Entrepreneurship is an ongoing learning process, filled with many challenges, failures, and successes, and the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to take stock and think about what you’d like to change or improve in the year ahead.
Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or only just getting started, you may already be aware of some of these tips. But if you haven’t incorporated these habits into your life yet, now is the time to start! Here are my top five ways to set yourself up for success this year…
1. Know Yourself
The not-so-secret secret to success? What works for one person doesn’t always work for another. There are best practices we can all sample from, but ultimately you will need to determine what habits make sense for you.
For example, you may have heard that Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 4am each day so you aim to recreate his morning routine to try and tap into that level of success. But if you’re a night owl, those extra hours in the morning will have nowhere near the same value if your brain and body are wishing they were still asleep!
A good starting point is to ask yourself the following questions:
- When do I have the most energy?
- What helps me work at my best?
- What are my biggest distractions?
Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to build a routine that is fully optimized for you and help you make the most out of every hour in your day. You can also check out our article on how to manage your time for more tips on fitting your tasks to the right moment in your day, time tracking, and avoiding distractions.
2. Work Smarter, Not Harder
Since we were children, we have always been told that hard work is the main guarantor of success (“anything is possible if you work hard enough”). It is an encouraging sentiment and may be true in some cases, but it has led to unrealistic and often unhealthy views of how life as an entrepreneur should be.
Long hours in the office, working weekends, and “no time” for vacations are often seen as a badge of honor but it could actually be taking you further away from success rather than closer towards it. I know this firsthand. At one point I was spending 100+ hours working on my business, and if “anything is possible if you work hard enough” were true, my business should have rocketed to success, right? Wrong! Instead, my mental and physical health, personal relationships, and business all suffered severely. It was only after I realized the true value of time and mastered simple techniques on how to achieve more while working less, that everything turned around. My working week is capped at 35 hours, I am no longer stressed and burned out, and my business is now an award-winning, multi-million dollar success.
I firmly believe that no entrepreneur should have to feel they need to work themselves to the bone in order to see success. Overworking yourself isn’t just ineffective, it also takes its toll on your health and happiness. This year, aim to focus your energy on the most impactful aspects of your business and delegate any tasks that don’t require your specific knowledge or skills. If you’re interested in learning more about the techniques I learned to achieve more in less time and the psychology behind productivity, I put it all in my book “The Hard Work Myth”.
3. Build Additional Streams Of Income
You never know when a crisis could strike your industry, so multiple streams of income are the best way to ensure you can weather any financial storms.
Generally, there are three types of income: active income, passive income, and portfolio income. Examples of active income include side hustles or freelance work. Passive income might come from a rental property, an online course, or affiliate advertising. Portfolio income is money earned from your investments.
In Tom Corley’s book “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life", he says that successful people usually have at least three streams of income before they reach their first million.
4. Listen And Learn
The most successful entrepreneurs know that learning is a never-ending pursuit, and if you’re not learning, you could be falling behind. But it’s not just experts we should turn to for knowledge. Some of the most meaningful insights can come from the people around you. From improvements to internal processes to ideas for new products, the insights and inspiration you can gain from listening to your employees, customers, and peers can be invaluable to help drive your business forward.
Make listening and learning a regular habit and you’ll soon reap the benefits. Here are a few ways you can get started:
- Seek feedback from employees during scheduled meetings
- Request feedback from customers and regularly allocate time to read their reviews and ratings
- Schedule time during your week to read books from thought leaders in your industry
- Listen to industry podcasts during your commute or while you run errands or do chores
While you’re absorbing these new insights and ideas, make sure to take notes about what you’re learning. This will ensure important bits of information won’t risk being lost to memory and will aid you in planning how you can apply what you’ve learned to your business.
5. Make Time For Yourself
Sometimes we all need a reminder that we should be working to live, rather than living to work. Any success you achieve in your professional life won’t mean anything if your mental or physical health deteriorates in the process. As I mentioned previously, spending the maximum number of hours possible working will not give you the results you want.
