Research out of Stamford University earlier this year showed that productivity declines quickly after working for more than 50 hours per week and declines even faster after the 55 hour mark.

I suspect that they just tested office workers in big companies, rather than owners of small businesses.  Long hours seem to come with the territory when you run your own business, especially one where you are working both in the production area and the management/administration areas.  Working in most, if not all areas of the business is common for most owners of smaller trades businesses and is fairly unavoidable in the younger stages of business growth.  The unfortunate thing is that many business owners never graduate from this stage of business ownership and remain stuck in hamster wheel scenario, just running faster and faster to try and get ahead.

Pushing through that initial stage of business ownership takes planning and commitment.  It is not easy at times, but is do-able as many business owners have discovered.  I also suggest that some balance in your life is also planned and committed to as well.  Working very long hours can become an unhealthy habit, so commit to unplug and unwind for at least one day per week.  The most successful people know the benefit of shifting down a gear on the weekends, relaxing and freeing up the mind to ponder on bigger picture ideas.  If you feel that you are stuck on the hamster wheel of work 24/7, try doing some of the following on at least one day per week:

Unplug.  Switch off the mobile and email for the day, or at least just designate 1 or 2 times in that day that you check for messages and respond to the urgent ones.  Those times should not interfere with other relax-time activities.

Reflect.  Do some blue sky thinking and writing on the bigger picture.  Where your industry is going and your potential place in it.

Exercise.  Exercise releases chemicals in the body that help reduce stress and it is harder to think about work issues when you are concentrating on something nicer.  It doesn’t have to be super competitive.  Go for a hike, a bike or just chuck a ball around with the kids at the beach.

Focus on a hobby.  Spending time on something that you are passionate about outside of business can bring a real sense of achievement and pleasure.  It might be painting, reading, writing, model trains, or anything.

Have a micro adventure.  Plan and try something you haven’t done before, or done in quite a while.  It might be going to a concert, taking a hike in the hills, visiting a special beach, etc.  The planning and anticipation of a special day out can be a good motivator to get you through a frustrating work day.  It is also great for bonding with the family, unless you have a bunch of teenagers like me who all want to do different things, preferably without their parents!  Just plan and do something with the wife and don’t let the kids’ inertia drag you down.

So, take time to smell the roses on one day per week.  Unlpug, unwind and lift your sights to the bigger picture.  This is where you need to be as a business owner at times; focusing some time on nourishing yourself.  You, your family and your business will benefit greatly from it.

Andy Burrows – The Trades Coach