Some entrepreneurs claim to be working 18 hours a day. And I'm not talking about the Gary Vaynerchuks of the world, who definitely do (if you're dubious about that, please check his Snapchat stories). I'm talking about your average entrepreneur who is not in Silicon Valley and who hasn't made millions yet. You know the type: super positive, excited to go to work every day and can't wait to make a difference–until month 8 takes hold. Then the real person comes out.
You see, everyone can maintain their cool for 8 months. Ever heard of the theory you should date someone for all four seasons before getting engaged? So that you really know them? For an entrepreneur's big idea, it's the same thing. You're in love with your idea for six months and then you hit some hurdles. Then it's time to see if you have the intestinal fortitude to go the distance.
When the going gets tough, people like to point to their "18-hour work days" and tremendous effort. But if you're working 18 hours (as in, sitting in front of a computer not looking at cat videos), that is why you're here–on Depression St. and turning left onto Fuck This Company Ln. Here's why your long-ass workday is stupid (and will get no pity from me):
You know why? Because your brain needs time to absorb other things, to look at other creative stuff, and to index all that you've learned. If you're melting it with the same drivel day in and day out, it's going to turn off on you. And turning off your brain is probably the worst thing that can happen to entrepreneur–whether a numbers fanatic or a creative monster (or both, if you're a lucky sonuvabitch).
Now, if you're on a diet of solely Adderall and Mountain Dew, then maaaaaybe you can actually work for 12 hours straight. But you're not a cyborg; you like cat videos just like the rest of us, and your co-workers or co-founder like to chat with you about random stuff sometimes, too. Instead of trying to work for longer hours, try to work more efficiently. "Work smarter, not harder" is a cliche for a reason. If you're sitting in front of the computer for 18 hours a day (or, honestly even 13), you're the adult equivalent to that person who sits in the library during all of exam week hoping to learn by osmosis. Seriously though, what were those kids doing all day?
Spoiler alert: Lots of start-ups fail–and fail hard. Sometimes it's because the market wasn't what they thought it was. But sometimes it's because the founder(s) have spent too much time talking/thinking and not enough time acting. There is something (A LOT) to be said for just trying out some stuff you're not sure will work. Experimentation and failure is a hell of a lot better than talking and thinking yourself to death and getting, what I lovingly call, "decision paralysis."
Just so we're clear:
Talking and thinking involves (important things to do once and then refresh every now and then): creating a plan for monetization, outlining your mission, creating a timeline for all your goals, creating processes, researching best practices for social media platforms, talking to people about your business or diving into Google Analytics data.
Acting includes (shit you need to do every day): walking down every street in your city and handing out business cards, writing content on social media platforms and your blog, developing your product, testing new audiences for advertising, creating marketing pieces, experimenting with Google AdWords, working on your website and SEO, contacting leads or potential partners you'd like to work with. In other words, the harder stuff.
If you cannot help yourself, you cannot help others. If you're really working over 12 hours a day, that can't be pretty. If you're run-down and tired, you're not thinking proactively and creatively. If you're burned out mentally or physically, it reflects in virtually every aspect of your work–from meeting with clients or potential investors to writing a blog post. First, you might not wear a tie to your meeting, then you will forget how to use semi-colons. It's really all downhill from there. Take care of yourself. Eat meals. Sleep. Go outside. You'll be a better entrepreneur (and bonus: a better person!) for it. Plus, other human beings will still want to hang out with you.
Listen, I'm not saying it's not hard work and it will take a lot of hours. But, to borrow another adage you've seen on some motivational poster with a kitten: it's a marathon, not a sprint. So save yourself the frustration, heartache, depression and 15 extra pounds, and work (actual work) smart. Action above everything. And turn off your desk light before your family forgets your face.