Balancing your professional and personal life is difficult even for people who work a set number of hours in their jobs. It becomes even more difficult when you do not have set hours, and you are not exactly answerable to anyone, but yourself.
Being an entrepreneur has an added thought process of working continuously. If you aren’t working, you start feeling guilty and feel as if you aren’t doing enough. The responsibilities and obligations you feel overfills your plate. True, being an entrepreneur means putting more time towards your goal, sacrificing some personal time, but knowing how much to sacrifice is very important.
Creating balance in your life is something that you need to work towards. A balance makes you feel more fulfilled and also helps meet all the obligations. By having no personal life, and trying to work 24×7, you are doing more harm than good.
Being your own boss means that you get to decide your own schedule. You have to be disciplined enough to take some time out for yourself. Use this time to meet people, do things you love, learn things you have wanted to, spend time with your family. The time you take out for yourself helps you to recharge your mind, which in turn will help you to work better towards your goal.
As an entrepreneur, you already know the importance of planning and organization. You have to be thorough to get the most out of your day. This is a challenge if you work from home. Because there is no separation between your workspace and your living space, it is easy for one to bleed into another, and mostly it will be the work taking over everything.
“The question I ask myself almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’”
– Mark Zuckerberg
The first step is to respect the work and private life for yourself. When you yourself value your time, others will have to follow. If you live alone, then distractions are limited and easy to deal with, but when you live with family, it becomes complicated. Because you are home, they might think you are available for whatever reason.
You have to set clear rules and a timeline when no one is allowed to disturb you or ask you to do something. This also gives you a chance to feel like you actually have separate work and personal lives. When you set a time when your family cannot disturb you, they themselves will make sure that you get off work when that time is over.
When a cycle sets in, keep family out during work will make the family bring you in during your allotted personal time. When you do not do this and entertain everyone all the time, it is difficult for anyone to know when work stops and when personal time starts.
Now that you know how to keep yourself busy in an effective manner, you need to work on finding the time you are most productive. You have the flexibility to work according to yourself, use that to your advantage.
I know people who work the best at nights or early mornings, but they don’t have the flexibility to do that because they work a job where they have to fill in the hours that the company demands. You, on the other hand, don’t. So, work your schedule around your personal life to not feel pressured to fit in everything at the same time.
If you have a spouse who has a job, then you can sync your time to them so that your free time syncs in as well. If you have children and you know they will be home in the afternoons, then you can work all morning to spend time with them later.
It really is all about finding out what works best for you. You also have to take care of the business side of things as well, of course. If your work requires you to communicate with clients and the timeline you want to work at doesn’t match, then set a few hours aside to later talk to your clients. You do not have to do all the work all at once, find the rhythm that makes the most sense to your situation.
When you are working on a timeline that is different from others, you might have to say ‘no’ more frequently, don’t be afraid of it. It just means you value your time enough to say no.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
– Albert Schweitzer
When you work in an office, you get a change of scene when you come home. Change in the environment helps to deal with lows if there are any. Highs and lows are part of life and also business. With a job, you can leave it at the door when you enter your home. What do you do when your home is your office?
Like it is advised to leave your work at the door, you have to do the same. Leave your work on your laptop as soon as you shut it. You stopped working, that means you need to leave all the work there. I know, it is easier said than done. But, you need to remember that low points don’t last forever like high points don’t, so, instead of stressing, take some time out. Spend this time with people who matter or doing what you love so that your brain gets a break from thinking about business and has a chance to recharge itself.
“You have to see failure as the beginning and the middle, but never entertain it as an end.”
Hitting lows means maybe you can’t afford to take time out for yourself. But, here’s where you can do what I do at times like these. When things get too difficult, try merging your breaks and family time. I usually follow the Pomodoro technique, where you work in 25-minute blocks and take breaks, but if things get too hectic or there are some crises, what I do is I reschedule my timeline.
I take a longer break and incorporate a small activity with my family. Let’s say I take 2 hours off when things get too heavy, and my mind desperately needs a break, and watch a movie with my family at that time. This gives me a break, lets me spend time with my family, and also lets me loosen up a bit. I can then get back to work with my mind a little more freed up than it was before.
This works because it lets your brain think that you aren’t taking a break, you are still doing something valuable. You are spending time with your family, which we can otherwise neglect when work gets heavy. When there’s a lot to do, taking breaks can make you guilty, and your mind will keep going back to what you could do in the time you are taking off, may it be just 5-minutes.
Following my method, tricks your mind into not feeling guilty about taking the much-needed break and also helps you pay attention to the people who matter. It is like killing two birds with a stone.
