It is not a secret that becoming, and staying, a successful entrepreneur is a risky undertaking. The failure rate (indicative of the risks) of a new business is around 71% by year 10 (and is about 25% within the first year) .
How can an entrepreneur beat the odds and see his or her dream come true? The success stories know the secrets of how to manage their work – focus on what is important and prioritize. How to actually do this should be clearly defined and implemented by you as the leader from the very beginning.
In this article, we look at tips for 1) managing your work, and 2) managing your personal energy in order to become more productive as an entrepreneur.
MANAGING YOUR WORK
Focus On What Is Important
Everything initially depends on an entrepreneur as a person. What separates the winners from the losers is developing the right mindset and applying it constantly.
- Who you are. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What makes you want to accomplish what others can’t. What personal weaknesses might limit your progress? Being honest with yourself is crucial to being “doer” not a “left behind”.
- Your dream. As the words to an old motivational song say, “If you don’t have a dream, how are you going to make your dream come true?” Dream in large and practical terms. And, it’s important to absolutely love what you’re doing.
- Persevering. Don’t let others’ words or actions hurt your enthusiasm. When someone criticizes, consider the source and motivation. Jealousy and lack of knowledge are two major ones. While you are persevering, move fast and hustle. Refuse to take “no” for an answer. Keep your emotions under control as well.
- Learning. Things can and probably will change as your ideas move ahead. Honestly study the positive and negative aspects and how you affected them personally. You might even want to create a to do or not to do “Commandments” list as you go along. Refer to it. If you have chosen a creative team and not “yes persons”, their ideas can be a great source for learning too.
- Finding guidance. Blunt as it seems, what you attempting probably been tried before. Look for examples of what has happened to other top entrepreneurs and adapt what is valid for you and your goals.
- Adapting. Flexibility is important as you develop your entrepreneurial dynasty. Stay with what is working and replace what is not constantly and in real time.
- Balancing work and personal. Being an entrepreneur can literally take over your life and you let it, especially in terms of stress. Yes stay dedicated, but remember personal time and fun are important too. Take time off for Happy Hour when it’s necessary.
Randy Pausch Lecture: Time Management
Now that your mindset is in place you need to focus on saving time.
Don’t Waste Time
Some general tips are develop your routines – eating breakfast, making and editing the daily task list, etc. Then combine a series of time-saving habits to combine with your routines. The key here is to get to the point that the basic day-to-day tasks become automatic or at least semi automatic. This frees up your physical and mental time.
Once you have free time, be strategic on how you use it. A good rule of thumb is to make specific decisions on how your time will be spent every hour. If you don’t decide about how your day will go, it is very easy to lose time to distractions.
While we are on the subject of time, let’s address what is probably the biggest time waster – email. To get your email organized and under control, here are some tricks. Only email if necessary. Make sure your email content is clear, short and doesn’t require questions. If you don’t want to answer a lot of emails, don’t send a lot of emails. Don’t CC people who you don’t actually need to respond. Monitor your newsletter subscriptions. (If the content is not helpful, unsubscribe.) Organize and file your emails according to importance.
Google offers a set of business tools that includes Gmail, Google Docs, the G+ plus Social Media site, Calendars, Hangouts (group chats) websites and a wide variety of other handy and free tools. Your calendar is simply part of comprehensive, free set of Google tools.
Remember that your role as the entrepreneur is to build the company, not to manage all the small details of it. So, specific attention should be given to delegating effectively. Find someone to do the easy tasks that don’t require an expert. On the opposite side, find someone for the tasks which do require expertise. Clarify all duties and responsibilities from the start. Open up clear communication channels. Let those you delegate to contribute so they become more valuable over time. When your delegation plan is in place, go back to your mindset and let your team do what they are supposed to do (but don’t micro-manage).
Tools To Increase Your Productivity And Efficiency
Now that you have your time organized what about productivity?
In today’s entrepreneurial world, you have to become tech savvy in a hurry. If you don’t, you simply cannot compete in regard to all aspects of productivity management, such as time, costs, data manipulation, sales & marketing, human resources – any aspect of your business. The days of giving your team a station with a PC with Microsoft Office and Outlook, letting them respond to and file business emails and documents, and making them use only their stations is history. It simply doesn’t work in today’s business climate, especially for entrepreneurs.
Think online and automated. There are numerous softwares and online applications that are available for free or for a free trial with paid upgrade. These allow you to keep all important documents, emails and data available for use 24/7 in real time. They allow you and your team incredible flexibility. Business can be conducted from anywhere at anytime on laptops, smart phones, notebooks and tablets. Perhaps the best thing is that competition between the various providers is fierce. So the softwares are designed to make use easy, fast and understandable. They are also highly automated. The term you need to understand to describe these systems is “doing business in the Cloud”. It pays to fully learn how this applies to you and your business.
Where do you start? We can’t do a comprehensive analysis in one article but here are some ideas regarding productivity improvement tools.
To Do List.
Many entrepreneurs still prefer to make their own hand written lists. While this is fine, but it is not the most efficient way stay on top of what you need to do. One of the pretty designed and simple to use application is Wunderlist.
Project Management Tools.
A very popular option is Evernote. This free service stores all of your notes, ideas, plans and photos in one easy-to-access platform. You can even install the Evernote Web Clipper on your Internet browser so you can save and file information sites you think you will need later.
Trello is popular too. Trello says it makes it easy to organize anything with anyone. Drop the lengthy email threads, out-of-date spreadsheets, no-longer-so-sticky notes, and clunky software for managing your projects and organizing your important stuff.
