A BALANCING ACT
It is not uncommon to find someone working at their desk or a table at 4:00 o’clock in the morning, somewhere in the world. They’re working on the “big project” that is going on at the moment. There is nothing wrong with working this early, right? For them, they consider this the ideal time to get things done. For many entrepreneurs, they view this as being a necessary part of the game—long hours, to them, equates to getting more done. However, according to studies this is actually contrary to what happens. This science, in fact, isn’t even new. The realization that shorter work-day hours improves productivity has been researched almost every generation. Why?
Perhaps it comes up because each generation feels they have something to prove. Perhaps it’s the idea that “if I work harder than the next person I’ll get that promotion.” For entrepreneurs, they feel that if they put in more hours then they will set themselves apart from the competition. This could be right, but not in the way they are thinking. As it turns out, working those extra-long days for prolonged time periods actually reduces your effective output. Your brain, it turns out, stops being creative and production levels go down the more hours you work. You might be thinking “well, that’s important for creatives, but I’m not a creative.” However, what you haven’t realized is that you arecreative. Every job out there requires a certain level of creativity or problem-solving skills. For you to get that “leg up” you need to be able to solve problems better than the competition.
With all this talk about getting more creative and getting ahead, we haven’t even touched on the other aspect that these long hours affects—your personal life. Work-life balance is one of the most desired benefits employees seek from their job, ranking right after good pay and security. This desire doesn’t go away for entrepreneurs. For many, they are working these long hours to pursue what they believe will be a better work-life balance. However, they position themselves to actually be in a position in which they will not be able to achieve it.
Let’s look at a typical person’s time in a given day. For most of us (all, actually) we have 24 hours in a day. (If you have more than that, please let me know how you did it.) Now let’s break this time down. Of these twenty-four hours we (if you’re following the recommended amount) sleep 7 to 9 hours; let’s say its 8. This will leave you with 16 hours in a day. If we factor in a standard 8-hour work day, that leaves us with 8 hours in a day to get everything else—everything non-work related—done. Seem balanced, right? Not so much. When you dive a bit deeper you’ll notice that a typical 8-hour work day is 9 once you include a possible 1 hour lunch break. If you commute to work there is transportation time taken there as well. According to the U.S Census Bureau,the average American’s commute time to work is 26.1 minutes. If the same amount of time is taken to get home, that’s another hour per day (rounding up). If you live in the UK, you actually face a longer commute, sitting right around 48 minutes to an hour per direction, totaling 2 hours per day.
So now it is apparent that the average worker in a day has put in at least 8 hours of sleep, 10 hours towards work, and 6 hours at home, and a bit less for my UK friends. With the 6 hours split even more when people use this time to “check-in” with work, emails, text messages, or working on proposals or other “important” work-related material.
With all of these combinations, the average person’s personal time is significantly less than any other time segment throughout the day. It’s no wonder workers feel that they do not have a work life balance.
Break the Chain
How can you regain some time throughout your day? First you need to break the cycle that you’re in. People who go through any form of addiction recovery, or if you know someone who has gone through recovery, know that admitting you have a problem is the first step. Realize that you are actually hurting your productivity. This is a harder step than most people—especially entrepreneurs—are willing to admit to. They all think they are the exception or their situation is unique. Here is the truth—it’s not. Take the time now to discover how your day is spent. Jot down the time you go to sleep and then get up. Figure out the amount of time it takes you to get to work and home again. Then determine the time you’re actually spending on work, including all of the time such as checking email, texts, and so on.
Once you determine the time breakdowns, look at how much time you are allowing your brain to relax. Your brain needs time to recharge. Your creativity and job performance needs a fully charged brain to work properly. Allow yourself the benefit of telling yourself that when you leave work everything will be ok until you come back in. Give yourself the peace of mind that you are actually helping your brand and business by setting time aside for you.
As an entrepreneur, you might feel that this cannot possibly be done, or does not apply to your situation. You have to fight this idea more than anyone. As an entrepreneur, you’re typically a one-person shop. Ask yourself this: “If my computer only worked at below expectation, how much would my brand suffer?” What would you do to ensure your computer was operating at peak performance? Remember YOU are the backbone for your company. What happens when you’re not at peak performance? This is not to say that occasionally you can’t work longer hours when a project requires it. However, you should realize that these long hours should not become the norm.
So, what are some things that you can do to take back your day?
Once you have your time breakdown, review it determine where you can take back some time. When you’re at work, be at work. Set standing start and end times and maintain them. If your workday starts at 7:00 am, be ready to start at 7:00. If you’re late to start, you’ll feel behind all day and you’ll be inclined to work late. Try to maintain an 8-hour workday schedule. (Research has shown that eight hours is the optimal workday.) During these 8 hours focus on the tasks you need to get done during the work hours you’ve setup up. Before you leave work, identify what will be the focus the next day. This will help you when you’re away from work to know that you have things taken care of and planned out.
When you’re home, be home. Know the time that you’re going to stop working and allow your brain to begin to recuperate from a hard day of work. Start to decompress as quickly as you can. During your commute, read a non-work-related book (if you take public transportation) or listen to an audio book (if you drive). If you have a family, work on making sure they don’t see you as a stranger. When you’re home, be with your family. Put down the phone, turn off the TV, and focus on spending time with these strangers and get to know them. If you don’t have a family waiting for you, then go out and enjoy time with friends. When you’re home be sure that your bedtime is firmly established; don’t fluctuate. If 10 pm is your bedtime, be in bed on time. Set bedtimes with the right amount of sleep necessary to have a productive day.
Finding work-life balance is not the modern-day quest for the Holy-Grail. This is a quest that is actually possible to achieve; it just takes time and effort. It is important for you and your brand that you find the right balance. Keep in mind that if one aspect of your day monopolizes another, then you don’t have balance.
Ideas To Make Your Brand Better Now:
- Create the outline for your brand strategy. Focus on the four base areas and create your rough draft this week.
- Identify two additional items that you can, based on research, include in your strategy guide.
- Enlist an additional person to help you flush out your strategy.
- Share your experience with us.
TERMS click to expand or collapse
(B2A) Business-To-Administration: These business relationships are between a business and public administration. This area involves things such as social security, employment, legal, financial, and so on.
(B2B) Business-To-Business: Name given to business relationships between companies. This area often involves one business selling services or goods that another business needs to perform their services or offerings.
Brand Promise: The expectation the brand owner has in relation to what the brand must do, is willing to do, and what it will provide their customers.
Brand Position: How a brand defines their target audience, competitive differences, brand solutions, and their unique selling proposition (USP). Can also be referred to as brand positioning statements, brand strategy, brand essence, and positioning strategy.
Brand Strategy: A company’s long-term plan for the development of a brand into a success. Brand strategies include goals and affects all aspects of a business.
Brand Voice: The method and style in which your brand communicates with customers, projecting your brand personality.
Brand Mission: The short written out explanation of your brands purpose, defining your scope and direction in plain simple terms.