Too many hours can be bad for your health

Working too many hours can be bad for your health, according to Denise Sanders. She writes about a report that found a link between overtime and depression.

Small business owners often wear many hats. You must do the books, build widgets, develop marketing materials, return phone calls, and manage employees. For the typical small business owner this can easily lead to a 60 hour work week.

While it is sometimes necessary to put in long hours to build your business, you must also balance our work load with sufficient time to relax and enjoy life. Otherwise you run the risk of working yourself into an early grave.

This can create a real problem for the small business owner. He often can’t afford to hire someone to perform needed tasks. If he doesn’t do them, they don’t get done.

There are several solutions to this problem. The first is to prioritize– identify what is really important. Some tasks may not be as important as they seem. The second solution is to delegate or outsource when possible. Have your vendor make deliveries, or hire a part-time bookkeeper. The third is better time management in the form of systems. As Denise writes, “If you have the right systems in place, you can limit the emergencies and still maintain an accessible environment, being more productive in the process.”

Systems can eliminate many of the emergencies that rob us of time and energy. The stress of constant crises can be overwhelming and debilitating. They interrupt our work, both physically and mentally.

Systems help us get consistent results. They provide us with clear guidelines for our actions. In a sense, they are like a railroad track– they keep us moving in the desired direction and keep us focused. But without systems we can easily lose direction, and wind up in the ditch. That’s not a pretty sight for a train or a business.

Systems are the solution for small business frustrations

I have long advocated systems as a solution for virtually every problem faced by small business owners. And I have often received complaints about this. I am told things like, “It isn’t that simple,” “You don’t understand my situation,” or more bluntly, “Systems aren’t the solution to everything.”

I think that these claims arise because of a misconception regarding systems.

In a certain sense, systems are indeed simple. They provide specific guidelines for accomplishing a particular task. Follow the steps and you get the desired result. When the systems are clear and complete, a novice can follow the steps and complete the task. As an example, consider the User Manual for the latest gadget you bought. If the manual is written well, you can easily follow its instructions to accomplish the desired task.

I will admit that operating a small business is more complex than using many gadgets. There can be dozens of variables involved, not to mention the physical skills required. But the fact is, you follow a system when you produce a product or provide a service. You have certain steps that you follow. You know the results that you want and the steps required to achieve those results. That is your system.

No matter how easy or complex a specific task, there is one particular series of steps that will complete the task most efficiently. This is true whether you are balancing a check book or launching a rocket. Systems are nothing more than the process of identifying the most efficient way to achieve the desired result, and then documenting those steps.

As an example, last year I began investing in rental properties. As I was preparing to do so, I asked many people about their knowledge and experience with rentals. Some offered sound advice and encouragement, while others offered little more than negativity. What I discovered was that those with a positive attitude towards rentals were following a system, while those who were more negative weren’t.

Those who were following a system avoided many of the problems the naysayers were experiencing. By following a system and avoiding problems, the desired results were more easily achieved. The same principle applies to any task, including running a small business .

Making a million dollars

It’s easy to make a million dollars on paper. I’ve done it a bunch of times. All you need is a spreadsheet and a good imagination. On the surface, this may sound silly. It may sound like a complete waste of time and a trip into fantasy land.

But the truth is, making a million on paper is not a waste of time. In fact, it is a crucial part of making a million in reality.

Any long-term endeavor requires a plan. It requires an identification of the goal and the specific steps required to achieve that goal. And for any plan to be effective, it must be in writing—it must be on paper.

Without a plan, life is like—as Forrest Gump would say—a box of chocolates. You never know what you will get. Without a plan you leave your business at the mercy of whatever happens. Without a plan you are simply wandering aimlessly, taking whatever action seems expedient at the moment.

So, making a million on paper is actually an important step. This doesn’t mean that we should engage in wishful thinking or idle pipe dreams. Our plan must be reasonable, carefully calculated, and then implemented. Without action a plan is useless.

Whatever your goal, you should develop a plan for its achievement. If you can’t do it on paper, you probably can’t do it in reality. If you can’t envision what you want and how you will get it, you will ultimately get whatever happens your way. A plan is a road map for your business.

Making a million on paper is not only an important part of planning, it’s also a lot of fun.

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