Is the Survival of Your Small Business Killing You? How To Tell and What To Do

overwork can destroy your health

Hey small business owner: Would you like to know an easy way to tell if you’re at a higher risk for depression, alcoholism, type-2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke and just about every other modern health and wellness nightmare?

You can find out by answering one question: Do you work more than 55 hours a week in your small business?

If you answer yes to that question, there’s a good chance that you’re on a road to some severe health problems, if you haven’t arrived there already.

The British medical journal, “The Lancet,” recently published a study that uncovered many of these health issues related to being a workaholic. However, there have been many studies over the last decade or so that have found similar associations between overwork and bad health.

It’s important to make one thing very clear: These health issues are associated with long hours of work. In other words, where overwork is found, there is a good chance that overconsumption of alcohol (and other health problems) will be found as well. I make this point because there is a difference between association and causation. In my drinking example, both might be caused by a bad marriage, a failing business or any number of reasons.

However, since so many bad outcomes are associated with working too many hours, we can consider “hours worked” as sort of a “canary in the coal mine.” Miners used to take canaries down into the mines with them because the birds were more sensitive to hazardous gases. If the canary died, the miners knew they had to take action.

In the same way, if you’re logging upwards of 55 hours a week in your small business, your canary is starting to stagger around its cage. You need to take a step back and figure out what’s wrong in your approach to managing your small business. Start asking yourself questions like these:

  • Is my business model bound to fail?
  • Am I too reluctant to delegate?
  • Am I avoiding other aspects of my life by filling the hours with work?
  • Is fear my primary motivator?

Perhaps I haven’t listed the exact question that applies to your situation. If so, the point is to find out why you are working so many hours and then do something about it. Further, if you’re logging this many hours, not only are your harming your health, you aren’t doing your small business any favor either.

Stanford University study showed that productivity starts to fall off after 50 hours of work. Once you get that that point, you’ll be working more and more and achieving less and less. That’s not the best way to get the edge you need to be successful in your small business. By the way, cognitive skills decrease as well, so when you’re overworked you’re more likely to make bad decisions.

Have I scared you, or at least warned you sufficiently? You should take the concept of work-life balance seriously, for the good of both your work and your life. Check out the series of guest posts work-life balance expert Jeff Davidson has written for us.

While you build your small business up, don’t let your small business run you down.