Do You Have to Work 24/7 to Succeed in Business?

     Conversations around work productivity in business often splinter into two camps: Those who believe more work leads to more success and those who advocate working “smarter not harder.” Business megastars like Grant Cardone and Gary Vaynerchuck are famous proponents of working longer, suggesting that entrepreneurs work up to 14 and 18 hours a day — especially in their start-up stages — to find real success. However, researchers warn against these suggestions, emphasizing the detrimental effects of overworking.

     According to research conducted at Boston University, working long hours doesn’t lead to better results. In fact, overworking actually decreases efficiency and can lead to depression, impaired memory, and heart disease. Sleep is shown to be a critical component of health and productivity. Research shows that consistently sleeping fewer than eight hours a day lowers one’s ability to focus, make decisions, and react quickly — all critical skills for leading a business.

     It may be that those who have found success working extremely long hours are among the 1-3 % of people who can function with minimal sleep and suffer no lost efficiency in their performance. For the rest of the population, heeding advice to sacrifice rest for longer work hours may cause more harm than good. So how can entrepreneurs increase their chances of success without working 24-7?

     First, it’s essential to set new expectations of what constitutes success at the end of your day. Are you counting hours just to count them, or are you actually achieving your goals during the hours that you work? Instead of counting hours worked Bennett Conlin, writer for Business News Digests, suggests looking at your day in terms of goals achieved. Further, set a priority on “high-growth” tasks that help move your business forward, rather than spending precious hours on smaller tasks that steal time and add little to your overall progression. Save smaller jobs like those for delegation.

Secondly, learn how to work optimally according to your personality. Not everyone works best at the same time of day. If you’re the boss, take advantage of your ability to set flexibility within your schedule. If you tend to have more creativity and focus in the morning, save this time for deep thinking tasks, and take meetings in the afternoons. Additionally, give yourself permission to work on one thing at a time. Research on the subject makes it clear that multitasking doesn’t work; switching between tasks harms efficiency and creativity. Completing one task before moving on to another will help you see better results during the time you are at work.

Thirdly, pay attention to your physical and mental health. As an entrepreneur, your brain is your biggest asset. Physical exercise helps keep your mind sharp and focused. Equally important is your mental health. Research shows that entrepreneurs disproportionately suffer from mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD. It may be that those drawn to entrepreneurship are more prone to mental health conditions; however, the stress and isolation of building a business can certainly exacerbate things. The debilitating effects of mental health conditions lead to lost productivity and earnings, not to mention the inability to truly enjoy the fruits of one’s passion and labor. Entrepreneurs attending to their physical and mental health might be one of the most important actions to make work matter rather than wasting hours.

For 99 % percent of the world, it simply isn’t possible to burn the candle at both ends and reap positive benefits in business. Instead of looking for ways to work longer, a better strategy may be to maximize the number of quality work hours to find and enjoy success as an entrepreneur