Business leaders often cite 2,000 hours as the average worker's annual time commitment to the job. It's roughly calculated based on a 40-hour average work week. For many entrepreneurs and leaders, though, 2,000 hours is just a dream, with 2,500 hours or more being the unfortunate reality.

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If we accept 2,500 hours as a general rule of thumb, that's likely more hours per year on the job than you devote to any other single activity -- more time at work than with your loved ones or your favorite hobby or recreation, perhaps even more time than you sleep. If this is the case, shouldn't work be about so much more than just a paycheck?

I understand that for 99 percent of the population, choosing not to work isn't an option. Assume that everyone needs a job to provide for their families, a factor that most must willingly or unwilling accept. However, the variable isn't, do I need to work? The variable is, where do I choose to work and for what kind of company do I work for? In other words, is my job worthy of my 2,500 hours to justify the massive time commitment? Before giving another year to your job or business, ask yourself these questions:

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  1. Are these 2,500 hours a year a good long-term investment for my future? People are not motivated by working in a static environment. We all greatly prefer to work in an arena where we have opportunities to thrive, advance and grow. In your current position, are there real possibilities to take on more responsibility and challenges? Is there anyone at your company that is currently accelerating at a pace that would excite you? Taking the time to answer these questions will provide great perspective on the long-term return on investment you seek.
  2. Does your current role keep your attention? People in positions where their work doesn't fully use their mental potential will quickly become bored and disengaged. You can reach your full potential only when you are genuinely passionate and excited. If your role isn't complex enough or fails to provide consistent challenges, you may want to think twice about where you spend your next 2,500 hours.
  3. Do I enjoy my work? I have spoken with or read about numerous business owners who were "grinding" away before they hit it "big" -- and still loved every moment of it. In fact, many wouldn't trade those early years for anything, even referring to them as the "glory days." Sometimes, it has nothing to do with the money you make or the hours you devote. Sometimes, it's the simple question, "Am I having fun?"
  4. Are there ways I can protect my time investment? If the answers to the previous questions have you thinking about visiting your nearest online job boards, then it's time to do a quick gut check. Have you done everything you can within reason to make the most of the situation you're currently in? Are there skills you can work on that would change your value to your employer? For instance, if you took a toastmasters class, would that help your advancement? If you enrolled in night courses and received your MBA, could that help? Do you take advantage of networking opportunities? Could you volunteer for a work related project? Are you reading the right books? Have you asked an executive to mentor you? Before throwing in the towel, make sure that the problem isn’t at least partially yours.
  5. Who cares? How one is valued in an organization can go a long way in determining if they are in the right place. If you left your company today, who would care? Would your co-workers and boss miss you dearly? The answers to these questions will provide a clue as to your perceived value. Alternatively, for the business owner, if you shut down the company today, who would care? Would your customers? Would your team?

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Some refer to the everyday worker as a worker bee -- or even a drone. It's easy to get caught up in the daily repetitive nature of the work cycle, to lose sight of the fact that our career spans are limited. Time is perhaps the most precious commodity in your life; make sure to use it wisely.