Finally, Asana assures that you can send tasks, not emails and that conversations are kept with your work, so you’ll spend less time in email, and more time getting things done. Be aware that you might have to integrate one or more of these programs to get the results you want.
Meeting software /Teleconferencing.
If you want to get a group of business associates or potential customers together for a prepared, formal presentation without spending time on travelling, teleconferencing is the way to do it. For a reasonable price, services such as GoToMeeting allow you to conduct meetings, webinars or training presentations from your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android access. You can even share documents on your screen and be face to face with your participants if you and they have a webcam. Those attending have the choice of watching via the Internet or by calling in by phone. These softwares usually give the host the option to make a video or podcast of the meetings so those that registered and missed the event can see what was covered.
Now that you are up-to-date technically, you should consider who is going to manage your automation? This brings up the topic of using Virtual Assistants (VA). The simple definition of a VA is someone who works for you “off premises”. Different entrepreneurs have different reasons for hiring a VA. Some of them are:
- Their business is growing and they can’t keep up with the daily tasks.
- They become overwhelmed by scheduling meetings, calls or emails.
- They want to focus on only the work they want to do.
- They realize that someone else can do something better than they can.
- They find themselves ignoring core tasks.
- They have a conflict between their business needs and personal errands.
- They have no time for thinking and planning.
MANAGING YOUR PERSONAL ENERGY
It quickly becomes obvious that an entrepreneur needs to manage their personal energy as well as their business in order to stay productive and efficient. Not doing this leads to exhaustion and or stress. This can then lead to make bad business decisions. Ultimately it could lead to your business failing.
Putting time aside time for your health is absolutely crucial to living a balanced lifestyle. Michael Wolfe, CEO of ccLoop, Inc. sums up the health issue this way.
“You cannot mentally set up a conflict between a successful career and a fulfilling life. We all know that you can really only be productive for a limited number of hours per week. We also know that you need to have a happy personal life to be effective at work and to be a great co-worker to other folks. You also need to be fit and well-rested to be creative and productive. Since you know this, act on it, and insist the rest of your company does as well.”
Having a mixture of in-house and out-of-house health-building activities helps cure boredom. And keep in mind that you get better results by doing something for your health interspersed throughout your working day.
Cyrus Massoumi, Founder and CEO of ZocDoc states that all of us know that exercise is vital, but so is having a healthy diet. As an example, Massoumi cites that in the first year after establishing ZocDoc, he lost a lot of weight because he scheduled regular visits with a private dietitian. She taught him to keep and use a food diary, which they would periodically review together. The result was that Masoumi lost 25 pounds in 12 months, just by eating consciously.
Taking vitamins as part of a successful health regime is often overlooked. Successful entrepreneurs tend to favor taking multi vitamin and mineral supplements. B12, C, D, and fish-oil pills are often mentioned as essential. The key here is to actually remember that taking steps to protect your health is a daily necessity, not just once in a while.
Sport options for staying mentally and physically fit could include jogging, biking, swimming, or some other sport that you enjoy.
Meditation And Yoga
Yoga and periodic daily meditation, or a combination thereof have been a source of physical and spiritual rejuvenation for thousands of years. If you know yoga, practice it. If you don’t, maybe it would be worth your while to learn at least some basics.
There are several technics you can learn how to meditate correct. After you have leant the basics, you can find a comfortable, quiet, place, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and let you thoughts go where they want to.
There is another form of meditation that you may not have considered. One good thing about being your own boss is that you can sleep on the job. And it is recommended that you do. Your body and mind need this periodic recharge to help you stay on top of things. You can take a nap in your chair, on the sofa, on the floor, wherever is most comfortable for you. Many entrepreneurs insist that it is better to let your body tell you when it’s time to wake up, rather than setting an alarm. Turn off your cell phone too.
The Art of Stress-Free Productivity: David Allen at TEDxClaremontColleges
ADVICE ON PRODUCTIVITY AND EFFIECIENCY FROM GREAT ENTREPRENEURS
Up to this point, we have given you a blueprint for being a more productive entrepreneur. To finish, here are quotes to consider from some of the most successful entrepreneurs today.
LaKeshia Grant from Virtual Enterprise Architects, LLC believes that you have to complete what you begin. Don’t let the obstacles you encounter stop you from finishing and don’t ever quit. Why? You never know when there might be an important breakthrough in relation to clients or your business. You will miss it if you never try or give up too early.
Tracy D. Solomon from TEVET, LLC. stresses being disciplined every day, and that personal and business distractions are unavoidable but manageable. A suggested formula for staying on track is discipline plus focus plus follow-through equals success.
Harvey Nix from Proventix Systems, Inc. recommends saving time by using efficient systems. Nix gives examples such as automating emails, quotes and proposals and using Customer Resource Management software. He finishes by saying that to stay focused, let your systems help you get your tasks done – one by one.
Max Kothari from Express Kitchens starts by saying daily exercise helps you stay alert when something unexpected comes up. He applies exercising to only being motivated by making money. This makes you tired and want to give up. Kothari believes that if you have a bigger goal than money and are alert, you will stay motivated and keep keeping on, no matter what issues pop up. He finishes by saying that when you continually work through issues, money will follow your efforts every time.
Mary Allen Lindemann from Coffee By Design believes that keeping things simple is best. Try to avoid making something more complicated than has to be. She goes on to advise not taking life too seriously, and that laughter is as important as the air we breathe.