into 24 hours. We console each other by saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
I used to buy into this mindset. I spent roughly the first decade of my career working my tail off to make partner at a prestigious accounting firm. While I was overjoyed to achieve the goal, in the months that followed, I started having huge realizations about the lack of balance in my life and began making changes so that I could achieve what I like to call work-life harmony.
I later started my own business. One of the biggest shifts I struggled with as a new entrepreneur was internalizing that working more didn’t mean I was working harder or better or smarter. As a business owner, you will always have more to do than hours in the day. My advice is to work on accepting that and getting more disciplined about when to end your working day. The evidence is clear -- working a superhuman number of hours does not yield superhuman results.
“There’s a large body of research that suggests that regardless of our reasons for working long hours, overwork does not help us. For starters, it doesn’t seem to result in more output,” writes Sarah Green Carmichael, senior editor at Harvard Business Review. She goes on to cite research showing that working too much leads to health problems and impairs interpersonal skills, meaning your relationships suffer.
The importance of a hobby.
Instead of working around the clock, here is what you should do: pursue genuine interests outside of work. That’s right, I’m telling you that you need a hobby, but a really engaging one.
First and foremost, doing something you enjoy gives your brain a break from work and relieves some of the inevitable stress of being an entrepreneur. But beyond that, investing in interests outside of work can be dramatically helpful for your personal development, which can of course, help you professionally. This article in Psychology Today describes the importance of seeking awe, which can be found in day-to-day excursions. “Experiences that arouse awe can help us to re-conceptualize our sense of self, our role in society and from a more cosmic perspective, our place in the universe,” the writer explains.
The only thing that will pull you away from work is another passion, which is why you might need to invest time in exploring what that might be. Maybe it’s on old passion from childhood, or maybe it’s something you’ve thought about for years but never tried.
Yoga has been this powerful source in my life. I was actually reluctant to do it first, but ended up trying it when I was sick with a thyroid condition after the birth of my second son when I wasn’t allowed to do most forms of exercise. I slowly started to love it and have taken many of the lessons from yoga into other areas of my life.
Exercise is obviously a great choice, but some people do it because it’s important and not because they love it. If that describes you, start experimenting to find out what truly brings you joy -- anything from knitting, playing board games or cooking. Unless you tap into an innate interest that truly fulfills you, you will struggle to make time for it, and it won’t help you find fulfilling time outside of your business.
Taking the time to find a hobby that really interests you will help you limit your working hours, and the science is pretty clear that working more doesn’t do a lot for your output. “As workers slaved away for longer and longer, they would lose energy, which would make them less productive,” according to this article in The Economist, describing research findings about how working less is good for productivity.
The added benefit is that using different sides of your brain will help you see things from a different perspective and maybe even help solve work-related problems. You know it feels great to take a deep breath and slowly breath it out? Working less and having a hobby you love is equivalent. So get out there and let your brain exhale.