One of the familiar refrains in the life of entrepreneurs and business people I come across is the epidemic of being “really busy” all the time. Part of this is modern American life, culture and work demands, but often this is a creation of our making and one that creates undue stress, lack of focus and underproductivity. I was having a conversation with a close friend last night who has had a lot of success in business and he commented on how he sees I have created a complicated life for myself and encouraged me to simplify it.
This was not so much from a perspective of the business related ventures I am pursuing but from a standpoint of concern about too many things, things that I don’t necessarily have a lot of control over and a lack of inner peace with the state of my life today. This was a powerful statement and it made me pause. It gets back to the question of what is important and our ability to be simultaneously content with the present situation in our lives while remaining motivated and ambitious to move forward and grow.
While America is a fantastic country in so many respects, and affords unique opportunity in a way that no other country does, it also has a way of sending us into a frenzy of constant activity. This not only takes away from the joy of our daily lives, but creates an inability to step outside of ourselves, see the big picture and create the kind of structure, order and priority in our lives that allow for incremental growth and peace of mind.
Here are a few tips that I have learned from others that I find very helpful in creating the kind of clarity that is required to get out of the “really busy” vortex and begin creating a life of greater achievement and fulfillment:
1. Create a Personal Mission Statement. One of the best things you can do for yourself and your longterm health is to clarify what is important to you. What do you value? What do you want out of your career? Where do you want it to go? Where would you like to be in 10 or 20 years? If you do not have these questions fully thought through and in order, it is very easy to lose direction and focus in life. This is not to say that these things will not change over time, but create a Personal Mission Statement, reviewing it daily and sticking to it as a guiding light in your life will help tremendously in keeping your focus on the things that are most important and moving towards the goals you have set for yourself.
2. Meditate. Yes, I said it. Meditate. Forget the excuse of not having enough time or the idea that you cannot sit still for 10 minutes because you can. Would you give up 10 or 15 minutes of your day to feel far better and be 25% more productive? I thought so. Before you freak out, this does not mean sitting on the floor in a yogic pose, burning incense and chanting “Ommmmm”, although that is one way to meditate. What we’re talking about here is slowing down the mind, getting rid of the constant noise that is in your brain and focusing in on one line of thought...such as your breathing or being conscious of your body. There are 2 mobile apps that are great for this that I’d recommend looking into: Calm (which is my preference) and Headspace. They both offer a free week and I suggest doing this at the beginning of the day to get your mind in the right place to start the day. Final note, you won’t believe how relaxed and good you feel at the end of each session!
3. Do A Daily Journal. This is simple and should take 5 minutes. Write down 3 things you are grateful for (to put you in a positive frame of mind), 3 things that you want to have happen today (to visualize accomplishment and create focus), 2-3 Positive Affirmations or things that you want to have in your life that would enrich your life (to create a subconscious belief that they will be realized) and at the end of day add 3 things that happened that day that were noteworthy, positive and especially where your goals or requests came true. I’d stay away from selfish or materialistic requests for obvious reasons, although closing deals or business accomplishments are reasonable ones to look for. The general purpose of this exercise is threefold: to appreciate life and the good things that you have, to create focused attention on the things that are most important to accomplish and to create a subconscious visual framework that generates belief in yourself and that your greatest dreams and desires are within reach.
4. Spend time planning and developing for longterm success. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, he talks about the importance of what he calls “Quadrant 2” activities. These are activities that DO NOT include putting out fires, busy but not pressingly important work such as responding to emails and unnecessary phone calls, overly long meetings, etc. or even worse activities that are basically distractions from productivity including surfing the web, non-work related emails and phone calls or other things that are time wasters. The key to building longterm success comes from structured planning and working on building systems and programs that will generate long term growth. Some of these Quadrant 2 activities could include empowering and training employees to delegate tasks to that you don’t need to be doing, building your marketing programs or researching and setting up software tools or systems to enhance longterm productivity and profitability.
5. Eliminate Unnecessary Work. To expand on the point above...If we are honest with ourselves, we will probably be able to identify over the course of any day things we have spent time on that we could probably have left undone or given to some other person or resource to do. Perhaps there are whole projects or activities that just don’t really match with your Personal Mission Statement that would be best cut out of your life altogether. Time is our most valuable resource and figuring out whatever it is that you can eliminate is a great start to open up your schedule and freeing up time for more important things. Try to think of at least one thing that isn’t absolutely vital to your life or business that either doesn’t feel right or doesn’t match up with your personal vision. You will probably find a great deal of relief in letting it go or moving it to the side for a time.
At the end of the day, being an entrepreneur, businessperson or self-employed is supposed to be freeing, empowering and satisfying. Too often it becomes a cycle of unending work, lack of control and constant stress that never really goes away. While every small business owner is naturally going to be busy and have to wear a lot of hats, that does not mean that your life has to be defined by internal chaos. Try the tips listed above, do them with sincere focus and I promise you’ll begin seeing a positive difference in your personal and work life, if not immediately, within weeks.