11 ways to stop it stopping you from succeeding as an entrepreneur.
Too little and you will fail, too much can be dangerous.
Too little and you will slowly grind to a halt. Too much can make you unfocused and undisciplined and sometimes even take you in completely the wrong direction.
It can cloud your judgement and blind you to the facts. It can seduce you into trying everything but achieving nothing.
Enthusiasm alone is not enough
To get the right mix you need to add courage, passion, commitment and focus.
I have a good friend in New York who has recently retired from, in his own words, ‘a very long and bloody boring career’, so on the face of it he now has time on his hands to do whatever he wants.
He decided to learn to play the blues harmonica.
Within the first week he had read everything he could about harmonicas, he listened to YouTube ‘How to” videos, he read up on the history of the instrument and he bought a set of very expensive custom made harmonicas.
After another week my good friend could tell me all the blues scales, he knew all the theory, he had listened to all the greats and he was the proud owner of some beautiful harmonicas.
The trouble was that he couldn’t play them; what he had done so far was the easy bit. It was driven by enthusiasm, but enthusiasm won’t last without passion, courage and commitment.
It’s easy to throw a bit of money at something and put aside a few weeks of your time. However, you need to add some courage and some passion otherwise when the going gets tough you’ll stop.
Within a month his expensive harmonicas were sitting on the shelf like miniature trophies. He was no longer interested and had now moved onto something else.
To be fair it may have been that he had not yet found anything he was truly passionate about, and the search went on.
I have friend in London who plays the guitar but instead of focussing on becoming an incredible guitarist he feels the need to try and learn the harmonica, the drums, the sax and the piano as well.
He has about 10 guitars, a couple of bass guitars, a drum kit, a saxophone and a baby grand, all beautiful and all expensive.
The result is he hasn’t mastered any of them.
Enthusiasm alone is not enough.
Whether you want to start your own business, or become a musician and you want to be successful at it, you need courage, focus and passion not just enthusiasm.
Success (whatever that means for you) does not happen overnight and there will be many temptations and distractions along the way.
Enthusiasm can lead you into making hasty decisions, rushing into things with a head full of wonderful possibilities. You want to start instantly so you drop everything in pursuit of your latest idea.
Here are 11 tips for getting the balance right (in no particular order)
Your time is extremely valuable. Don’t waste it and your enthusiasm on the wrong things at the wrong time.
Get the balance right and it will save you a lot of frustration, wasted time and energy, as well as costly mistakes.
#1. Don’t stop having ideas
Yes, it’s great to have lots of new fresh ideas but don’t let them derail you from the task at hand. Get them down on paper and put them aside. You can come back to them later; no-one is going to steal them.
#2. Don’t confuse enthusiasm with priority
The enthusiasm you have for your new idea is no indicator of it’s true worth so don’t act in the heat of the moment.
#3. Be patient
Don’t try to do everything overnight. You have plenty of time.
Too many first time entrepreneurs fail because of impatience. They expect success too early in the game and are not prepared for failure. This leads them to take shortcuts and sacrifice customer value for quick profit. Succeeding in business is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
#4. Keep to a plan
If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.
Setting out a plan of action will help to keep you focused.
Without a plan even the most brilliant business can get lost. You need to have goals, create milestones and have a strategy in place to set yourself up for success.
It’s OK to change your mind along the way and a good plan should not be set in stone; it should grow and change as you progress and as your idea improves and is refined.
Setting out a clear plan of why, as well as how and when, before you start will save you a lot of pain and expense (and possibly even relationships) further down the road.
Setting out a clear plan will help you spot any weaknesses or vague areas you may not have thought through properly.
#5. Avoid ‘to do’ lists
When I let my ‘to do’ list get the better of me everything grinds to a halt. Fear, panic and self-doubt all rise to the surface.
Lists don’t distinguish between the important and the urgent. Everything on the list is a priority, everything on list is shouting ‘me first’.
Most of us tend to do the small easy tasks first, whether or not they are the most urgent. Surveys suggest that around 45% of all ‘to do’ lists are never complete.
#6. Be passionately enthusiastic
Whenever new ideas come along ask yourself ‘am I passionate about this?’
If the answer is no then either put it on the back burner or forget it altogether. There will be plenty of things you are passionate about that you can start a business around.
#7. Don’t be overwhelmed
Don’t panic. Take your time. Finish what you start before you move onto the next thing.
#8. Don’t waste time on things you should not be doing
‘To Do’ lists can be counterproductive as I have already mentioned; if you’re not careful, they can become your worst enemy.
They are too easy to add to and are a constant reminder of everything you haven’t done yet.
“So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.”
I would recommend making a ‘Un To Do’ list and stop wasting your precious time. Every task on your list comes at the expense of something else – a new opportunity. This is especially true if you are doing all the initial start up tasks yourself.
When you first start your own business budgets are tight or non- existent, and the chances are you are doing everything yourself (bootstrapping). You’re doing the research, the product development, the planning, the website build, the photography, writing the content, doing the press releases, finding suppliers, finding customers, networking, trying to build a social media following… the list is endless.
All this means little time left for the family or yourself; the dog suffers, the garden becomes overgrown and you have forgotten the last time you had a relaxing evening with friends.
#9. Don’t let social media take control
Does the following scenario ring a bell?
You start the day focused on your ‘to do’ list but before you know what has happened you have dozens of tabs open on your browser, you have Facebook messages and updates pinging away every second from umpteen Facebook groups your following. Your constantly checking Twitter and Instagram accounts. Periscope alerts are going off every second and you keep getting distracted by Facebook videos you don’t even want to watch.
- Install ‘Stayfocusd’ or similar app on your browser to limit your time on social media each day.
- Install ‘News Feed Eradicator for Facebook’. It replaces your Facebook feed with an inspiring quote.
#10. The 30 minute block
To keep that wonderful enthusiasm under your control instead of it controlling you, divide your day into single task manageable, 30 minute blocks. This will increase your productivity and keep you focused.
This also allows you to set realistic deadlines.
- Install Time Doctor or similar app. It tracks applications your using down to the second.
#11. The procrastination hack: ‘(10+2)*5’
Try Merlin Mann’s idea to trick ourselves into progress, here’s how it works:
- 10 – Work for ten minutes with single-minded focus on moving toward completion of a single task. Ten minutes, and that’s all you’re allowed to do is work, work, work.
- 2 – After ten minutes of sweaty, dedicated work you get a 2-minute break to do whatever you want. When the two minutes are up, it’s back to work on the next task on your list. This is important.
- *5 – You’re going to iterate this four more times for a total of one hour working/breaking
You’ll blaze through an hour’s worth of work/not work and will find yourself looking forward to both the breaking and working parts of the cycle.
‘He who begins many things finishes but few’ – German Proverb