All entrepreneurs have one thing in common: a relentless pursuit of our business. We are driven to succeed in any way we can. We tend to be hardcore and intense - a little overwhelming for those who aren’t cut from the entrepreneur cloth. And we use what everyone thought were weaknesses as our strengths. We grew up being told we needed to fit in -- shown how to do things the “right way” and make friends with the “right people.” Yet entrepreneurs tend to be those who stood out in the crowd. We pushed the envelope and didn’t care what other people thought.
The Zen saying "The way a person does one thing is the way they do everything” is especially true with entrepreneurs. We have one speed: go! We are visionaries, big picture thinkers. We’re moving forward and making decisions. We are great at failing and do so as often as we can, so we can learn from the failure and take the next step. But sometimes our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. We have a hard time slowing down and looking at the little steps, because the big picture is so clear in our heads.
As a one-speed entrepreneur myself, my schedule is packed with meetings, my to-do lists are long and my browsers have too many tabs open at any given point.
But the other day, I took the morning off and headed over to Entrepreneur's Masters & Mentors event in DC to hear behavioral science expert James Clear share about small habits. He talked about (crazy) things like not checking your email until noon and creating a habit for working out, writing or making sales calls. He even talked about Warren Buffett’s "2 List" strategy and how focusing on the five career goals while making everything else your "Avoid at All Costs" List is how you’ll get where you want to go.
As much as my busy brain wanted to believe these things were truly for people without big to-do lists, I knew it was finally time to put these small habits into motion. And I could use my hardcore entrepreneur drive to do it. Here are some of the things I plan to start implementing right away:
Close the loops.
Sitting down with a cup of coffee and a book -- a real paper-filled book -- while the sun comes up fills the soul -- no matter the topic. But rarely do I find time to finish the book before picking up a new one (yeah, you too?). According to Clear, these books are open loops in our brain. Any book I haven’t finished, it’s time to finish reading or put it in the “give to other awesome people” pile. From now on, I’ll read one book at a time. This can also goes for anything else you have eating your brain space.
Schedule a habit.
Clear explains that creating new habits cannot be based on our motivation. Starting small and setting a trigger for the habit is the best way to make it reality.
For me, writing is one of my favorite pastimes, even as a kid. It allows me to release all the thoughts stuck in my head. There is an ongoing list of topics to write about (like this one). There was a time when I blocked off big chunks of time, so I could write articles and then I avoided them for other “important" tasks and meetings. This time, I’m going to start small and set an hour twice a week for my writing habit and build on it, so I end up being intentional.
Clean out the piles.
“A clean environment increases self-control,” says Clear.
How many times do we have little piles of things sitting in different places around our homes or offices? Piles we’ll take care of at some point. Entrepreneurs are often known for being easily distracted and many of us tend to have a hard time focusing. In order to focus, we have to make sure our minds, desks and even our computer screens are clear. While I write this article, I’m using Clear’s tactic of writing in full-screen mode to keep me from distraction. It obviously worked!
Related: 12 Habits of Exceptional Leaders
Manage energy, not time.
Most of us focus on time management when in reality we have to focus on energy management, according to Clear. Everyone has peaks and valleys throughout the day.
For instance, I like working out at 5:30 am, because I need the adrenaline for the day. But my brain is a complete mess in the early afternoon and then I have hyper focus around 4 pm.
Everyone has different points in the day where their energy is high or low. Set up your day and your task list around your energy levels. You're an entrepreneur, you’ll get everything done but give yourself a break when you need it.
Set your intention.
Creating an intention for your day allows you to feel accomplished when the day is done. But distractions show up throughout the day and sometimes we are our own biggest distraction (think about how many times you open Facebook or your Twitter feed in a given day). One of the event attendees mentioned an extension for Chrome called Momentum that allows you to set your intention for the day and every time you open a new tab it reminds you of the intention you set. Today, mine is “staying on task”. What a great way to keep from distracting myself.