Sponsored by Sage

By Rieva Lesonsky

Do you wish there were more than 24 hours in a day? You’re not alone. A November 2015 Sage Survey of more than 2,600 small business owners in 11 countries reports almost half of them work more than 40 hours a week—and U.S. small business owners work even more than the global average, with 47 percent working over 40 hours a week.

Running a small business can make achieving work-life balance a challenge. Almost four in 10 U.S. small business owners take fewer than five vacation days a year. And 44 percent say their dedication to their companies has affected their relationships.

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of U.S. small business owners say the long hours are worth it—and in fact, small business owners have contributed an additional $8.3 trillion to the world economy by working overtime. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to achieve your business goals more efficiently? Here are five tips for maximizing your time.

  1. Write a formal business plan. Writing a plan is the most important step to success, and should be done before anything else. By laying out your goals and your plans for reaching them, you’ll be able to take action more quickly and reach your goals faster.
  2. Share burdens and triumphs with a partner. Launching and running a business can be equal parts rewarding and stressful. Having a partner to share the mundane day-to-day business tasks not only frees up more of your time for innovating and decision-making, but also provides collaboration on those creative pursuits. Or take advantage of the inherent support system your family provides by starting a family business. For Rubensteins Men’s Clothing Store in New Orleans, a third-generation family business, bringing new generations with a variety of work experiences into the business has helped spark new ideas for marketing its products creatively.
  3. Enlist professional advisors. You can’t do everything yourself, so determine where you need advice and assistance and find experts to help. An accountant, for example, can help you manage day-to-day finances while also making long-term recommendations to improve your business’s financial health. When you’re up to your neck in daily operations, it’s difficult to see the whole picture. An outside advisor can provide a different perspective — which may be all it takes to come up with your next big idea. “Make sure you keep your eyes on the big picture,” says Mickal Coleman. This approach has helped Adler’s Jeweler, also based in New Orleans, his family’s business, thrive for over 100 years and through four generations.
  4. Make time for forward thinking. When you run a small business, it’s easy to get mired down in the here and now. But it’s your job as a business owner to ignite a culture that empowers employees and rewards change. Set aside at least one day a month for forward thinking. Meet with your team to brainstorm ideas and allow employees to question everything, without letting current systems or processes hinder creativity. Carrie Enders says a policy of “talking about everything, even if that [sometimes leads] to an argument” has helped her family’s Mooresville, North Carolina-based race car parts manufacturing business, RE Suspension, become a leader in its industry.
  5. Find a life/work balance. It may seem counterintuitive that working less can make you more productive. However, consistently working long hours without taking vacations can have damaging effects on health and family life. The Framingham Heart Study found that vacations reduce the risk of heart disease — men who skipped vacations for several years were 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks. Whether it’s going on vacation or simply putting down your smartphone at the dinner table, taking breaks reduces stress, which allows room for creativity, leads to fresh perspectives and makes you more productive.

By taking these five steps, we can all find a few more hours in the day (or at least feel like we have).