Highly successful entrepreneurs aren’t just lucky. Typically, successful business owners have different habits than most people, and they put these habits into practice on a continuous basis. Whether you’re a new business owner or a seasoned entrepreneur, certain habits can boost your company’s success.
Morning Habits of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs
The stereotype of a coder working into the wee hours of the morning can often apply to entrepreneurs as well. Blame those all-night hackathons. Combine that with other misconceptions that entrepreneurs are lazy or unwilling to work a 9-to-5 day, and it breeds a belief that entrepreneurs and early mornings don’t mix.
While the notion of being unwilling to work a 9-to-5 day may have some truth to it, entrepreneurs, especially those running startups, are anything but lazy. When you own your own business and your team is either small or nonexistent, your days are filled with many (and sometimes unfamiliar) tasks and responsibilities. With so many things on your plate, it’s important to make effective use of all your time.
So despite what some people may think, many entrepreneurs actually prefer to start their days early to maximize their effectiveness. Here are some morning habits of highly successful entrepreneurs.
Go to Bed Early
It’s a good idea to reprogram your internal clock by going to sleep earlier. Do your best to resist the temptation to work all night long. Many medical professional recommend getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If you’re sleep-deprived, getting a full night’s sleep each night can do wonders for your productivity and capacity.
If your mornings are busy, consider preparing for the next day the night before. You can ready your work documents for the next day, lay out your shower essentials and clothing, and make a list of the people you need to call.
Invigorate Your Brain and Body
It’s a good practice to invigorate your senses each morning. Consider listening to an up-tempo playlist, engaging in early-morning exercises, and preparing a healthy breakfast. Certain foods can help give you a boost as well. Fruit smoothies infused with dark, leafy greens are a great morning meal. Sipping on your favorite coffee or eating protein may help promote alertness. Keep in mind that too much caffeine can start to affect sleep patterns, so opt for a delicious low-caffeine blend, or enjoy green tea instead.
Get Small Tasks Done First
Whether you’re a full-time or part-time entrepreneur, it’s a good practice to get small tasks out of the way to ensure you’re able to focus completely on larger tasks. Designate 60 to 90 minutes per day for completing small tasks, such as returning phone calls, answering emails, typing short memos, and updating your social media account. Try completing these tasks early in the morning, perhaps while enjoying your breakfast or morning coffee. This leaves the remainder of the day for larger, more important tasks.
Complete Your Most Difficult Tasks by Noon
Behavioural scientist Dan Ariely says that we are at our most productive in the two hours after we fully wake up. Yet, we often try to ease into our day with mindless tasks during this time. Rather, he suggests, this should be the time when we use our brain to its full capacity. Plan your day with Ariely’s theory in mind. Do your best to schedule your important (and/or physical) tasks at the beginning of the day when you’re most alert. This includes conducting meetings, webinars, and seminars or working on projects that require intense focus.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
For years, it’s been drilled into us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While what you eat has been shown to affect productivity levels, it’s important to remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the entire day, not just in the morning. One of the most important things you can do daily is exercise.
According to Harvard Medical School, exercise has been shown to contribute to brain health, which is an important component of staying focused. Research shows that regular sessions of moderately intense exercise help maintain healthy blood pressure and weight, increase energy, lift mood, lower stress and anxiety, and keep the heart healthy. Through exercise, valuable levels of oxygen and blood are sent to the brain, contributing to the release of a chemical called brain-derived neuropathic factor (BDNF), which helps improve the function of memory-specific parts of the brain.
Keeping active and balancing sleep, food, work, and play leads to increased levels of happiness and can have a positive impact on your overall health.
Tips to Help You Focus
Many entrepreneurs rely on their own internal motivation to get things done. Whether you’re in the early days of your startup — bootstrapping with only yourself or a small team — or you’re leading an established business, improving your focus is important for your productivity and overall success.
Kitchens, living rooms, coffee shops, and co-working spaces are commonplace setups for startup headquarters. While the experience of working in such places is invaluable and sometimes necessary for company growth, trying to accomplish tasks in these unconventional spaces might get in the way of getting your work done. Because of this, it’s important for entrepreneurs to know the best ways to stay on track.
One strategy for getting work done is “time chunking.” Using this strategy requires breaking work time into 25-minute chunks, followed by a 5-minute break. Sounds easy, but the tricky part is that, during the 25 minutes, you cannot do anything other than the task you assigned yourself. Proponents of this technique says it activates brain mechanisms that force individuals to focus. You must be very strict with this strategy for it to work. For example, if you receive an email or text message during a time chunking session, you must ignore it and keep working. An even better option is to log out of your email completely and silence your phone during your work time.
