Grab Discipline from Desperation
On most mornings, you wake up a good couple hours before the sun, long before your little family members rise. You set the coffee machine last night, knowing that you were going to make your European and East Coast calls during the hours when the neighbors are sleeping. By the time the sun cracks over the mountains, you’re more than halfway through your contact list, with the most difficult calls crossed off.
The rest of your workday involves the easy stuff, a tad of research, a few follow-up calls, putting out the occasional (and inevitable) fire, some routine prospecting. Because you’re no longer frantic during your workday, you will turn a pleasant face to your kids as they scramble to cram in the rest of their summer plans into last vacation weeks of mid-August. You will happily cart them off to the duck pond where you join them in throwing small chunks of squishy bread to ducks, fat goldfish, eager sparrows and the tiny field mice hiding under the juniper shrubs.
You’re a long-time home-based entrepreneur. That means you have honed your discipline to a nifty point. Your workday is relatively calm now. It was crafted during years of frantic, fear-filled days when your neck would sticky-up with nervous sweat. Your hard-earned discipline allows you to breathe easy now. It came as a pact you made with the gods of balanced business – let me succeed and I’ll find out a way to make this effort sane. As former Chrysler boss Lee Iacocca said, if you can’t be successful and have a reasonable workweek, you’re not successful at all.
Today, your business is graceful compared to those early years when you desperately jumped from one crisis to the next. The reason you now have time to smell the peanut butter sandwiches is because you learned the necessary discipline required of all home-based entrepreneurs. Your self-control was not created by cool intellectual decisions about how best to run a micro-company. Far from it. Your discipline is the fruit of raw desperation. You knew you couldn’t fashion a decent life from your frenzied darting at a ga-zillion critical tasks. During your frantic days, success eluded you, and your life was a mess. To leave that miserable life behind, you had to learn three simple rules and learn them hard. These three simple principles live at the heart of home-based business discipline. And that discipline now provides you with a very manageable and enjoyable life.
- Do the hard stuff when you’re alone and you’re at the height of you energies.
Every business requires some extraordinary concentration and effort. But most of your day is filled with countless routine tasks that don’t require your best effort. You have to structure your work day so the most demanding and critical work gets done when you’re at your best. For me, that’s about 90 minutes after I wake up. For other’s, that high-energy time comes in a second-wind after dinner. Whenever it may be for you, structure your day so you’re doing the tough work during your peak-performance hours.
- Do what matters, but only do what is absolutely necessary.
Your personal energy is your dearest commodity. Not money. Not talent. Not determination. You need to spend your energy carefully and waste none of it on tasks that are not absolutely necessary. Take the time and attention to figure out when tasks can be cut without hurting the quality of your work. If you don’t figure this out, you will squander the one resource that can’t be replaced – this day’s energy.
- Honor your friends and family.
Who is going to be with you at the end of your life? Not your impossible-to-satisfy customer. At the end of your life, there will likely be a small handful of friends and family nearby. Make sure you have treated these dear people well. Besides, throwing cheap bread to squawking ducks with your goofy kids is more fun than the best sales call.
That’s it. Three principles. Discard everything else.
Rob Spiegel is the author of Net Strategy (Dearborn) and The Shoestring Entrepreneurs Guide to Internet Start-ups (St. Martin’s Press). You can reach Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.