Entrepreneurs and other business owners put in a lot of work. In fact, many entrepreneurs report spending over 60 hours a week (or more than 12 hours each day) working on their business. These hours are busy — no extended breaks for browsing Facebook or watching funny YouTube videos. Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires a lot of work, and a lot of learning. Of course, having such a heavy workload and so many responsibilities can quickly become overwhelming.
So how do successful business owners manage? A lot of it comes down to the right mental practices. By working smarter, not harder, leaders can effectively manage even the most seemingly insurmountable workloads and achieve their company goals.
Here’s a closer look at the mental practices you can apply to better manage your responsibilities:
1. Stop Multitasking
When you have a lot of work on your plate, it can be tempting to switch back and forth between projects so you can make progress on each one. But this is actually one of the worst things you can do for your productivity. Research has consistently found that multitasking actually slows down your work, rather than speeding it up.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Although switch costs may be relatively small, sometimes just a few tenths of a second per switch, they can add up to large amounts when people switch repeatedly back and forth between tasks. Thus, multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error … even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”
“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey
2. Start Your Day With the Hardest Tasks
Each task and responsibility you’re faced with will have varying degrees of difficulty and time commitment. It’s all too easy to save the hardest tasks for last, but if you wish to maximize your productivity and get through your workload, you should actually start with the tougher challenges.
Many of the most successful entrepreneurs take care of their toughest tasks first thing in the morning. For one thing, most of us have more energy when we first start the workday. The later in the day it gets, the harder it becomes to maintain that same drive and focus, making it all too easy to procrastinate. Knocking out a hard assignment early in the day also brings a sense of accomplishment, which can provide additional energy for powering through future tasks.
3. Know Your Limits
While hard work is essential for entrepreneurial success, you don’t want to run the risk of burnout. Continually pushing yourself beyond your boundaries can cause chronic exhaustion, anxiety, relationship problems and even heart disease.
“Everyone has different limits,” notes Jason Bliss, co-founder of Healthy Living Network. “As a serial entrepreneur myself, I’ve seen far too many people overwork themselves to the point of exhaustion, thinking it will help them succeed. In reality, overwork usually makes their results worse, not better. Learning the warning signs of burnout has helped me know when to step back — even for a short break — so I can come back later when I’m feeling refreshed.”
4. Plan Out Your Day
Knowing which task you want to start your day with isn’t enough — you also need to plan out the rest of the day. Catherine Adenle recommends “breaking your day into sessions, of maybe two or three hours. Take regular walk breaks after each session. First thing in the morning, when you get to the office, begin your day with a plan and assign tasks to each session.”
By dividing your day into more manageable chunks and planning corresponding activities, your workload won’t feel as overwhelming. You’ll be more likely to stay on track with everything that needs to get done. For best results, organize tasks based on urgency, deadline and the time they’ll take to complete.
“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” – Margaret Thatcher
5. Understand Proper Delegation
As a business leader, you have a significant resource that few others enjoy: a support staff that can assist you with your responsibilities. Asking for help or delegating tasks can help you maintain focus on the activities that matter most for your business. Though you should be mindful of your employees’ pre-existing workloads and clearly communicate project expectations, delegation can significantly improve company productivity.
The problem, however, is that many leaders are reluctant to delegate. They worry about employees’ abilities to complete a task, or feel they could handle the work quicker and more effectively on their own. It is essential that you develop the humility needed to delegate to your staff.
Research from Gallup has found that employers who delegate, effectively experience significantly higher growth than their competition. By leveraging employee strengths to lessen your load, you can enjoy major improvements to your bottom line.
Adapting the way you approach your workload will require a fair amount of effort. There may even be some failures and setbacks as you change how you manage your work. But if you wish to obtain lasting success, few things will be more important than improving your mental approach. By implementing these tactics, you’ll be able to work more effectively and achieve higher-quality outcomes.