You’re passionate about your business and determined to succeed, so you pour every minute of the day into your work. But at what cost? If you’re putting your business ahead of your health, you might find that both are going to begin to suffer.  

Remember, you are your business’s most valuable asset, so you need to be guarded carefully and kept in top working condition.

Surprising health problems that come from working too hard

Working too hard can torpedo your business. Clients choose you because of your relationship, not just your prices or convenient location. But if you’re eternally focused on the next task, you’ll never build and maintain that all-important client connection.

People work with vendors they like and trust. You can be that person, but not if you’re so overtaxed that you’re running from fire to fire with headspace for nothing else.

That’s not all. Working longer hours leaves you low on energy and concentration, and that actually makes you less productive. According to research from Stanford, people who worked 56 hours a week were just as productive as colleagues who worked 70 hours a week. The extra 14 hours of work time were totally pointless.

If you keep on overdoing it, it can have real consequences on your health, causing:

  • Chronic neck or lower back pain from the tension and lack of exercise
  • Sleep loss, which raises risks of developing heart disease, obesity, and type II diabetes
  • Cortisol to flood your brain, raising your heart rate to the point of straining
  • Bad eating habits to develop, raising cholesterol, and increasing the risk of hypertension you overdo it for too long, you’re liable to hit burnout and experience mental and physical exhaustion

All of which are not recommended.

But, how do you know if you’re overdoing it?

The thing about overwork is that it can creep up on you. We live in a culture that prides itself on a “work ethic,” so you might think you’re being motivated when actually you’re flogging yourself into the ground.

You can tell when you’ve crossed the line from “hard worker” to “over-worker” when:

  • You’re working longer hours, but not getting more done
  • You’re losing sleep, either because you’re working too many hours or because you can’t “switch off” your work brain
  • Your friends and family complain they never see you
  • You’re rapidly losing or gaining weight, or losing hair
  • You feel angry or frustrated most of the time
  • People don’t want to work with you; that includes having employees quit because you’re overworking them too

Self-care practices can save your health and your business

Here are three ways to build self-care into your day, week, and month to prevent you and your business from getting sick.

1. Discover the power of time blocking

A study from the University of California-Irvine discovered that when you get interrupted, it takes an average of over 20 minutes for you to regain your concentration. That means just five interruptions a day can suck up almost two hours of valuable work time.

The definition of “interruptions” covers more than you might think –  task-switching, like moving from setting new KPIs to replying to customer reviews online, is an interruption. You lose focus every time, and then you wonder why you’re not being productive.

Time blocking is the time management tactic of champions. It means setting blocks of time in your day for replying to emails, building on business development, brainstorming new marketing campaigns, etc. Each time block must be untouchable, so refuse to even click on your inbox outside of your email blocks.

Don’t forget to block out time for yourself, whether it’s to exercise, meditate, take a class, or just have some lunch.

2. Learn when to say “no”

When your gut tells you that a client is trouble, listen to it. Some clients pay well but aren’t worth the overwork they cause. There’s no fee high enough to make it worthwhile working with them, so learn to say “no” without stressing out that you’re turning away work. Select your clients… yes, you have that right and that luxury.

Learn to say “no” to tasks that you don’t need to handle personally. When you’ve grown your business from scratch, it can be intimidating to delegate. Do it anyway. Search your to-do lists for things you can assign to an employee, a virtual assistant, or automated small business tools like vcita, which can take over marketing emails, invoicing, and sending late payment reminders.

3. Treat yourself like an employee

One study by the National Small Business Association found that 93% of SMB owners agree that employee health is important to their bottom line, and 78% of those who offer a health and wellness program believe that it improves morale, productivity, and overall profitability. But how many of them take the same view of their own personal health?

If you find yourself safeguarding employee health but neglecting your own, it’s time to reassess your priorities. When you create a business plan, you have to allow for your own salary as well as overheads, running costs, and employee salaries. Maybe it’s time to take the same approach to wellness.

Instead of deciding whether or not you’re working too hard, try asking yourself if you’d treat an employee this way. It might lead you to a more honest answer.

You are in control of your work – not the other way around

Keeping the body, soul, and business together takes work, delegation, and constant re-prioritization. Time invested in self-care and wellness is productive, so learn to say “no” to unnecessary tasks or exhausting clients, apply time blocking to your methodology, and treat yourself like the valued employee you are.