You will come across a lot of tips to balance your life online. But remember to not follow everything you read. Something that works for someone else might not work for you, and something that works for you might make no sense to someone else.
In the beginning, I made the mistake of following every advice I came across. I quickly realized that every person is different, every business is different. Our priorities are different, and what we value in life is totally different from someone from even our closest circle.
So, when we talk about having balance in life, it doesn’t always mean family and work, it can also mean you and work. Find out what balance means to you, and work on achieving it.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times
We live in a digital age. Everything, from socializing, to office work, to shopping is shifting to the online space. The advent of inexpensive (and fast) internet and smartphones has meant that now no matter where you go, you are always connected to the cloud. And, that invariably, you end up turning to this messianic network to satiate your every need.
Smart companies are busy embracing this very change. The workplace of the future is not one of a unified brick-and-mortar structure. Employees can now sit thousands of miles away and still collaborate successfully on a project. This is not just something I’m pulling out of thin air. Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, postulates that if only more organizations embrace the immense power of the internet, they would be able to streamline their operations and ensure a happier and more productive workplace. You can listen to his amazing, thought-provoking and insightful talk in the video given below.
Personally, I have always been an advocate of the work from anywhere culture. Partly because of the time it saves me (which I can then spend on any one of my myriad other hobbies), and partly because it frees me up to travel the world.
What does one have to do with the other? Well frankly, the kind of location independence afforded by the advent of Skype has made it possible for anyone to interact with their colleagues no matter where they are. Like I pointed out earlier, not being restricted by a physical office means you can be just about anywhere in the world, and still get work done.
However, there is another facet of this digital revolution which has fascinated me even more. Honestly, it is something which seems to be staring you right in the face, but it is surprising how many people still fail to (or is it a refusal to?) connect the dots and use technology to their advantage. What is this facet I talk about? Well, it is the ability for just about anyone (yes, I mean anyone) to become an entrepreneur.
“But,” you contend, “entrepreneurship isn’t really for me. It takes time and money, and really, where’s the job security in entrepreneurship?”
I would have agreed with you if I myself didn’t know better. For the past many years, I have bet big on online entrepreneurship and reaped great rewards. Frustrated and sensing the endless possibilities afforded by the internet, I quit my regular 9-to-5 job and decided to start my own online business. As an added challenge, I left just about enough money in my savings account to last me one year. The very fact that I’m happier than ever right now bears testament to the fact that, when done well, online entrepreneurship can give you the freedom you deserve.
When you come to think of it, the market hasn’t ever been better for an online business. It is now possible to get your own website started for less than $50/year. And even if you don’t know a single word of coding, you can have your very own, professional-looking front-end, thanks to the power of content management systems like Drupal, WordPress and Joomla. Don’t like the plain vanilla look they offer? One Google search, and hey bingo! Thousands of themes and skins to choose from! Are you into e-commerce? No worries, mate! Payment gateways like PayPal and its ilk have you covered. Don’t have money to invest? That’s alright. Start a free website on Wix.com. Or, just start hawking your wares on Facebook.
My point is that in this day and age, there really is no excuse to not have your own business. You don’t even have to have the next big Facebook killer to be successful as an e-entrepreneur. I know of enough people selling junk jewelry (sourced from their local flea market) on Facebook/eBay/Etsy. And guess what? All of them seem to be doing really well for themselves. How well? Well enough to not have to work for anyone else to earn their living.
All that you really need to succeed online, in essence, is the will to actually take the plunge and just start something. It really is as easy as that. I’m sure even you have a killer interest you’ve always wanted to exploit. A love for movies perhaps? Or expertise in minting long-form articles your current job has no use for. Or, even an insane desire to turn every song you listen to into a minimalistic poster. Yep, I just gave you three solid ideas for online businesses. Yep, you don’t necessarily have to sell something to be an online entrepreneur. Even Google AdSense revenue from your movie blog counts. Or, commissioned works your Facebook and Behance design pages fetch you.
If you still aren’t really sold on the entire concept and ease of online entrepreneurship, maybe you should actually ask yourself whether you’re actually happy with your day job; whether it fulfils you. If you, like me, happen to be like the majority of the working population, chances are you aren’t really satisfied with what you’re doing.
Maybe, ok, it manages to pay your bills, but it’s either the rigidity of the corporate world, or a bad boss, or the endless commute to-and-fro, or even the nature of the work itself, which gets to you. And, I also know that much like the majority of the workforce today, you too have a secret desire to be your own boss and just do something for yourself. It’s all about the right day.