Treat Yourself With Gamification
When starting a new business, you might have to complete administrative tasks you’re not familiar with. Even though these tasks probably aren’t hard, you might not always succeed when it comes to crossing them off your to-do list in a timely manner. One way to ensure you focus on these less desirable tasks is to use gamification. Gamification is a strategy that involves creating a list of things you need to get done and treating yourself when you cross something off your list. You can treat yourself to anything you’d like, including an indulgent dessert or an extra hour off during the week.
Take Regular Breaks
Whether you work alone or with a small group of people, it’s easy to try to keep the vibe going by pushing through the day without taking any breaks. If you do this regularly, you might burn out. Your staff may burn out as well. Rather than push through several hours or a full day of uninterrupted work, try scheduling some breaks. Not only does this help build workplace culture, but it keeps you from overexerting yourself or your staff and improves focus during the time you’ve dedicated to working.
As an entrepreneur, you often don’t have to report to anyone. In that case, it’s important to know what kind of worker you are and be honest with yourself about which environment makes you the most productive. Experiment to see what works. For instance, while many people enjoy working with music on and studies have shown that music can help stimulate the brain, others find music distracting or feel it doesn’t allow them the calm they need to think their ideas through. Maybe bright lighting, fragrant flowers, and a clean environment make you more productive. Figure out what works for you, and then create an environment that makes it easy and even pleasurable to work.
Running a startup, you often work all hours, but when you feel your work day is limitless, you might become too relaxed about meeting the day’s objectives on time. One way to combat this is by scheduling a more typical workday for yourself. You might decide to work a typical 9 to 5 schedule, or maybe you’re an early bird who prefers starting your day at 5 a.m. Either way, it’s a great idea to adopt a set schedule and stick to it, just as you would if you had a boss.
Have a Designated Workspace
If you work from home, it’s essential to have a dedicated desk or workspace. Having a work-only space reduces the likelihood that you’ll try to multitask by completing household chores, preparing dinner, or performing other tasks that aren’t related to your business.
If you have a spare bedroom, basement, or den, you can easily create an office. If you live in a small house or apartment, consider using your kitchen table as your workspace during certain hours of the day, or place a desk in a corner of your bedroom. Choose an area where you can work with the least number of distractions.
Track Your Time
It’s important to have an idea of how long a task may take to complete. For example, clearing your email inbox may take 15 minutes per day, and updating your company’s Twitter status may take five minutes. Pay attention to the exact amount of time it takes for you to complete these tasks on a daily basis. If necessary, time yourself to ensure you’re not wasting too much time on specific tasks. If you find that it’s taking you too long to perform quick, easy jobs, it might be time to reevaluate your time management strategy.
The To-Do List
Tried and true, the to-do list is the single common denominator among productive people. Whether you’re using an app or a simple pen and sheet of paper, it’s a good idea to create your to-do list in the morning and prioritize what needs to be done first. With a to-do list, you can see what you’re accomplishing each hour and have a constant reminder of the tasks you still need to complete. This strategy alone can make you much more productive each day.
Get Your Thoughts Out of Your Head
If you’re like many entrepreneurs, you probably have a lot of ideas running through your head at any moment. Write these ideas down before you forget them, or record them using your smartphone or another recording device. You likely don’t have the time to act on every idea that comes to mind, but you can revisit these ideas later when you have some downtime.
Get Someone Else To Do It
As an entrepreneur, you likely want to have complete control of your business. That’s understandable, but at some point, it’s important to find people you trust who can help you make your business grow. Running a business is a team sport, and it’s essential to have the right people with you on your business adventure. Hire people who compensate for your weaknesses so you have time to play only to your strengths. For example, if you don’t like dealing with numbers, hire the best accountant you can find.
Get a Startup Sponsor
It’s lonely at the top, and it can be easy to slip into a rut when you don’t feel like anyone is watching. Find a mentor you can be accountable to, join or start a founder meetup, or ask a member of your board to check in more regularly. Any of these people can help keep you on track and can also save you time by lending their experience and knowledge to your company.
Be Honest With Yourself
Productivity issues can stem from several things, including procrastination, lack of direction, perfectionism, or disorganization. If you’re having struggles, be honest about the possible causes of these struggles. Then, work hard on finding a solution to the problem.
While these suggestions are just the tip of the productivity iceberg, they’re relatively easy, simple changes that can have a big impact. Remember not to get frustrated when you’re trying to change your habits. Also, while there are ways to improve your productivity, there are also a number of habits that may hamper your productivity, so watch out for those and eliminate them when possible.
As you continue to increase your productivity, try scoping out new ways to streamline your business processes with technology. The QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage their businesses on the go. Download the app today.