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Entrepreneurship is Like Groundhog Day


When I first went on my own and opened my own consulting practice, there was a perceived glamour of working for myself.  Sure, I knew it was going to be hard work but I also thought of the freedom, the accountability and the level of satisfaction I knew wasn’t available working in a corporate office.  Every day was going to be an adventure as a small business owner.  Every day I was going to feel good about being an entrepreneur.

Nope.

A messy desk is more common to entrepreneurs than not.

The truth didn’t just sneak up on me; it slapped me across the face with a ream of paperwork and receipts.  I quickly discovered I lacked the level of organization required to run a business.  It was a difficult task to learn and I am still very far from mastering it…if ever.  Even the smallest item on my To-Do list took much longer to complete than anticipated and I was quickly running out of time every day.  Soon after having learned a new definition for Organization I quickly learned a new meaning for the word Priority.  I came to term with the simple realization I wasn’t going to be able to finish everything on my own.  The illusion of kicking back with my hands behind my head on my feet on the desk at the end of the day by 4:30 now felt like a dream someone else had told me about in passing.

Slowly, rising out of the depths of the murkiness of sleep deprivation and Panera coffee, I began to notice a pattern.  Items I had crossed off the To-Do list the day before were mysteriously reappearing the following day.  It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I was constantly dogged by the same list of items day after day.  I accepted the fact I would never be rid of these tasks as I had accepted regularly filling up the car or ironing my shirts; I didn’t look forward to it but I knew it had to get done.

However, a few months later, these reoccurring activities seemed to take less time to finish.  What used to take me most of the day I was now able to finish by lunch time.  I was no longer obsessing over the completion of these tasks…it just happened.  I found myself finally addressing the items I thought I was never going to get to and, for the first time, began to cross THEM off the To-Do list.  I began to breathe a little easier.

bill murray

Running a business is like Groundhog Day.

It dawned on me it was just like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day.  He experienced the same series of events day after day but was finally able to anticipate them as the movie progressed.  As a result, he dealt with them better and they affected him less and less.  That’s exactly what I was going through with my business.  I was repeating the same tasks every day but I was getting better at them.  As I improved so did my other aspects of my business.  As I improved other aspects of my business, my business improved as a whole.

Running a small business is an ever-evolving process.  What may have seemed daunting at first will become a regular part of your schedule later.  As your efficiency grows you will be able to take a step back and truly see the personality your venture has grown.  I’ve got some advice for you, though.  Remember the dream about setting your own schedule, kicking back and enjoying a daily dose of affirmation?  Put it at the bottom of your To-Do list.

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Take Care Of Yourself And Your Business Will Take Care Of You

August 23, 2011 2 comments

When I was working in a corporate world, I found I would perform better when I took a break from my desk and changed the environment around.  A mental health day, was exactly that…it gave a chance to regroup and think issues out clearly enough that I wouldn’t have been able to had I remained in my chair.  However, sometimes I would be just as refreshed if I were to take a walk during lunch time.  This is not a new revelation and I am not breaking ground here.  However, it is amazing how many managers actually frown on seeing an empty desk for even a few hours.

Now that I am on my own and working from home, I thought my schedule would offer more freedom and I wouldn’t ever have to feel “tied to the desk” again.  My romantic image of the entrepreneur involves a frozen drink, a beach chair, salty air and satisfaction of just having closed a large deal with my feet buried in the sand.  Well, surprise, surprise, reality has proven to require a bit less suntan lotion than I had anticipated.  The truth is far less charming and, to be perfectly honest, is much more nefarious in its ability to have me maintain my position in front of the keyboard.

As a lifelong salesman, I understood that the job is never a 9-5 endeavor.  There were plenty of times I was at the office buried in a proposal needing to be overnighted, constantly glancing at the clock that would bring the delivery man closer and closer to my building.  Owning my own business, however, takes this to a much higher plane of responsibility/deadlines/necessity.

Initially, the first 100 Days  saw me at my desk for 18 hours at a time; seven days a week.  My back ached from sitting in the same position, my hands cramped up from the constant typing, my forearms hurt from where they rested on the edge of the desk and my eyes burned from having my contact lenses in much too long.  occasionally, (rarely), I would stand up and my body would slowly uncurl making small popping noises all the way up.  I would never be able to stretch nearly enough to feel better.

I was starting to burn out and I realized, (“realized” = my wife demanded), I had to make some changes.  I was becoming less and less productive with every semi-lucid, passing day.  I began to take walks at different hours of the day.  I scheduled meetings sporadically and that truly helped to break up the day.  I volunteered to help my son’s little league team a few days a week and it prevented me from 18 hours marathons.  I called on contacts I wanted to touch base with and went to lunch with them.  Surprisingly, to me, anyway, I became more productive and completed tasks in less time.  My goals became realistic, tough but achievable.  I worked better and I felt better.

I am learning to balance work-life and understand it will forever be a work in progress.  Dr. Lynn Friedman wrote Achieving Work-life Balance for the Washington Post and I love her self-appraising inquiry when she asks the reader “how did you get to where you are?”.  It’s not always easy as there are times when I have to pull back and catch my breath but I am learning to see the warning signs more clearly and head them off more effectively.  I am becoming a better worker and, ultimately, will run a better business for it.

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