9 to 5? For most small-business owners, these two numbers are meaningless. In a 24/7 Internet-connected world, working just eight hours a day is becoming increasingly difficult. Mobile devices and WiFi allow every entrepreneur to work wherever they are at any time of day. The problem is that while most people are working longer hours, they are not necessarily accomplishing more. According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to the amount of time available to get it done. As a result, the "to-do" list never quite seems to end.
Here's how working 9 to 5 (or another 40-hour-a-week schedule) can help your small business succeed:
1. Helps you avoid burnout. Many small-business owners burn out short of their financial success. While a common refrain is "it’s a marathon, not a sprint," few abide by this wisdom. They need to pace themselves on a weekly basis in order to find places where they can recharge and supplement their work with other activities.
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2. Increases employee retention. The paradigm of encouraging employees to work 100 hours a week is broken. Some can sustain it for a few months, but eventually it results in the turnover of employees due to burnout. Setting the expectation that employees only work 40 hours a week will encourage retention, which is a very valuable commodity.
3. Showcases company values. Being a workaholic is no longer worshiped in business folklore. The small-business owner needs to set the example for his or her employees. Working only 40 hours a week shows that the owner values a life outside of work. It reinforces the company’s values that employees are not machines and personal life is valued.
4. Boosts productivity. With less time, the small-business owner is forced to focus on accomplishing the most important tasks. Bragging rights now belong to those who can get the most high-quality work done in the shortest period of time. Distractions are increasingly screened out. By implementing ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) at a company, it’s about tasks not time.
5. Forces delegation. Too many small-business owners don't know how to delegate. They work longer hours because they do it all themselves, instead of passing the work to employees. Think about which tasks others can do, and start handing off some of the responsibility.
6. Makes more financial sense. People who work longer hours don’t necessarily make more money. Working less will force small-business owners to look at things that leverage their time instead of trying to achieve everything through brute effort.
7. Understands the long-term goal. With so many things beyond the small-business owner's control, practicing patience becomes very important. Winning entrepreneurs take a very long-range view. Without it, they will become more frustrated. Working increasingly harder many times will not get them to their goal any faster.
How can you get started? Try to work eight hours for one day instead of your usual 10 to 15. Focus only on the things that really need to get done. Don’t beat yourself up with the tasks that can be accomplished another day. If you are successful with this for a few days, try it for one week out of the month to build its sustainability. You will be surprised how productive you can be on a limited amount of time.
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