People become entrepreneurs because they believe owning a business means having better work-life balance. You have your own time and if you decide to run your business from home, that saves you the hassles of the everyday commute. But oftentimes, reality is different from perception.

From running the Monday to Friday 9-to-5 grind as a private employee, many entrepreneurs find themselves working 12 to 14 hours, sometimes for seven days a week.

As a private employee, compensation may not accurately measure productivity but at least you were assured of a bi-monthly salary plus benefits. And if the boss wasn’t doing well, he’d make for great conversation over drinks with the fellas at the bar.

Life Challenges of Being an Entrepreneur

The pressures are different as a business owner. You are invested financially and emotionally in the business plus you are accountable for all decisions that have to be made. Thus, the risks are greater.

Revenues are used to pay for operating expenses. Savings are either plugged back to the business as capital investment to improve facilities or set aside as contingency.

Unless the stream of revenues is consistent and above par, you could find yourself with unstable income for an indefinite period of time.

Eventually the pressure to succeed reaches a point that work has taken over your life. More time is allocated for work, rather than other areas: family, friends and your health.

You start missing out on milestones such as your son’s first Little League game or your daughter’s first dance recital. Your lifestyle takes a nasty turn. You find yourself losing sleep, eating unhealthy food and lacking exercise.

Every end of the month, you look at the company’s financial statements and are faced with the same nagging question:

“Does spending more time at work guarantee the success of my business?”

Quantity vs Quality Time

The short answer is “No”. In the first place, there are no guarantees in life or work. As the old saying goes, “Even the best laid plans go awry.” This is especially true in the age of the Internet. Consumers have more access to information and can make more educated buying decisions.

We’re also at the time of globalization. Economies are more interconnected. There is immediate access to regions where comparative cost advantages and economies of scale are available.

Business has gone global and conditions have become much more competitive. Markets have grown more unpredictable. We’ve seen a shift in political structures across the world the last few years which have made the business environment more chaotic and volatile.

Instead of putting in more time for work, find ways to improve efficiency so you can increase productivity.

Time as a Measure of Productivity

“Give me six hours to chop the tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

Abraham Lincoln

By definition productivity is the measure of output per unit of input. In relation to business, productivity means accomplishing more with less input. In order to achieve greater productivity, you should emphasize efficiency when managing your business.

The best parameter for efficiency is time. Why? Because you cannot change, control or influence time. There is no technology capable of manipulating time. Whether you like it or not, you will always have 24 hours every day.

Time is the one constant in a list of variable factors that could spell the difference between success and failure for your business.

How to Find Life and Work Balance

Your ability to manage time efficiently will not only have an impact on the success of your business but will also have repercussions on the other aspects of your life: family, friends and your health.

Here are 8 of the best time management strategies you can use to find balance between life and work:

1. Plan Your Day the Night Before

American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault always has a busy day but he manages to keep everything smooth and stress-free by doing one simple thing. Mr. Chenault plans his day the night before.

Planning your schedule the night before removes time-wasting guesswork and procrastination that tends to happen during spur-of-the-moment situations. With advanced planning, you will have a crystal clear idea on the things that need to get done and approach them with laser-like focus.

2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington once passed out and hit her head on a table opening up a cut that required five stitches. She was working so hard that she neglected an important part of her daily schedule: getting enough sleep.

Ever since that incident, Ms. Huffington unplugs all technology and makes sure she gets at least seven hours of sleep every night.

Lack of sleep puts you at risk of acquiring many diseases and illnesses such as diabetes, heart attacks and cancer. It also affects memory, cognition and comprehension. Doctors recommend getting at least seven hours of high quality sleep every night.

3. Start the Day on the Right Foot

Do you start your day with a good breakfast or by checking your email? If you find yourself reaching for your smartphone instead of a cup of coffee and a whole wheat bagel, you are setting yourself up for one unproductive and stressful day.

How do some of the world’s most successful people start their morning?

  • Former US President Barack Obama – Pumps iron at 6:45am
  • Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz – Wakes up at 4:30am to walk his three dogs
  • Microsoft founder Bill Gates – Spends 1 hour on the treadmill while watching instructional videos to work both mind and body
  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – Breakfast with his wife MacKenzie and their four children.
  • Media mogul Oprah Winfrey – 16.5 minutes of meditation at 9:30am

Before you seize the day, get yourself physically, mentally and emotionally ready to pursue the tasks you have set out to accomplish. Clearing out the cobwebs before heading to work matters.

