How to be a Successful Entrepreneur When You’re Busy
Are you in the process of starting your own business? Or, maybe you’re thinking about it, but feel you are too busy to be a “successful’ entrepreneur?” You’re not alone in your aspiration to be your own boss. In fact, one 2018 study from VistaPrint found that over 60 percent of Americans want to start their own business!
It’s important to remember that we all need a little “entrepreneur motivation” at some point in the startup journey. It’s inevitable – particularly at the beginning.
We get it.
Launching a new business or running a startup can be scary and chaotic. But, don’t fret. You have all that you need to succeed.
As part of our Entrepreneur Motivation Series, we caught up with top founders, CEOs, and serial entrepreneurs to deliver proven and actionable tips for how to be a successful entrepreneur when you’re busy.
In this article, we explore 5 (five) proven productivity habits of super successful entrepreneurs that you can begin today.
Practice incorporating these actions into your day-to-day life, to dramatically expedite your journey as an entrepreneur (not to mention make it more enjoyable).
1. Break Down Tasks & Embrace Small Wins
“The most important motivator is to break tasks down so that one can have early success in meeting a goal.”— Joan Hornig, Renowned Jewelry Designer and Founder of Sundance Theater
Joan Hornig, an industry-leading jewelry designer, and philanthropist utilizes daily checklists to help her keep track of small wins. Hornig explains that being able to see milestones being reached is a terrific motivator – both for yourself and when working with others. The use of checklists often results in getting more done.
American organizational theorist, Karl Weick, introduced the idea of “Small Wins” when he set about redefining the scale of social problems in the 1980s. He theorized that effectively scaling down problems to a more manageable size made them easier to comprehend, control, and improve. Small wins build confidence. They are more pleasurable to experience, and they can snowball into efficient and productive action. Especially in the throes of starting a small business.
SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR CHALLENGE 1:
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When it comes to time management and kickstarting your To-Do list, it’s essential to break down your tasks into manageable and actionable steps. This helps you narrow your target and hit a bullseye more often.
Take, for example, putting a pitch deck together for investors. Instead of one giant To-Do item on your list, i.e., “make pitch deck,” create a list of smaller more achievable goals. For example, “Assemble images for pitch deck, choose a template, choose fonts, finalize footer, outline slides,” etc. As you rock and roll through your checklist, you’ll celebrate achievements more often that gives you the confidence and momentum to finish a big project.
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2. “Create” Time by Waking Up Early & Showing Respect
“Begin each day with an open heart, an open mind, strong work ethic, and good intentions.”— Terri Broussard Williams, Founder of MovementMakerTribe
Want to know whom you’ll find in the gym working out at 6:00 AM? Movement makers like Terri Broussard, a lobbyist and social impact strategist for the American Heart Association!
When asked about her typical daily schedule, Broussard shared that an early morning helps her get the most out of her day. It’s evident that her dedication to waking up early has given her a leg up on her career as she leads not one, but two significant organizations and serves on several boards. How does she do it?
Surprisingly, there is no caffeine involved! Instead, Broussard says she finds the energy in her mission to begin each day with an open heart, an open mind, a strong work ethic, and good intentions. When you do these things, she explains, the universe will take care of you on your journey. Broussard is not alone in being an early bird. You would be hard-pressed to find many successful business leaders who don’t rise before dawn to either exercise or get a head start on work for the day.
“If you want more time in your life, show time some respect.”— Jen Sincero, #1 New York Times bestselling author and success coach
Jen Sincero, a New York Times bestselling author and success coach, whole-heartedly backs this up with the view that you should RESPECT time. Yes, you heard this correctly. Treat time like a person! Sincero explains in her book, “You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life,” that “[w]hen we’re forced to do something, suddenly the time is there. Which means that it’s there all the time, but we’ve chosen to limit ourselves by believing that it isn’t.”
In other words, it comes down to perception. People spend a considerable amount of time “worrying” about the lack of time! This is time that could have been spent doing something.
