Ever been in a physical workout, you start to “feel the burn” and immediately your brain begins to scale back your effort? It’s almost at a subconscious level that it happens, you have to recognize it, and fight back.
That’s how I feel with my business from time to time. Luckily for me I’ve also done the opposite of what my brain tells me to do, I push down the accelerator and redline for the next 30 seconds of the workout.
Every time I go for redline, the results are exactly what I was hoping for. If I go the lazy route…well you get the idea.
A little history.
Not too long ago a couple business partners and I started a blog and software service. We all have a long history and background in SEO, general IT and web development. We all work 9-5 day jobs, but have a passion for something greater, mainly the freedom that comes with it.
Our latest venture together has been going for about 6 months, working nights and weekends as we find time, but lately we’ve really started to get in a groove. We motivate ourselves, motivate each other when needed, and take action any time we get a chance.
The two partners and I have a history, mainly a history of failing together. We’ve had the BIG ideas and always seem to have an excuse for why things didn’t really work out the way they should have. So, what have we done to change?
A different mindset
The first thing we talked about was the goal of the business. Ask yourself, why am I doing this, or why are we doing this? Sure everyone wants to make money online, but were we starting it for the right reasons? In this case we are, the business idea and reasons around it were all related to solving a real world problem we had identified that we felt only a few companies were solving for. Not only that, the problem and solution are in the industry we love, which helps us stay motivated. In our previous failures, the first reason for starting the company was always “to make money”.
Layout out a plan
It’s hard in the beginning to spend a lot of time planning, especially after a phone call with a few excited partners eager to get something done.
What we felt was necessary to get the ball rolling
- Simple document collaboration software: Google apps was the easiest and cheapest solution (free). We also host our email/calendar with Google apps for mobile integration and planning.
- Task management: We ended up choosing basecamp here and it serves us just fine, but my favorite tool is agilezen (agilezen.com).
- Mind maps: We use xmind on local systems (free). We haven’t used mind maps to the extent we could, but we are starting to pull some ideas from the IBM group about how to manage who does what, priorities etc.
One of the best books you can read is Rework by the guys at 37signals. Many of you have probably read it, it certainly helped guide me when planning what we were going to do and the scope of it. I would guess that we ripped out at least 50% of the features we wanted to launch with.
What a typical week looks like.
We have one phone call per week, or keep each other up to date via email on the progress we are making in our respective areas. This helps in several ways.
- Sometimes you need others to motivate you, and just seeing others working toward the same goal goes a long way in helping you find the motivation to do the same.
- It’s almost a necessity to have accountability. If you are accountable to someone else, you are much more likely to get work done rather than playing StarCraft for 3hrs per night. If you are a one man show, try doing a weekly accountability session with yourself. Create a checklist of items you’d like to have done at the end of the week, then at the end of the week, look in the mirror and be honest.
- Collaboration is great to keep everyone on the same page, conference calls typically seem to generate a lot more dynamic collaboration than email.
Patience is something I have little of, but it’s one of the greatest assets of many successful business owners. Every time I feel throwing in the towel or feel my motivation dwindling, really all I have to do is look at the calendar. Just keep going, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Taking a lesson from the GTD book, I always check what I’m doing against my priorities and next actions. It’s very simple.
- What is the next thing I need to do that is a higher priority than anything else, based on my overall goals.
- Basecamp supports this model perfectly. You can add ToDo lists, and prioritize tasks under them. This seems simple, but a lot of people don’t work on the right things all the time.
- Be effective, not just efficient. I used to get a lot of things done and I was insanely efficient and getting them done, but I wasn’t always working on the right things. You will work less and have better results if you are working on the right things, efficiently.
- Don’t work just to work. If you aren’t sure what you are doing or why, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board, or visit it for the first time.
If there’s one silver bullet in business it’s probably consistency. Taking action every day on the right things. No one is going to do it for you, and there’s always more you can do. Some of the behaviors I’ve changed to make this happen:
- Stop watching TV. I still have a DVR and my wife watches quite a bit, but I typically watch one or two shows per week, that’s it, and trust me I don’t miss it much.
- Low information diet: one thing that always distracted me from doing what I needed to be doing was reading blogs, books, articles etc. At some point you have enough information to just go…..take action and never look back.
- I uninstalled/removed all video games from my computer. Some people won’t have a problem with this, but I’ve found that if I have to install a game to play it, I typically move to my next business task and get more done. I used to LOVE gaming, but honestly I don’t miss it that much.
- Instead of creating calendar reminders like “work on my business”, create specific reminders for specific tasks that you outlined would be done that week. Then create another calendar event at the end of the week to run through your checklist to see what you have accomplished.
- Try to work on your business every day, if you are working a full time job this can be hard to pull off every evening, but your motivation and passion tends to go up the more you work.