Entrepreneurship is a demanding position. In addition to managing the high-level direction of the business and making important decisions day in and day out, you will also be switching hats constantly—stepping into your various departments to help out or fill gaps, especially in the early phases of your business. Generally, this means working far more hours than you ever did in a traditional position.
But there are two other characteristics of entrepreneurship you need to consider in the context of your work. First, you are the proprietor, so the harder you work, the more money you can make, leading many to work harder than they need to. And second, most entrepreneurs are passionate about their work, more than traditional employees, meaning it is harder to tell when you are working too hard.
Regardless of whether you’re conscious of the effects, working too hard can be detrimental to your physical and mental health, as well as your ability to lead the organization. It is important to know when you are overworked, but that does not mean it is easy.
If you are in an entrepreneurial role, use these strategies to tell when you are working too hard.
1. Notice how you transition between tasks.
Whenever you can, think critically about the way you transition between two tasks. Do you complete the first task, evaluate your next priority, and then move on? Or are you interrupted in the middle of one task and pulled to the next one?
If your work circumstances are balanced and healthy, at least half of your task transitions should look like the former. If partners, mentors, employees, emails, and phone calls are constantly pulling you in different directions, it is a sign that you are working too hard.
2. Think of the last time you had time off.
This is an easy strategy to employ, and it should speak volumes about how hard you are working. Think about the last, true day off you had, when you did not do any work at all. Was it a month ago? A year ago? Are you having difficulty remembering?
It is important to take occasional days off for your mental health. If you are not taking any, you are overworking yourself. Some organizations see limited vacation days as a point of pride, but doing so can have devastating long-term consequences. Do not burn yourself out.
3. Take inventory of your simple mistakes.
Fatigue can set in without you being explicitly conscious of it. For example, if you work long hours every day, including weekends, for a few weeks straight, you might feel okay but your mind and body will be bearing the brunt of the damage. As a result, you will find yourself making more simple mistakes—saying the wrong word and not realizing it, forgetting tasks, or other similarly innocuous slip-ups. On the surface, these may seem harmless, but they can convey a great deal about your mental state. If you notice them increasing over time, it is an indication of being overworked.
4. Consider your punctuality.
How often are you on time for events? When you schedule a staff meeting, are you the last one to arrive? When you tell your family you will be home by seven, do they believe you? Some people are naturally more punctual than others, but if your level of punctuality has actively fallen over the past few months and years, it is a sign that your schedule is overloaded.
5. Ask your friends and family.
Most entrepreneurs are so close to their business and so involved in their work that it is virtually impossible for them to see how much it is truly affecting their life. Your friends and family, however, are witnesses to how hard you have been working and how your life has changed since you took on that role. Ask them if they honestly think you are working too hard. Listen to how they feel about your schedule and commitments, and if they think you could benefit by dialing yourself down.
Once you have determined that you are, in fact, overworking yourself, there are a few possible actions you can take:
• Step back. Do not interfere with things unless you absolutely have to. Do not make extra work for yourself unnecessarily.
• Take a vacation. Clear your head by taking a break for a week or so. Your business will survive, trust me.
• Delegate more. If you have too much on your plate, delegate to your existing employees or hire someone new.
• Adjust your hours. Go in one fewer day a week, or decrease the hours you work. Remember, you are the boss!
Even if working is fun for you, too much work is always a bad thing. Keep your life in balance, and both you and your business will remain healthier.
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