4. Learn to Prioritize

We all have someone in our lives who seems to have every waking hour in his or her agenda filled up with things to do. But is a calendar that is packed with “things to do” a sign of success?

Here’s the truth: When you try to do everything, you end up accomplishing nothing.

Learn to prioritize the things you need to do. Often the first item on your agenda should be the one you dread the most. Guess what? Unless you take care of it, you will find it on your agenda every single day. And the situation may get worse unless you attend to it as soon as possible.

Get it over and done with then move on to the next item on the list.

5. Set Clear and Realistic Goals

Goal setting has been proven to be an effective approach to improving productivity. Your goals establish direction and provide guidance to where you want to go.

But for your goals to be effective, they must be clearly defined and realistic.

For example, if you want to improve lead generation it is more realistic to target a 20% increase in one month than an astronomical figure such as 2,000%. In the first place, you may not have the scale, funding or infrastructure necessary to accommodate the demands of a 2,000% increase in lead generation.

By setting clear and realistic goals, you will be able to align your available resources to meet those targets. There will be less time wasted on reviewing strategy, implementing changes and managing risk factors.  

6. Create a Productive Work Environment

You’re busy finalizing the design drawings for a presentation to a big client tomorrow. You’ve hit roadblocks on some areas of the design and are presently reworking key numbers in your calculation.

Then your phone starts ringing. Or you see messages flashing on your PC from Skype, Viber or Messenger. At the most inopportune times, people knock on your door.

Regardless of the type of message or who they are from, these are distractions that can seriously take away precious time and impact productivity.

Before starting your work day, set aside all forms of distractions. Here are some things you can do to create a productive work environment:

  • Create voice mail then put away your mobile phone.
  • Lower the ring volume of your landline but leave a voice message.
  • Leave word at Skype or Viber that you cannot be disturbed during a certain time period.
  • Close all of your social media accounts.
  • Place a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your office door.

Dedicate specific hours of the day to check messages. This will be discussed in the next strategy.

7. Utilize Focus Blocks

According to studies, the average American office worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive time per day. This means that on a full eight hour schedule, the average American only generates 19% productivity.

The rest of their time is spent on non-productive behavior such as checking social media, taking restroom or water cooler breaks and surfing the Internet.

Yet, America remains the most powerful economy in the world. Imagine if the average American worker was able to increase productivity by 300%.

Is that even possible?

The answer is “Yes” and the best way to achieve it would be to use focus blocks. A focus block is a time period that is committed for the accomplishment of only one task. Based on the study, the ideal length of a focus block is 90 minutes.

The study on the productivity of the average American office worker is also supported by other research which claim most people can maintain 100% focus for only 90 to 120 minutes.

Here is how you schedule focus blocks for a typical work day:

  • Identify three tasks that you want done at the end of the work day. Rank these tasks in terms of priority.
  • Commit 90 minutes for each of these tasks. For example:
Task No:Start:End:
19:00am10:30am
211:00am12:30am
31:00pm2:30pm
  • Once you complete a focus block, give yourself a 30 minute break. You can have a nap, go to the restroom, have a snack, check emails, check social media, return calls and other matters that need your attention.

Assuming you complete all 3 tasks, then your productivity rating soars to 75%. If you compare this with the performance of the average American office worker, you are looking at a 300% increase in productivity simply by using focus blocks!

With focus blocks, you reduced your work schedule from 8 hours to 4.5 hours per day. You reduced time input by 44% but increased output by 300%.

Now that is efficiency!

8. Outsource Non-Core Functions

We discussed the benefits of outsourcing in our article “How We Can Help With a Blog”. If you want to learn more about outsourcing and its benefits, you can simply click to our article.

The most successful entrepreneurs in the world like Tim Ferriss, Michael Hyatt and Pat Flynn were able to grow their businesses by outsourcing administrative and technical tasks to virtual assistants and freelancers. By outsourcing, they were able to dedicate more time to the core functions of their business.

Outsourcing is a proven way to increase productivity and improve efficiency because it allows you more time to attend to the tasks that matter.

Conclusion

As you have read, you don’t have to put in a ton of time every day to become productive and achieve success. It all comes down to effective time management; planning your day so that you can accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.

In our focus block example, you could be working only from 9:00am to 2:30pm every day.

What would you do the rest of the day? Here is a list of suggested activities from your friends at Mountaintop Web Design:

  • Spend quality time with family.
  • Exercise!
  • Take up a new hobby.
  • Try out a new restaurant with the spouse.
  • Watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
  • Meet up with old friends over coffee.

