How many 12-hour days have you worked in the last month? If you are like many small business owners, the number is probably quite high.
It is easy to understand why—in my decades as a business owner, I have never experienced a day where there has been nothing left to do. There’s always something that could be done!
The problem is that long days don’t always equal maximum productivity. For one thing, it is impossible to sustain a high level of focus for hours at a time. On another level, the longer you work, the more your energy wanes. And as your focus and your energy decline, the likelihood of mistakes skyrockets.
There comes a point, though it is different for each individual, at which you are literally better off quitting for the day, because you are more likely to make mistakes than you are to complete a project properly.
The answer, in terms of maximizing productivity, is not working long hours. The key is to develop a system that enables you to function at a high level for as long as possible, but that also allows you to recognize when it’s time to call it a day. Below are several ways to accomplish this goal.
Attack the toughest tasks while you are at your best. For many of us, the morning hours are the most productive. If that’s the case, tackle the toughest tasks first thing in the day—so that as your energy wanes, so does the difficulty of the work you must do.
Schedule breaks throughout your work day. As humans, we need time to recharge our batteries. Schedule a number of 10 to 15 minute breaks each day, in addition to a lunch break. You’ll find that you return from these breaks focused and ready to go.
Break up the monotony. Spend enough time doing the same thing and your eyes will start to glaze over, your focus will disappear, and mistakes will pile up. I know that I have experienced this phenomenon—have you? Avoid it whenever possible by staggering the order of your work. You’ll find that varying the type of work you do throughout the day will keep you more energetic, more focused, and more interested in your work.
Many business owners assume that the more hours they put in, the more successful they will be. This simply isn’t the case. Pay attention to your energy levels throughout the next week and look for ways to improve your routine in order to become more focused, more productive, and ultimately more successful.