The right day, frankly, is on us. We are firmly in the middle of the small and medium enterprise revolution. The parity of opportunity between the big fish and the startup has never been greater. In the coming weeks, I will guide you through the various kinds of online businesses you can start and how to actually go about setting them up. Like me, you too can earn a good living running your own business.
Welcome to the age of the e-entrepreneur. Welcome to the best time in human history to start your own business and be your own boss in the true sense – the good and the bad.
Be an Entrepreneur: Be Your Own Boss
Being your own boss fascinates a lot of people, but a few really see the toils and struggles behind the glamour of the idea. When people realize what being your own boss actually means, you see them falter. My job isn’t that bad, they say. What they fail to understand is that to get a taste of success, you first need to sweat over building your business.
On 11th April 1910, a 27-year-old club singer Gabrielle opened a tiny shop at 21, Rue Cambon, Paris. She wanted to sell hats.
Orphaned at the age of 12, Gabrielle had been raised by nuns who taught her how to sew, a skill that led to her life’s work. Three years later, she opened two new stores at Deauville and Biarritz, where she first tasted success when she designed a dress she fashioned out of an old jersey on a chilly day. A few years later, Gabrielle, nicknamed ‘Coco’ from her days as a singer, launched the immensely popular perfume, Chanel No.5 and thus the fashion label Chanel was born.
First used in 1723, today the term entrepreneur implies qualities of initiative, leadership, and innovation in business. An entrepreneur is an opportunity seeker, a generator of new ideas and business processes. Economist Robert Reich has called team-building, leadership, and management ability essential qualities for an entrepreneur.
But why become an entrepreneur at all? Why leave the comforts and the structure of an established firm, to work 12 hours a day out of a basement?
Mike Templeman, CEO of Foxtail Marketing, says “As an entrepreneur, I always have a story to tell. Whenever I tell someone I run my own business, they always want to know what I do, how I do it and how it’s going. I always am able to provide a tale or two, and the best part is that I get to determine the story’s chapters.”
Have you ever been fired? As an entrepreneur, you run the show. Plain and simple. This is your company, your brand, your pride, and joy. You are financially independent. Initially, you’ll work for longer hours, but if you keep at it and do it right, the freedom that being an entrepreneur provides is unmatched.
A start-up also provides a brilliant learning experience. Ashim Seth, founder of Chicago based Seth Business Co. says, “The lack of structure in a start-up is precisely what leads to better learning as compared to big corporations, especially for youngsters.”
Entrepreneurs develop new ideas all the time, but how do you know when to pursue one further? Therefore it is extremely necessary to ask yourself some essential questions before you leap. Do others think my idea is good? Will people pay for it? Why am I the person to make it happen? Henry Ford, with Ford Motor Company, became successful simply by building the first car for the middle-class American, thus converting the automobile from a luxury item to a practical conveyance.
So list your options and do plenty of research. Think like the customer. Analyze the competition. Build your own idea.
However, while many new businesses boom, many fail as well. An entrepreneur is required to put his career and financial security on the line and take risks in the name of an idea, spending time as well as capital on an uncertain venture. “Though there is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you are responsible for your employees’ success, at the beginning you also have to work hard every day to keep them convinced that joining you was the right decision,” says Gaurav Kumar, Associate Director, KPMG.
An idea may be too novel, or the market may simply not be ready for a new entry. What is important to understand is that a failure is an option. Successful entrepreneurs excel at adapting to new obstacles.
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show us how badly we want something.”
– Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.
Have you ever wanted to do more? To do good? As an entrepreneur, you also decide where the profits of your company go. You can fund an NGO, or a charity, or even hire the homeless. HarVa, founded by BITS Pilani graduate Ajay Chaturvedi in 2008, is the first BPO set up in rural India which has hired and trained 500 women in Haryana as part of its first project.
So decide what you want to do. Make a plan. And work on it every day. Change the world in your own little way.
How to Simplify Your Business Systems to Achieve Growth
Here’s a growth strategy: simplify your business systems.
Maybe your workflows are tried and tested. Everyone knows them and does them. This is how you’ve achieved growth after all. But now, you’ve hit a slump. And we know what will happen if you keep doing the same thing:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
As a side note, this quote has been misattributed to Albert Einstein. But somebody traced it back to a 1983 book by Rita Mae Brown, a mystery novelist.
With that out of the way, let me ask you to change your core business systems. Inefficient systems can cost you more. You run the risk of losing 20% to 30% of your revenue if you don’t deal with them. No, this doesn’t mean you need to add more to gain more. But you will have to trim, discard, merge, and automate.
