Do Business Owners Get More Done?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. We’re not very good at working for other people, generally speaking. We like having control over what we do each day. But when I compare the sort of task list I have or one of my other family members has to someone with a day job, it looks fairly different. For one thing, it tends to be longer. It’s enough to give the impression that business owners get more done in the average day.

Maybe It Just Feels Like It

To be fair, I definitely don’t think that owning a business automatically makes a person more productive. But I do think that there’s a little more here than simple correlation. I have a hypothesis: for most people, having some pressure to get our work done now seems to be a key factor in how fast we actually do that work. Without some sort of deadline or need to act, it’s hard to get things done. Operating a business adds pressure that seems to motivate people more than a boss can easily handle.

Oddly enough, the financial aspects are only important to a certain extent. Most business owners will put a priority on doing the things necessary to feed the family and pay the bills, but once that point is past… well, it’s not unusual that a business owner will focus on tasks with less direct results. After talking to other business owners, the consensus seems to be that there’s enough on each of our to-do lists that we’ve got to keep crossing things off or the list will overwhelm us. This isn’t scientific research, of course — I’d welcome a more in-depth study if we could figure out how to frame it.

But I’m pretty sure that this situation isn’t just visible in the circles of business owners. I think parents experience something similar: things get done in some households because otherwise it’s easy for things to get ahead of you. We just happen to talk about the circumstances of productivity for business owners than for moms and dads.

What Does that Say About Owning a Business?

Tying your productivity directly to your ability to feed yourself is certainly not a strategy that works for everyone. But it is an approach that not only works out well but actually pays off for some of us. It’s a question of what motivates each of us: if having more on your plate is an incentive to try to get more off of it, starting a business can be one way to make that happen. The number of tasks we have and the time we have to do them in can be crucial to actually getting them done.

I’ve often had discussions with creatives — writers, designers and such — where we all sit around agreeing that our work swells to fill the time we have for it. If I have three weeks to write an article, I can take three weeks to write it. If I only have an hour to write the same article, I can get it done in that amount of time, as well. There’s a sweet spot in between — and for a lot of people, it’s closer to the deadline. Even if I have three days to write an article, I have opportunity for procrastination. But I actually have an easier time of moving forward on the project than I do when I have three weeks to work with.

Of course, you can get similar results by adding another commitment into the equation. Anything where someone else is depending on you and gives you plenty to do — like a child — seems to have a similar end result.

Image by Flickr user jbcurio

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