The life of an entrepreneur is hard. It demands your time and energy, and it often torpedoes relationships and other aspects of your life outside of work. It pulls you in so many directions at once that it's hard to find a clear path.
But you can help yourself stay focused and balanced if you begin each day by answering seven simple questions. And while there's no guarantee it will make your life any easier, it will certainly help make being an entrepreneur less complicated and more focused on the things that matter.
If you're ready, let's get started.
1. Why am I doing this? Start each day by reminding yourself why you opted to go into business for yourself instead of working a steady 9-to-5 with insurance and a regular paycheck. What specific values does your life and lifestyle serve? Create a personal mission statement you can refer to every day, to remind yourself why you opted for this less-traveled and obstacle-ridden road. It will ease the pain every time something goes wrong.
2. Which exercise routine have I scheduled? Thirty minutes of light-to-moderate exercise means two hours of extra productivity throughout an eight-hour workday. Get into the gym, onto your bike or on the floor for push-ups. Working out pays off in the short term with greater productivity and in the long term with better health. The total benefit: You'll get more accomplished each day, and you'll have more days of accomplishment.
3. What will I learn today? A day you haven't learned something is a day you've wasted, and entrepreneurs can't afford to waste any time. Some days, the answer to this question will be obvious because you'll attend a meeting or an event with the purpose of learning something new. Other days, you'll need to download a podcast or pick up a book or magazine. However you get the new information, taking it in needs to be part of your daily routine.
4. Where are my tools? It's estimated that executives lose as much as six weeks of each year looking for the things they need to accomplish their work. Start the day knowing where your essential tools are—from your car keys to that file on your hard drive. That way, once you begin working in earnest, you never have to interrupt what you're doing to go searching for the thing you need to complete your task.
5. How will I connect with my family today? This is the flip side of the number-one complaint among executives and entrepreneurs—that they don't have enough time and engagement with their family. Each morning, commit to some sort of meaningful connection with your spouse, children and close friends. On slow work days, this might be a dinner out or an evening in. Other days, it might just mean texting your wife a picture of her favorite flower or taking 10 minutes to read to the kids before they go to sleep and you get back to work.
6. What one accomplishment will help me sleep better tonight? This is another way to identify your key tasks for the day. Figure out the one thing you absolutely must accomplish before leaving work, and then exclude all projects you can reasonably put aside until you've finished. Once that key project is done, you can give time and energy to less urgent projects.
7. What must I do to set myself up for success tomorrow? Of all the questions on this list, this one ranks worst on the attention-given-compared-to-importance scale. Entrepreneurial days are so full of urgent tasks, it's easy to forget about all the urgent tasks you have to do tomorrow—but devoting 15 to 30 minutes to setting up your next day can pay off big in productivity.
Readers, what are your answers to these questions? Share in the comments below to join the conversation and get support from people in the same boat as you.
Jason Brick has contributed more than 2,000 blog and magazine articles to local, regional and national publications and speaks regularly at writing and business conferences. You can find out more about Jason at www.brickcommajason.com.
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