Let’s do this.
The following steps can be applied either on overarching systems or standalone systems:
1. Visualize Your Workflows
Create a system flowchart or process map to ensure everyone is looking at the same big picture. You can use tools like Lucidchart for faster implementation.
If you’re reviewing an entire business system, it would be more efficient to have the core teams meet separately first. Let them brainstorm and map out their recommendations. If the main concern is a specific system, then meet with the team involved and other key individuals. Let the team head prepare a visual to have everyone on the same page.
2. Evaluate Each Operation’s Importance
Overhauling an entire system entails a thorough analysis of its components. When looking at the subsystems, ask what they’re supposed to do. Be clear about their purpose. Some aspects have a more obvious impact than others. If you’re in e-commerce, logistics management workflow is a good example. But how about marketing? Where does this team’s work start and end?
So, have a stated purpose for each system. Once you’ve nailed that, ask: are they performing according to expectations?
To answer that, focus on their output and output value. For instance, the marketing team is in charge of raising brand and product awareness. It’s also tasked to oversee customer experience in many cases nowadays. Ensuring marketing operations are streamlined actually helps the entire business. This translates to a high output value for this system.
Do the same thing to all of your core systems. Then rank them using the highest to lowest output value metric. Aside from the output value, you can combine outputs measured in dollars (market share increase) and outcomes measured by their long-term effects (improved public image)
3. Zoom In On the Steps
After ranking the systems, see if you can afford to take a shortcut or declutter a clunky system. Looking at each process workflow, identify steps that you need to eliminate, merge, do simultaneously, and/or automate.
- Merge or parallel – Are there redundant steps in your system? Would your system benefit from merging two or more steps? Are there steps that need to be done simultaneously instead of one waiting for the other to finish?
- Automate – Is there a series of steps you can automate? Are there parts of the process that can be performed with reduced human input? What solutions exist on the market? Can you leverage those without compromising output quality?
- Outsource – What steps in your process do you lack expertise in? Can you afford to hire and train new talent to perform them? If not, are you willing to outsource them to another company or an individual? Will you be able to afford to outsource?
- Eliminate – Are there unnecessary steps in your system? Are your people performing tasks that are of low value? Are there specific bottlenecks that have kept your process from running smooth? Will you benefit from replacing or removing them altogether?
4. Refine The System
By now, your flowchart or map may look very different from the one you started with. But the revamp does not end with a new visual. Once again, you need to gather key individuals and fine-tune your output. Your business will benefit the most if you include two sets of people in the brainstorming session.
- Experienced Members
Bring in your experienced team members. Their insight and perspective run deep, especially if they’ve been in the business for a long time. They’re also probably attuned to the changes that required the overhaul. And they have a track record for helping the company cross over in the past. One downside, however, is that they may be attached to the processes more than the new ones.
You may invite an experienced individual (consultant) from a different industry. He or she will be your fresh pair of eyes. This person will let you see blind spots that you and your managers may have missed. Having someone with a strong technological background can help you identify which processes to automate or streamline using technology.
Additionally, you can include some new team members who can address blind spots and have strong technological skills.
5. Apply Growth Hacking
Growth hacking was coined by Sean Ellis after the method he’d been using led to the sustainable growth of companies like Dropbox and Eventbrite. Growth hacking comprises testing and learning approaches within short timelines and small budgets. It’s famous among startups but can be applied to any business.
So, how do you apply this in your business systems? Now that you have a new and simplified business system, you will have to focus your thinking on delivering value.
“Value drives customer retention, which is a prerequisite for generating sustainable growth.” -Sean Ellis
Identify the common success metric for your company. Growth hackers call this the North Star Metric (NSM), which should reflect the aggregate value delivered to your customers. Test ways to improve the performance of this metric. This also requires your core growth team to meet, evaluate, and iterate each week.
Given all the steps above, you might be thinking about setting aside time to simplify your business systems. What’s a 90-minute brainstorming session compared to the revenue you’d lose if you stayed with the inefficient, clunky one you currently have?
In doing this, you’ll also be documenting your processes and stating purposes. It will be easier for your managers to pass the message down to their team members. The big picture will become clear for everyone. And your growth machine will be set in motion once again.
Tips for Surviving Your Twenties
The Importance of Having a Purpose in Life
Why Do We Need Measurable Goals?
Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times
3 Simple Tips to Getting Over Jet Lag as Quickly as Possible
How to Break Free From Your Boring Life to Live Your Passion
How Making Decisions Using the 10/10/10 Method Can Change Your Life
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