The possibilities are endless once you are able to expertly manage your time. Always keep in mind that you should work to live and not live for work.

Did you find our article useful or inspiring? Let us know what you think by sharing your comments. If you want to know how we can help you succeed as an entrepreneur, feel free to give us a call or drop us an email.

We would love to hear from you!

A moment of inspiration is all it takes to have an idea. You could be in a coffee shop or on your third mile on the treadmill when the light bulb comes on. Every entrepreneur will tell you they have the greatest idea since the can opener but the question is, “Where will you go from here?” Will you execute the idea or will it remain a dream?

There is nothing wrong with dreaming but unless you act upon it, dreams are all you’ll ever have. And that is what makes entrepreneurs special; they work to live their dreams and make it a reality.

An idea is like a seed. It can be planted in your head but unless you nurture it with planning, action, and implementation it will never grow and bear fruit.

My Story

My lightbulb moment came after successfully building my first website. Sure it presented several challenges but I loved every minute of it.

There were times when design or programming issues left me feeling stumped. But these types of situations encouraged me to push beyond boundaries. Every challenge I overcame served to make me a better web designer.

I also discovered there was a strong market for web design services because the Internet was growing in popularity and influence.

The Internet evolved from technology that was only accessible via dial-up before broadband came around in 2004. In 1995, the Internet was available only to 16 Million people. By 2004, more than 745 Million people could use the Internet.

Today there are more than 3.6 Billion users of the Internet every day!

At the time the light bulb came on in my head, I was still learning the intricacies of web design. In my research, I was surprised to learn that despite the growing presence of the Internet, less than 50% of small businesses owned websites.

I thought, “If nearly 50% of the world’s population was on the Internet every day, wouldn’t you want your business to be accessible to them?” The Internet offered many advantages for entrepreneurs and small business owners:

  • 24/7 operation.
  • Availability of free, downloadable business tools and software.
  • More efficient avenues for marketing and promoting your business like social media, blogging and link building.
  • Low start up capital.
  • Low maintenance costs.

The website is your window to the Internet. It makes your business accessible to everyone. It’s like having a storefront display in this place called the World Wide Web.

In addition to standard research methodologies, I also spoke with many small business owners in my community and asked them their thoughts on the Internet and websites in general.

It turned out majority of small business owners knew what a website was but were clueless on how it could help their business become profitable.

That was the moment a seed was planted in my head. Eventually I would nurture the seed to become Mountaintop Web Design. It was a venture that allowed me to build a career out of my passion for web design.

As an entrepreneur, I now have the means to help other businesses accomplish their goals of achieving profitability by providing quality web design and digital marketing services.

6 Important Lessons for the Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is never a sure thing. Nothing is ever guaranteed. Some people quit their day jobs to start their own business only to regret it afterward. It can be a rude awakening. Statistically, 50% of small businesses fail within the first 4 years and the survival rate gradually declines every year thereafter.

Yet despite the daunting numbers, 98% of the businesses registered every day are considered small scale enterprises. No wonder entrepreneurs are considered the new engines of growth of the economy!

But what does it take to be an entrepreneur? What qualities set apart the doers from the dreamers?

1. Accept the Reality of Failure

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to accept the inevitably of failure. It will happen somehow, somewhere and without warning. There are more failures than there are successes.

Failure is a constant companion in the journey. But it is not there to destroy us. On the contrary, failure exists to teach us how to get better.

Rather than wallow in self-pity, use the experience to improve your overall proposition. Go ahead and ask the “Why’s”, “How’s” and “What’s” but spend more time looking for answers than uncovering questions. The more failures you endure, the closer you get to achieving success.

Failure is not your enemy. It is your best friend, your teacher. Do not fear failure; embrace it as a prerequisite for success.

2. Learn How to Execute

Even if you have acquired funding, an idea will not take fruition unless it is properly executed. An idea that is poorly executed will result in losses even as early as the start up stage.

It is not uncommon for other entrepreneurs to have a business idea that is similar to yours. A good example would be the ride-sharing industry. Uber created the market in 2008. Since then, the industry has opened up to other players such as Lyft, Sidecar, Curb, Grab and Didi Chuxing.

Sidecar crashed and burned in 2015. Grab partnered with Lyft and Didi Chuxing formed an alliance with Ola in order to challenge Uber’s dominance.

Uber’s execution of its business strategy set the standard for everyone else to follow. While its market share may have eroded due to the collaborative efforts of its competitors, Uber still reigns supreme.