Reallocating those hours you would previously spend working overtime will give you a much greater return on investment in the long run.
- Spending time with friends and family - A 2011 study stated that adults who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer than their more isolated peers. No matter how busy we get, time spent with friends and family will never be time wasted.
- Hobbies - Perhaps one of the easiest ways to have fun, relax, express your creativity, or stay fit (depending on your preference!). Aside from the obvious benefits, hobbies also give you the opportunity to acquire new knowledge, learn new skills, or just simply give you the freedom to let your mind wander. Sometimes the most creative ideas spark when we’re engaged in an activity.
- Self-care - This doesn’t have to mean a luxurious spa day - self-care can include a digital detox or even just turning your notifications off for an hour each day; setting boundaries around your availability; spending time outside; exercising, or watching your favorite film. Whatever it means for you to recharge your batteries.
- Sleep - You may have heard this a hundred times before, but it bears repeating. Whether you prefer to burn the midnight oil or you feel more productive with a 4am start, it’s important you get your 7-8 hours. Your body and mind will both thank you, as sleep helps to maintain your immune system and aid cognitive function, keeping you in the best shape to work on your business.
Habits to leave behind?
Ditching habits that don’t serve you can be as beneficial as adopting new ones. We may not even notice them sometimes, but the detrimental effects can soon add up.
Whether you work in an office or from home, back pain is one of the leading reasons for absences at work, and many contributing factors can be found in our workstations. Experts say to follow these steps to help avoid health issues that can come with poor posture:
- Ensure your back is properly supported when you’re sitting down
- Adjust your chair so you can use your keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor, this helps to avoid repetitive strain injury
- Keep your keyboard straight in front of you and your mouse close by
- Reduce pressure on your neck and spine by having your computer screen at eye-level
- Take frequent short breaks from your desk to give the muscles in your back a chance to relax
- Try to keep both feet on the floor on a footrest, as crossing your legs can affect your posture
Investing in ergonomic office furniture such as a sit-standing desk, monitor arms, or kneeling chairs can make it much easier to maintain these habits. It may seem like a small change, but when you consider how much time you spend at your desk or workspace, the benefits will quickly outweigh any cost.
While advancements in technology have provided numerous benefits to personal and business lives alike, this is now proving to be a mixed blessing. A recent review of twelve independent studies found that overuse of handheld technology may contribute to hand, wrist, elbow, and neck problems.
One example of this “text neck”, caused by bending your head down for extended periods of time to look at your phone or device screen, and “cell phone elbow” (more commonly known ascubital tunnel syndrome), where holding your phone up to your ear can cause discomfort, pain, or tingling in the hands and fingers.
These sorts of issues are never fun to deal with, but they can be especially frustrating with busy lives. Here are a few simple ways to avoid device-related aches and pains:
- Wear earphones or a headset to go hands-free during telephone calls wherever possible
- Avoid resting your smartphone on your little finger and use both thumbs when typing
- Take frequent breaks from your devices
- Reduce eye strain by regularly looking away from your screen and focusing on objects in the distance
A wake-up coffee
If the first thing you do in the morning is have a cup of coffee to “wake up”, it may actually be having the opposite effect.
Adenosine is a chemical in the central nervous system that affects the sleep-wake cycle, levels increase during waking hours and decrease during sleep. Normally, adenosine molecules bind to special receptors in the brain, which slows down brain activity in preparation for sleep. However, caffeine prevents this from happening by binding to adenosine receptors instead. Once the effects of caffeine wear off, there may be a buildup of adenosine wanting to bind to its receptors, which can lead to tiredness (and wanting another cup of coffee!).
If mornings are a struggle for you, many of the world’s most successful businessmen and women, including Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington and group president of FOCUS Brands Kat Cole, swear by their morning glass of water. Try making the swap and leave your first coffee of the day until a little later on to see how it affects your energy levels.
New habits aren’t always easy, but they’re worth the effort once they have been formed. Once you start enjoying the benefits of increased productivity, better financial security, and more time to spend on what matters most, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.