THE BLOG
08/13/2014 04:43 pm ET | Updated Oct 13, 2014

Why Entrepreneurs Struggle to Achieve Work-Life Balance

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France's decision to reduce their workweek from 35 to 30 hours sparked a few brain cells of excitement for me. Could it be remotely feasible to consider the probability of reducing the workweek without it being accompanied by a reduction in revenue? In fact, isn't a loss of revenue the real reason we won't let go of the drawn-out, brain-numbing work hours? We don't want to lose ground financially!

Many small business owners simply feel that if they take the finger off the pulse of the organization for one second, it will fall apart. Sound familiar? It's a common -- albeit unspoken -- thought for many entrepreneurs. Without our 24/7 watchful eye, we feel it's all going to "hell in a hand basket", as my mom would say. Consequently, we toil on.

Although the financial dial appears to be moving forward for most small business owners, it's impossible to discern whether the extended work hours damage or benefit the business.

One thing we know for certain, hours worked beyond 40 hours per week create unnecessary illness, stress, and fatigue. It produces needless errors, inefficiencies, and avoidable costs. Numerous studies expose the negative impact on performance when work exceeds 40 hours. Yet, despite scientific proof, we labor on.

What Entrepreneurs Are Not Being Taught

I'm no angel. I've been a willing participant in the American "dream" that taught entrepreneurs 60 - 70 hour workweeks were the standard. When I pause long enough to consider the rapid advancements in technology that allow us to conduct business at the speed of light, I am bewildered at the need for long workweeks that extend into weekends, and ultimately lead to burnout and bad decisions.

Despite the studies attesting to improved performance when a cap is placed on the number of hours we work, no one has taught us how to squeeze 70 hours of work into 40. Until now...

Work Less. Earn More.

Since 1997, I've used Synnovatia as a testing ground for untested, innovative ideas. Unproven concepts, such as limiting the number of weekly work hours while growing revenue, hold great promise.

Since learning of France's workweek strategy, I've taken this on as a personal challenge. It's my hope that we can learn together what works -- and what doesn't -- to keep our work hours down and our revenue growing.

Here are the steps I've taken thus far:

1. Put hard stops on the start and end of my workweek. I'm a farmer at heart so early mornings are good for me. My first meeting is at 7 am. My day ends at 5 pm at which time my computer is turned off to evade temptation.

I know that sounds like a 10-hour day but stay with me...

2. Carve out personal time during the day. I'm not crazy about exercise but I do love being healthy. Although I've tried early morning exercise, it was just too early -- even for me! Instead, I block out 11 am - 2 pm each day for exercise, shower, lunch, and reading. It's non-negotiable time during which I unplug and renew.

That makes for a 7-hour day or a 35-hour workweek. Next steps -- how to squeeze 60 hours into 35...

3. Respond to email twice a day. Email left unmonitored is like a 2 year old without supervision. It's a Tasmanian devil eating through precious, never to be recovered, time.

I limit the amount of time on email to 20 minutes. (I actually set a timer!) I use Feedly to aggregate information I want to read so it doesn't mix with email and create a distraction.

I separate email into billable, marketing, selling, and general which allows me to set priorities. I don't "work" in my inbox. I sort emails into the various categories to address them at the time designated in my day. (Sound rigid? Perhaps but it's less exhausting and more productive to focus on one activity at a time.)

4. I say "no" more often. Like any small business owner, I get requests to be interviewed on blogtalkradio.com or speak for organizations or share advice at no charge. When my calendar was open-ended, I said "yes" to everything.

With boundaries on my time, a request must fit with my buyer persona, have a large enough audience to net results, have a brand that I can be proud to be affiliated with, and fit in with my strategic plan. If not, I decline the request -- graciously, I hope.

Do you want to work fewer hours while keeping your revenue growing? This is just the start. I'm committed to re-evaluating all aspects of my business in order to achieve just that -- and share them with you, of course. :-D

Care to join me? If so, feel free to subscribe to our blog. Let's grow together.