When you run your own business, you know how difficult it can be. Higher rates of entrepreneurs report stress and worries than employees—and that’s saying something. The mental health differences affected the majority of entrepreneurs.
Ever hear of “hustle culture”? It’s the idea that people are now, more than ever, praising those entrepreneurs who give themselves 100% to their businesses. That means long hours. Time away from their families. Personal sacrifices. And while there’s something to be said for having an intense work ethic, that doesn’t always mean every avenue of work is necessary.
Even for those entrepreneurs who manage to make it out of the office, there’s another problem. The cell phone. They’re accessible to their clients and customers 24 hours a day. Every time they check their text messages, it seems like they have a new one waiting for them. Each text and each voicemail represents new work: a little like going to school and finding out that every time you spoke to your classmates, you had additional homework.
It’s simply not sustainable.
One thing is clear: if you don’t control your time, you don’t control your business. And if you don’t control your business, it can be hard to control your life.
That might sound like a tall task. But the good news is that there are services that can help you handle the influx of work. And more importantly, there are services that can give your business the impression of being 24/7, even if it’s not. That means you get the best of both worlds. You get to be more responsive to your clients and customers when you’re not working. And you get to experience the mental health benefits of taking some much-needed time for yourself at the end of the day.
Here’s how to do it.
Learn from One of the Greatest Business Leaders of All Time
Here’s the thing about “hustle culture.” What many people don’t like to say is that if you spread yourself too thin—if you work too hard—it can negatively impact the way you do things. In fact, working too hard can often mean you’re not working smart at all.
That old adage work smart, not hard doesn’t mean you have to do one or the other. You can work hard and you can work smart. The question is, how do you marry the two concepts in something that’s sustainable for you as a business leader?
To tackle that question, let’s take the example of one of the most significant business leaders of all time, John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller was a notorious “hustler” who had renowned restraint and self-discipline. He seemed to rule over himself like a “tyrant,” as he called it.
But he had another strategy that he liked to use, too. And you don’t hear about this one as much. John D. Rockefeller made it a point to schedule a time to finish work, every day.
That means as soon as the clock struck the intended hour, Rockefeller was done. No more work. Anything he’d left undone would have to stay until tomorrow. It was time for him to go home.
If someone as hard-working as John D. Rockefeller felt happy doing that, maybe you can, too.
The problem is that this is easier said than done. Consider your own thoughts right now. Let’s say you set a target time of getting home at 5:00 p.m. every day. A few worries might pop up. What happens if a client calls at 5:00 p.m. and you’re not there to hold their hand? What if there’s a project that’s left undone? What if, what if, what if?
How to Work Smarter and Not Harder
In more recent years, Tim Ferris of “The 4-Hour Work Week” detailed how he was working long hours for a business he’d set up. He’d achieved financial independence, but he hadn’t achieved a more important milestone: time independence. He was chained to his desk using metaphorical links he had forged himself.
He had to get out of it.
To do so, he had to implement a system for taking care of business while he was gone. For Ferriss, that meant giving employees carte blanche to handle any issue that could be solved for fewer than $100. It meant an experimental vacation where he didn’t look at his email.
And it worked. In the hours that Ferriss was gone, he soon found out that his business ran just fine without him.
What’s going on here? It gets to a fundamental truth: it is possible to work smarter, not harder. But you have to know what working smarter means. And you have to know what systems you can implement to make that happen.
Rule #1: Eliminate Distractions While You’re At Work
Distractions aren’t just inconveniences. They have a measurable impact on your performance at work. Consider one study, which found that enough distractions had the effect of lowering the testable IQ of its subjects. Researchers concluded that frequent distractions from phone calls and email had the same effect as losing out on a good night of sleep.
The first rule of working smarter and not harder is to give 100% of your attention to your work while you’re there. There’s no getting around this. For every call you take, for every email you respond to, you’re spreading yourself thin.
In Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work,” he details the advantages of focusing on large chunks of work at a time. As it turns out, it doesn’t only improve your productivity, but your level of work satisfaction. Anxiety goes down as you check boxes off your to-do list. And with less on your plate, you’re more likely to feel safe and relaxed at home, when you’ve had a good day of work.
The key, of course, is making the most of your work while you are there. That means cutting out the distractions and focusing on one task at a time.
Rule #2: Finish When You Finish
Here’s a rule that many in “hustle culture” may find difficult to follow. When you’re done with your work, it’s time to shut off. No more work emails. No more calls.
You can use the rest of your time however you like: spending it with your family, exercising, watching TV, enjoying an outdoor hobby, cooking, etc. But no matter what you do, the challenge is to get yourself away from work. Don’t allow yourself a “peek.” Don’t check your work email. Give someone at work your phone number for emergencies; but if there aren’t emergencies, tell them not to call. Allow yourself to unplug before the next day.
This may seem counterintuitive. After all, how is working less going to give you an advantage over people who are still at the office, answering client questions? Simple. When you show up at work tomorrow, you’re going to have the advantage of being rested and alert, ready to conquer the day.
Rule #3: Use an After-Hours Answering Service to Handle the Rest
To do the above, you’re going to need to implement a system. You can’t just tell clients and customers not to expect any more feedback from you; that’s not realistic. But you do have to unplug in some way. And one of the best ways of doing that is to use an after-hours answering service to handle any incoming calls when you’re not there.
An after-hours answering service should click into action when you’re ready to go home for the day. What can it do once it’s ready to go? Consider all the benefits:
- Giving the perception of an “open” office, even when you’re not there. If you have clients in other time zones, for example, you can still give the impression that your employees are there and hard at work—even if you’re already at home, on the second mile of a relaxing jog.
- Peace of mind. After all, you’re not abandoning your work. If there’s a genuine emergency, an after-hours answering service can still reach you. But in the meantime, anything that doesn’t rise to the level of emergency can go through the call answering service so the client feels taken care of without being able to reach you directly.
- Business at scale. The thing about “hustle culture” is that it’s difficult to scale. Eventually, you’re going to need to rely on your systems and other people if you’re not going to work 24 hours a day on your business. And since that’s not realistic, it’s far better to get started building a system that can handle your influx of calls, even when you’re not there.
When a client calls, they have a reasonable expectation that your business will be responsive. But you shouldn’t feel obligated to always be there. You’re hard at work, or you’re at home. Set those boundaries, try using an answering service and be amazed at how much more satisfying your work can be—and how much more effective your business can be, even as you decrease your daily hours.
Want to make it work for yourself? Get in touch with Go Answer’s team of experts by calling 888-462-6793 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more about Go Answer’s after-hours answering services here.