Do you keep track of the number of hours you work each week?
In a recent survey [PDF] by Yodle, an online marketing company, only 52 percent of small-business owners said they work 40 hours or fewer per week. The other 48 percent said they clock 41 or more hours a week. Of all the respondents, 9 percent noted they put in more than 60 hours a week on the job.
If you regularly find yourself in the 41-plus camp for hours worked each week, the consequences could add up. Your stress levels can rise, and you may not work as productively if you’re short on sleep. What’s more, if you’re not functioning at your best, your company might not be either.
Here are four ways to reduce your work hours and still make sure your company’s day-to-day tasks get carried out in a timely way.
1. Recognize your situation. Ingrid Cudia, co-owner of Sieg Web Solutions, a digital publishing company, recently found herself working around-the-clock. “We are currently in the process of launching a new venture,” she explains. The project, a site called AsiaHopping.com that offers travel information for Asia, quickly absorbed Cudia’s energy.
“During the first three months of development, I found myself staying in the office 24 hours a day, even sleeping on a mattress under my desk,” she recalls. “All my employees went home by 5 p.m. as usual, but being the devoted owner, I stayed and worked until my eyes were watery.”
The commitment took a toll on Cudia’s health. “My cholesterol spiked and my vision worsened,” she says. She realized she couldn’t continue and started treating exercise like an important meeting. “I have to show up, period. This forces me to be out of the office and in the park running by 6 p.m.”
2. Create work parameters. Debbie Williams, a personal productivity coach and founder of CommonSenseOrganizer.com, recommends a remedy like Cudia’s. “Set office hours and stick to them,” she advises. “It’s amazing how productive you can get in less time than before. And letting website visitors and clients know when you’re available helps tremendously.”
3. Outsource nonessential tasks. “It’s incredibly freeing to let someone else handle the tasks that need to be done but aren’t worth my time,” notes Cudia. In her case, she successfully outsourced data entry and image editing tasks.
If you decide that outsourcing is right for your business, there are many online options to choose from. A few to consider: oDesk, HireMyMom.com, Fiverr, and Tweaky. If you’re overloaded with work during certain times of the year, consider taking on freelancers to help carry the load, hiring a virtual assistant, or using an intern to help with less crucial tasks and free up your time.
4. Reduce your phone interruptions. To stay focused on important tasks, use voice mail to pick up your calls, suggests Williams. Call back when it’s convenient for you.
To keep work separate from other aspects of her life, Cudia got another phone. These days, she turns off her work phone by 6 p.m. She uses her other phone for personal calls. “Only friends and family know my personal number, so only they can contact me after office hours and during weekends,” she says.