I’ve already gone over some of the earliest expectations of the entrepreneurial journey. As noted, one of the most important things for any would-be or ambitious entrepreneur are the first steps.
As the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step, the entrepreneurial life begins with the first decision. You need to decide you are going to do this, then you must take steps to make it happen.
Nothing is going to happen overnight, though. It will require time, effort, and, of course, patience.
As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for more than just yourself now. Even if you don’t have anyone working with you or for you (yet), no partners, associates, or anyone financially funding you, you’re responsible for this dream.
Even though it’s not going to happen overnight, you need to expect excellence out of your effort, not necessarily the results (yet). You have limited control over the results of your business.
You can craft the perfect plan, have wonderful goals in place that are reasonable, and build a great team and still not succeed. There are many factors that contribute to whether or not a business is, ultimately, successful, including economics, culture, market pressures, the competition you never saw coming, and more.
You can’t control all of those external factors, but you certainly can expect excellence out of your efforts and commitment to this.
So, when I talk about being responsible for your business, your dreams, that means you need to be willing and able to put in a fair amount of effort.
How Much Effort Is Enough?
That’s a question I can’t answer for you. You might not even be able to answer it for yourself right now (yet), especially if this is completely new to you.
If you’ve never done anything in the vein of entrepreneurial before, then you have no idea what to expect. So, you don’t really know what to expect out of yourself.
One person might be working a full-time job, maybe even two jobs to cover their bills and fund this entrepreneurial venture. Working 40, 50, or 60 hours a week at other jobs isn’t going to provide you the luxury of devoting another 40 or 50 or 60 hours to your new business.
You may have to settle for 10 or 15 hours in the beginning. That’s okay.
In fact, you may only be able to squeeze together a few hours a week to start. You have to be reasonable with your expectations.
The moment you try to push too hard, too soon, too fast is the moment you set yourself up for failure. I know and have heard from a lot of people who burned out early on.
What happens when you burn out? You lose the heart. You lose the desire. You can’t do it anymore and, what’s worse, you don’t want to.
This is one of the most critical factors that leads to failure; this reality that you overextended yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally trying to juggle too many balls or wearing too many hats up front.
You are human. And, because of that simple reality, you need rest. Your body needs rest and so does your mind. You need an opportunity to relax, unwind, and socialize.
Human beings are social creatures. That means getting to spend quality time with people who matter to you most. Family, friends, neighbors. Sure, you may feel like you get plenty of social interaction at work, but it’s not the same. There’s always a different focus when talking to coworkers about your job, the boss, sports, or even politics, if that’s your thing.
If you were devoting a majority of your life to working and not pursuing hobbies, exercise, and other activities that are also meaningful to you, you run a greater risk of burning out.
Now, that doesn’t mean everyone who works 70 or 80 hours a week is going to burn out. This may very well be necessary for you at this point in your life. However, you need to first find balance.
What does balance look like for the entrepreneur?
Again, this answer is going to be different for everyone. But, you need to honestly evaluate your own needs and be willing and able to fill them when necessary.
For example, you might enjoy playing a particular sport. That might be your idea of exercise. It could be basketball with friends, tennis with people at the local club, or swimming laps.
If you don’t make time for these things, not only are you missing out on vital health benefits, but you are also missing out on things that matter to you. Things that give you a boost during those long, drawn out weeks.
There are certainly going to be times when you have to set some of these extracurricular activities aside. You may have a week when you’re called to spend more time and energy at your primary job or when you’re set to launch your new business.
It’s during those times when it’s okay to set those other hobbies or extracurricular activities aside, but don’t make it a habit.
The key focus here is not to count the minutes.
One of the central themes of this article has been trying to answer how much effort is enough for the new entrepreneur. The focus has been on hours.
How many hours each week is enough for your entrepreneurial efforts? As I already mentioned, there’s no right or wrong answer.
What I’ve wanted to hammer home in the meantime, though, is the importance of staying connected to family and friends, keeping up with your normal routines as best you can, and not sacrificing hobbies and other areas of interest that are still important to you.
At least not sacrificing them completely.
That brings me to this next point. The most important factor when it comes to building your entrepreneurial dreams is not the number of minutes or hours you devote to them each week, but the effort you put into each of those minutes.
Believe it or not, the average worker today puts in 8.8 hours of work every day, but is productive for only about three of those hours (Inc).
According to an Inc. blog, titled, In an 8-Hour Day, the Average Worker Is Productive for This Many Hours, they listed the most common activities that people participated in that were unproductive. That list includes:
- Reading news websites, which accounts for about one hour and five minutes for every 8.8 hours a day.
- Checking their social media accounts, which equals about 44 minutes a day.
- Discussing non-work related things with coworkers. The average worker spends about 40 minutes doing this, not including on their break time.
- Searching for new jobs. It might seem remarkable that the average worker spends about 26 minutes a day searching for a new job when they already have one. That also gives us some insight into the dissatisfaction people have with their current jobs.
The list also includes taking smoke breaks, calling friends or a spouse or partner, making food, eating snacks, or texting people with non-work related topics.
Is this eye-opening? In my experience it certainly is. People are often shocked to realize just how much time is wasted when they’re at work. Employers already have a pretty good idea that they are paying for four more hours than they are getting back in productivity, but part of that is the price to pay for our modern society.
Or so they assume.
As an entrepreneur, though, you won’t have that luxury. Every minute you waste is another minute you delay success (and increase the risk of failure).
That’s why when we talk about putting in the right effort and making every minute count, it is literal as well as figurative.
How Do We Get There?
At this point, hopefully, you fully understand and embrace the reality that perhaps most of your working, professional life (working for someone else, that is) has not been as productive as you may have thought it was.
That’s not meant to cause feelings of guilt, frustration, or even looking down on yourself for your past efforts. It is simply to highlight that what we assume to be the case as far as productivity in our lives to this point in time may not actually be the reality.
The first step in overcoming challenges is to acknowledge and recognize them. So, if you are like the average worker, start paying attention to your productivity at work.
How many times do you get into the office and either log onto your computer and start checking the news or pulling out your phone to do the same? You probably check your Facebook and other social media accounts repeatedly throughout the day, assuming it’s just for a quick minute or two, but again, pay attention.
You will probably notice that the ‘quick minute or two’ is actually 5 or 10 or 15. At a time.
Do that a few times a day and guess what? Suddenly you’ve thrown away an hour or more just on that simple distraction.
That is one of the most important first components of getting the best out of every minute of effort. We need to make sure we are putting in our best effort, especially for our entrepreneurial dreams.
That’s what I want you to do this upcoming week. I want you to pay attention to just how much time you’re spending on non-work-related tasks while at work. If you aren’t currently working and are pursuing your business goals, that’s great.
You still need to understand where your time is being spent. If you are working a full-time job, a part-time job, or several part-time jobs due to the economy, this is a great exercise.
Carry around a small notepad. Stick it in your pocket. When you get to work, log in your time. The moment you check the news, sports section, social media, get up to make a snack, text a friend or your spouse or partner, or do anything non-work related, including talking about things with your coworkers that have nothing to do with work, look at the clock and write down how many minutes you spent doing those activities.
At the end of the day, calculate the time you spent with these other things. Again, the goal is not to feel guilty about it, but to be aware of it.
If you want to be excellent as an entrepreneur, you can’t expect perfection. But, you do need to make sure you are spending maximum effort within every minute you devote to this journey. When you can maximize your efficiency as an entrepreneur, excellence will certainly begin to follow you around.