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Updated 28 Sep 2020

Is working too hard destroying your business?

A strange phenomenon has emerged recently and I like to call it the ‘Busy Factor’.

Nicholas Haralambous, Entrepreneur, 24 January 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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When I ask someone how they are and their immediate response is ‘busy’, I immediately think that they’re working too hard and burning themselves out.

My second thought is that they’re lying to look busier than they actually are. This is the busy factor. People like to appear busy even when they aren’t.

One of the side effects of this phenomenon is that people who do work hard have started working harder, edging closer to burnout. This is a real thing. Working 12 to 18 hours a day is not a sustainable way to live or build a business.

Related: 5 Secrets to achieving and maintaining work-life balance

The world will tell you otherwise and the popular cycle of reporting on start-ups will imply that if you aren’t always hustling and constantly tired then you’re doing something woefully wrong. I beg to differ.

Distractions can be good

Sometimes working yourself into the ground in search of a solution to a problem is the worst thing you can do to find a solution. We’ve all heard of the ‘shower moment’ when a person miraculously comes up with a world-changing idea while in the shower.

Shower moments rarely ever happen with such magnitude. However the basic concept is relevant when it’s expanded. If you’re staring relentlessly at a problem for days on end you’re probably not going to see a new angle to solve it.

If you step away, play with your dog, go for a walk, or do something completely different to your daily routine. You’ll possibly cross paths with an accidental trigger that will lead your mind to a solution.

Our minds are infinitely more complex than we understand and it’s thinking about your problem all the time, even in the background. When you step away from your focus with intent and for a purpose, you might just give your mind the break it needs to solve the problem.

Multi-tasking is not productive

Busy -man

We all believe that with just one more hour of work, we’ll manage to complete that last important thing on our list. That’s unfortunately not true for most of us who believe in multi-tasking.

There are many studies proving that serial task completion (doing one task to completion and then moving on) is significantly better for productivity than skipping around and trying to complete multiple tasks all at once.

The best way to assist with multi-tasking resistance is to remove notifications from your work time. When you sit down to do something you should put your phone on silent, disconnect from the Internet if possible and if that’s not possible, turn off notifications.

Then focus on that one task for a specified period of time. These small but focused bursts will help you complete more tasks and feel like you are accomplishing a lot in your day.

Burnout does damage

Start-ups often like to brag about their long hours and how hard the team works with no days off. There are times when this level of drive is required, but this should not be the average work-day at your company.

Ultimately burnout will do long-term damage to your physical and mental health, having adverse effects on your ability to work longer and harder for years, not months.

If you’re serious about your business you’ll understand that it takes years, if not decades, to build a solid business. If you are working towards years then working 18 hours a day is a frightening prospect.

The recovery period after a severe burnout can be weeks and sometimes even months if physical and mental burnout tip at the same time. Very few young businesses can lose a founder or key staff member for weeks without warning.

Taking a day off is part of the process of building a great business as it helps you find relevant distractions, replenishes your emotional and physical capabilities, allows you to touch base with friends and family, and reminds you that your business is one aspect of your life.

Happy staff don’t leave

When you’re building a business it’s easy to forget that the people who work for you have lives outside of the office.

This is important because you’ve hired the best possible people that you could find. These people want to be amazing at their jobs, to impress you, and they want you to see how hard they are working. It means they’re matching you hour for hour, day for day and probably on the road to burnout too.

Related: 6 Ways to be more productive by working less

If staff burn out, they’re going to leave your company. Loyalty is a difficult thing to come by and if you’re driving them into the ground, the only way they’ll believe they can recover is to leave.

It’s imperative to understand your personal limits, the individual limits of your team members, and the collective limits of your company.

There’s always a time to rally together and work the long hours while still having fun and getting the job done. Consistent hard work, decent hours and a focused vision is often more important than 18 hour days.

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About the author

Nicholas Haralambous, Entrepreneur

Founder of the luxury sock company,, , CEO and co-founder of Motribe before the company was successfully acquired by Mxit in August 2012.

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