Sincero takes the position that you can make time work for you instead of being its slave. But, Sincero explains, it starts with sending the right message: “If you want more time in your life, show time some respect. If you’re constantly late, if you blow things off or if you’re a flake, you’re not sending a message to The Universe-or others, or yourself-that you value this precious time that you crave and are trying to create more of for yourself.” Sincero’s point is that a mindset shift is in order. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do; focus on what you can do. And, use your time wisely. Get in alignment with what you want by acting like time is important.
SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR CHALLENGE 2:
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Start small: Wake up 30 minutes earlier each day for the next seven days. Have a specific and important task or goal that can be achieved within those first 30 minutes of your day. It doesn’t have to be work-related either; you can use the time to exercise, journal, or work on a creative project. Use this goal as your motivation each day to wake up earlier, and at the end of the week, see how you feel. Think you can go another week?
Step it up a notch: Next time you really want to do something, but the voice in your head tells you there isn’t enough time, STOP. Don’t be a slave to time. Take control. Identify some less important things that you can cut out, and replace them with activities that will get you on the path to achieving the thing you really want. And, along the way, make sure that you are maintaining a good relationship with time by being courteous.
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3. Learn How to Set Priorities & Be Your Most Productive Self
“Move the needle on something that matters.”— Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO, Feeding America
There is validity to setting yourself up for small, frequent successes throughout your day, but if you’re tackling lots of little tasks that aren’t true priorities, you may not be doing your business any favors in the long run. Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the CEO of Feeding America, sums it up succinctly when she shares her advice for setting daily priorities saying, “Move the needle on something that matters.”
A typical day for Babineaux-Fontenot who heads up the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S. might include key meetings with Feeding America team members, press interviews, strategic planning sessions, and Facetiming with her daughter. Through it all, she says one of the most important actions you can take as a business leader is to decide everything that you can that day.
So how do you navigate what is and isn’t a top priority on a seemingly never-ending To-Do list? Career success experts at ThriveYard recommend ranking your tasks as high, medium, or low priorities based on their urgency, highest returns, and significant consequences.
SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR CHALLENGE 3:
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Try these quick steps (courtesy of LiquidPlanner®) to start ranking your priorities and moving the needle on something that matters:
Step 1 – collect a recorded list of all your tasks at hand (don’t worry about the number or order of them at first – just write everything down you want to get done).
Step 2 – identify which items require immediate attention; that is, they are more urgent, not necessarily more important. Urgent tasks are those that will incur negative consequences if they are not completed as soon as possible, i.e., impending deadlines, critical outreach, etc.
Step 3 – identify which items, while not necessarily urgent, carry high value for your business and are therefore important. Assess value by noting whether other team members can move forward with a project or not depending on you finishing a specific task. Also, make sure your degrees of importance mirror your brand’s mission. For example, if your business is all about client service, you will want to tend to client projects before seeing to internal needs.
Step 4 – start with the lengthiest task first (and the rest of your day will feel like a breeze!).
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4. Embrace Failure & Stop Procrastinating
“Make failure valuable.”— Ajay Yadav, Founder & CEO of Roomi
Procrastination may seem like basic variation on laziness; however, it is more often related to a fear of failure. Like many things, a fear of failure only looms larger and larger the longer you put something off. Ajay Yadav, the Founder and CEO of Roomi, an online service that helps people find flexible, affordable housing solutions and connect with roommates, knew that failure was simply part of the equation when it came to launching a business.
His advice? Embrace risk and all the failure that may or may not come with it. Yadav says, “Once you’ve got a culture where it’s okay to fail, you’ve got a workplace that is constantly learning. It’s awesome. Unstoppably, patently awesome.” When it comes to time management, use failure to your advantage. Instead of procrastinating by worrying that there isn’t enough time to get what you need to get done, do what you need To-Do and know that it is ok to fail. Failure means you are challenging yourself, taking risks, and making the big decisions that will help your business grow.
“The significance of the failures is just as important as the successes.”— Adam Braun, American entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist
If you want to take this one step further, consider using fear of failure to your advantage. Welcome this as an opportunity. In a past interview with Adam Braun, CEO and co-founder of MissionU, and founder of Pencils of Promise, Braun tells us that “[t]he biggest opportunities for growth are not found in the midst of success, but in the methods through which we address failure.”
