Entrepreneurship is lots of freedom. Freedom to choose your own clients, set your own hours and choose how much you think your services are worth. When you just start out this freedom can be overwhelming even. It’s a bit of a challenge to figure out how to spend your time wisely. You wouldn’t be the first entrepreneur drowning in 80-hour workweeks or forgetting to file their taxes. Never seeing non-entrepreneur friends anymore. And feeling guilty about wasting time on Netflix.
Or you’re the opposite: you struggle to bring up the discipline to actually hit ‘Stop’ instead of ‘Next Episode’ and finally work on your product and your brand. Every Friday you look back in frustration: another list of projects you procrastinated on.
As usual, the magic is in the balance. Great entrepreneurs know they need to deliver, but they also remember to take care of themselves. Here’s how they make sure they balance what they need.
As usual, it starts with your vision
If at this point you’re still surprised it all starts with a vision, you haven’t been on this blog long enough (don’t worry, just stick around and you’ll become a vision-convert as well).
Step 1 is knowing what you want your life to look like. That’s right, not just your business, your life. Because it’s all connected. You can’t work 24/7 AND spend 24/7 with your lover AND spend 24/7 with your family, AND spend 24/7 rock climbing, unless you’re a spider-bitten family of rock-climbing instructors that never sleeps. Assuming you’re not you’ll have to get clear on what’s important in your life and the part entrepreneurship plays in the whole thing.
And then yes, you’ll also need to zoom in on your entrepreneurship vision. How do you want to contribute to this world? What activities do you love doing? What would your dream business look like, exactly?
The entrepreneur machine
Now, compare yourself and your business to a machine. The purpose of a machine is to produce output, and so is the purpose of your business. You want to create things. Whether you have products or services, you try to create value. You add value to your business and in turn your business adds value to the world, it’s a nice little chain. In order to add value, you need to take care of yourself (let’s call that machine maintenance) and make sure you keep growing (the machine gets all the right updates). Finally, you’re not alone. It’s the connection to others that makes your work valuable and how you relate to others is important both to your wellbeing (even if you’re a total introvert) and your productivity. So let’s look at the entrepreneurship activities you can use to balance out your days!
We might not know how to create happiness, but there’s actually been quite a bit of research on the topic and we do know some elements that matter. One such important element is purpose. We want to matter, to make a difference. Making a difference to this world makes a world of difference to how you feel.
The trick here is that you want to add a bit of yourself to what you’re creating. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling a product, reselling others’ products or provide services, you can create a bit of yourself in every type of business.
With products, it’s easy: your own product is obviously the thing you create. When you sell others’ products, the question is: what extra value do you add? Do you have a cute webshop people are dying to visit? Are you great with marketing, bringing the right products to the right audience? Or do you create a platform for creators who otherwise wouldn’t be able to sell their work on such a scale?
Well, what about consultancy and other services? How are you supposed to create if you’re a hairdresser or a teacher? This too, starts with a vision. What do you think haircuts should be like, or the hairdresser experience should be like? You might not create something tangible, but you still create an experience. Of course, you can also create tools, courses, content. In the end, creating is merely the conscious process of you manifesting your vision.
If you don’t spend enough time on creation tasks you might feel like you’re rushing without making progress. Or you might spend all your time on fulfilling client wishes, while you forget your own vision.
Here’s a few creation activities you might want to add to your list:
- Write a blog or shoot a vlog
- Design a new procedure for something you care about
- Develop some new product
- Come up with a new solution to an old problem
- Turn your knowledge into a course
Here’s something lots of entrepreneurs – myself included – forget to put on their to-do list: food, sleep and exercise. That, and a bunch of other things that keep them alive. Some things you just have to do. Either because they take care of your money (such as client work), or because you need to do them to stay alive (such as cooking) or because they keep you out of trouble (such as filing your taxes).
The second list of activities you want to take care of are your care activities. Care is everything that needs doing, whether you enjoy it or not. ‘Need’ is broad here. It’s not only objective needs (such as paying your bills), it’s whatever you deem necessary. For one, it’s a morning exercise routine. For another it’s daily vacuuming. The good news is you might be able to outsource some of these activities. Just make sure they’re getting done.
A few care activities you should keep an eye on:
- Taking care of your health: dentist appointments, getting enough sleep, exercise
- Chores: groceries, throwing out garbage, cleaning the toilet
- Taking care of your obligations: client work, paying your bills, taking care of your kids and/or pets, car maintenance and the like
- Honoring appointments (or canceling them)
You can’t be productive all the time. Like a plant that needs sunshine and water to grow, you’ll also need some input. Moments when you’re actually consuming something others have been creating. Maybe you’ll read a book, visit a gallery, take a course or simply watch Netflix.
Essentially there are two reasons to add consumption to your list of activities. One is that you need new output to stay creative. You’ll want to develop new skills, be aware of trends and grow as a professional and a person. So you’ll choose things that help you get there.
The other reason is much simpler: because you enjoy it. Sometimes we just feel happy consuming something and that’s a good thing! After all, you wouldn’t be able to create something for someone else if no one would want to consume anything. So no need to feel guilty when you spend a few hours reading your favorite writer’s latest novel, binging on Netflix or getting yourself those new jeans (because yes, product consumption is also consumption).
Here’s some activities for your consumption list:
- Learn a language
- Develop a new professional skill
- Read a novel
- Watch a movie
- Visit an exhibition
- Buy yourself a gift
Moderation is key though. Both productivity and enjoyment are great reasons to spend your time, money and attention. Boredom and a desire to escape your life? Not such great reasons. Decide for yourself – are you consuming because you want these things, or because you feel empty and sad when you don’t?
Finally, the last type of tasks: connection. This one is intuitive. You are not alone, remember that. Remember you’re part of a bigger world. Like with consumption, you can either connect to aid your business, or just for the fun of it. It’s all good! Hang out with your best friend, go to that cool event and strike up a conversation with a stranger, reach out to someone you admire.
Here are a few connection activities you might enjoy:
- Catch up with an old co-worker or client
- Schedule some quality time with your friends
- Reach out to someone in need of help
- Go to a networking event
Create your own balance
Wherever you are on the spectrum, make sure you do at least one activity in each category every week. From there, it’s finding out what works for you. Keep track of what you do and how it affects your happiness and your business. Do you get your best ideas in conversations with other people or are you chronically incapable of coming up with new ideas if there are still dirty dishes in your kitchen? Allow yourself to play around a bit and find out what your perfect balance looks like.