3. Let Your Passion Drive You

As an entrepreneur, I can say from experience that passion is the strongest driver in business. When you love what you do, there is no problem that is too difficult to solve. There is no situation you cannot handle. There is nothing you will not do to make the product or service better.

Passion makes time irrelevant; it makes the hours and days go by much quicker. Tim Ferris used to spend 14 hours working every day on his supplement company BrainQUICKEN. He admitted it was not the most efficient way to get things done but logging in the long hours was what he wanted to do.

The most important advice I can give you is that If you want to start a business, it must be something you are passionate about. But passion alone will not ensure your success.

You must take the time to conduct thorough research about your business. Create a business plan as a reference point. If you don’t know how to make one, commission someone who can.

4. Understand that Sacrifice is Part of the Journey

Those who have crossed over from the 9-to-5 office grind to entrepreneurship thought they would have more control over their work schedule. To a certain extent that is true. As an entrepreneur, there are no log-ins and time clocks to record your work hours.

But the reality is the sacrifices are much greater. As an employee, you work within an assigned work shift and are paid a fixed salary every 15th and 30th. As an entrepreneur, you have no fixed work schedule. Your income will depend on your company’s performance.

You will discover there are times that you have to work more than 48 hours a week. I have struggled with the internal conflict of trying to be productive all the time. I have even had to make the choice of missing time with family and friends.

At certain times, I felt like I needed to put in more hours working so I could finish more websites and be available to take on more projects for clients.

The bottom-line is entrepreneurs need to learn to find balance between life and work. Having a business that pays the bills and measures income with productivity is a great thing. But always remember that you should work to live and not live to work.  

Life should never just be about work. You could lose your business but your family and friends will always be there for you.

5. Be Open Minded

In Eric Reis’ book, “The Lean Start-Up” he noted that entrepreneurs “live in a vacuum”. They believe their idea is great and flawless. Allowing yourself to be lulled into this false sense of complacency will have damaging consequences when things don’t go as planned.

As an entrepreneur, you must have an open mind and accept there are things you cannot control. This is especially true in this age of the Internet. Consumers have immediate access to a wide range of information. Their tastes and preferences can easily be influenced by social media, a blog, a post, or an article.

Instead of trying to come up with “The Perfect Plan”, focus on flexibility. Make sure your business model can adapt to unexpected changes in business conditions.

6. Embrace Learning as a Never-Ending Process

If you think you know everything you need to learn about your business, think again. If you did, you would never have to deal with problems every working day and you would be raking in money like Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook generates $2 Billion every quarter. There are 1.9 Billion active Facebook users which means it accounts for 52% of Internet users every day. Zuckerberg himself is worth billions.

So why does Mark Zuckerberg read 1 book every week? The same number as Microsoft founder Bill Gates?

These billionaires make reading part of their daily routine because they want to keep on learning. Even established industry giants like Facebook and Microsoft encounter problems every day.

For them, learning should be a never-ending process. And it should be for you as well. Strive to improve on your strengths and build your weaknesses by acquiring as much knowledge as you can.

The Entrepreneurial Journey

People like to say “entrepreneurs are only in the business of making money”. Of course, unless you are a non-profit organization, the objective of business is to generate profit. It should go without saying that people go into business to make money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But I believe that if your goal of making money has come to a point that it has consumed you, then you may never accomplish it. Those who only think about the money, will abandon ship once the business starts sinking.

I’ve seen graphics that depict the road to entrepreneurial success as a straight line. Nothing could be more further from the truth.

The journey to success is similar to climbing a mountain. You have to prepare and plan months before the climb. It’s not just a physical challenge. It also exerts a toll on your mind and spirit.

Obstacles can arise during the climb that would require strategy and precise execution. It is hard work but getting to the top makes all the time, effort and sacrifices worthwhile!

Everyone wants to climb the highest peak but you can’t hope to achieve that without overcoming smaller mountains first. That is why a mountain is the metaphor for my web design company, we are here to help you make the climb.

When you are looking up the mountain from its base, the climb would seem like a daunting, seemingly impossible task. But all you have to do is take that first step up the mountain to get the journey started. One step at a time; never look down and keep your focus on getting to the top.

Starting a business is an exciting time; but it is also nerve-wracking and filled with anxious moments. Once you take that first step, the climb eventually becomes smoother and easier. The challenges that lie ahead will only serve to make you better. It takes a force stronger than money to survive the challenges of entrepreneurship.

Do you have your own story on entrepreneurship that you would like to share? Please post in the comments section below. Your experiences will definitely help those in our audience who plan to become entrepreneurs. We would love to hear from you!