Braun explains that “[i]n reality, there are thousands of small, medium, and large wins that add up to the point they have gotten to. There were times when I was launching Pencils of Promise where I felt that one thing was going to put us in a different sphere, but the reality is that we have had a lot of success and a fair amount of setbacks over the years, and the significance of the failures is just as important as the successes. There is not one thing that leads to where we are, which is why relentless conviction and an unshakable work ethic are necessary for young entrepreneurs because there is no one big break.”
SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR CHALLENGE 4:
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Next time you feel that tingling in your spine, recognize it. Acknowledge that you are experiencing a feeling of fear, and use it to propel you forward. Practice by starting small. This week, identify your most daunting (but important) task and tackle it first. If you make some mistakes, so be it. Remember, getting something done is better than getting it perfect. The reward is often greater than the risk. Once you complete the task (even if only decently), you have eliminated the stress and disappointment that comes with delaying an important action or failing to meet a deadline. This then helps with getting everything else done.
You can also devote time to building your confidence to face your fears more, well, fearlessly by regularly celebrating your successes, however small they may seem. Check-in at the end of each day and make a mental (or physical note) of decisions you made that successfully benefited your business or your team that day.
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5. Dream Big & Act Now
“Dream big and start building your companies now. Don’t wait.”— Dr. Greg Wells, CEO & Founder of Wells Performance
From writing three best-selling books to consulting on performance physiology with national Olympic teams to starting his own global consulting firm, Dr. Greg Wells knows you don’t need to have superpowers To-Do amazing things, you just have to dream big and start doing! In high school, when Wells was told he would never perform as an athlete again after he broke his neck in a freak accident, he defied the odds and went on to tackle some of the hardest endurance races in the world including the Nanisivik Marathon 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle and one of the longest bike races in the world (11,000 km!), the Tour D’Afrique.
If your productivity is stalled because you simply can’t seem to get started on the big-picture projects that will take your company to the next level, take a page out of Wells’ book – dream big and dive in!
SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR CHALLENGE 5:
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Write down your top three long-term goals for yourself and your company and do one thing each day that helps you get closer to those goals. Perhaps it is networking with an industry leader on LinkedIn, writing a guest article for a partner organization, or even simply exercising more.
Not quite sure how to go about defining your ultimate goals? Behavioral investigator and best-selling author, Vanessa Van Edwards, recommends trying her trusted goal wheel worksheet. By rating your current satisfaction with key areas of your life, including your business, family, social, health, spiritual, and personal areas, you can form a clearer understanding of your “emotional temperature.” From there, you can define intentions for each area of your life and think through both the outcome you desire and the process of how you will achieve it.
Although it may be rare to start off as a successful entrepreneur from day one, you can position yourself to be more productive through a conscious effort. This involves organization, implementing productivity habits into your day-to-day life and maintaining the right mindset. Taking small targeted steps can get you there faster.
Here are some key things to remember:
“How to Be a Successful Entrepreneur” FAQ Guide
1. Break Down Tasks & Embrace Small Wins;
2. Create Time by Waking Up Early & Showing Respect;
3. Learn How to Set Priorities & Be Your Most Productive Self;
4. Embrace Failure & Stop Procrastinating; and
5. Dream Big & Act Now.
The process of seeing milestones being completed is a strong motivator. The use of checklists and other tools that allow you to “cross things off a list” results in getting more done. When tasks are organized into smaller components, you are able to complete activities faster and in greater volumes.
Wake Up earlier and shift your mindset to focus on what you “can” do and not what you can’t do. Eliminate the less important things that are taking up time and replace them with more value-added activities.
Assign specific priorities to the activities that you need to complete by ranking your tasks as high, medium, or low priorities based on their urgency, highest returns, and significant consequences.
Recognize that procrastination is linked to “fear of failure” and embrace it. Failure is an indication that you are challenging yourself, taking risks, and making decisions that will help you grow.
No matter how many goals or dreams you have, pick one and get the wheels in motion. The course will begin defining itself.