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4 Ways to Stay Sane as an Entrepreneur

  • Business Tips

Being an entrepreneur is a fantastic ride, but it has real challenges. Chief among them? Running a business while, well, having a life.

So how do you stay connected with your life while keeping a business afloat? Here are four ideas:

1. Use the Pareto Principle

If you’ve never heard of the Pareto Principle (or the 80/20 rule), it basically states that 20% of the effort you put into something will produce 80% of the results, and vice versa. This means that, theoretically, 80% of the work you do is producing only 20% of your business results. Ay.

Of course, the 80/20 ratio itself isn’t always perfectly accurate, but that’s not really the point of the Pareto Principle. The point is that effort and outcome are not distributed evenly. And that’s a pretty important idea for deciding how to spend your time.

Take a look at everything you do on a daily basis and ask yourself: Does this have an actual measurable result? Is this a task that’s driving my business forward, or is this work that I should delegate (or get rid of altogether)?

If you’re spending most of your time on things that don’t produce much result, it might be time to rethink your work schedule and free up some bandwidth for your real life.

2. Fire bad customers

The customer is not always right. And while it’s important to create as many great customer relationships as you can, trying to pacify a customer who is always unhappy or who makes a ton of unreasonable demands can really bring down your company and eat away at your schedule.

The 80/20 rule can come into play here, too: not all of your customers bring equal value to your business. And by firing the ones who suck up your energy without providing value, you can free up time and reclaim your sanity.

So instead of chasing down bad customers, focus on the customers that are easy to please and eager to work with you. They’re the ones that will help you build your business—without calling you at midnight to complain.

3. Get help

When your business is on a tight budget, it’s hard to justify paying someone else to do a task you can do yourself. But consider: what opportunities do you give up when you insist on doing everything on your own? And, more importantly, how much time are you losing that you’ll never get back? What baseball game are you missing because you’re staying late doing busy work?

If you keep track of what you do on a daily basis, you’ll inevitably find work that could be done better by someone else. If your cash flow can handle it, delegate those tasks.

Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean hiring an employee or contractor. Many of the tasks that chip away at your time can be done by an online service. Doing a lot of back-and-forth scheduling time with clients? Calendly does most of that for you. Drowning in payroll tasks? Square Payroll might be able to help. The cost of these services is often pretty reasonable, especially when you consider how much of your time they’re freeing up. (Be sure to spend some of that extra time in the outside world.)

4. Make a No Matter What list for your life (and then stick to it)

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to miss some stuff. It’s part of the game. You won’t be able to go to every party, reunion, or dance recital, especially while your business is getting off the ground. So figure out which events and activities you’re going to attend no matter what, list them out, and stick to the list.

For Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube), family dinner is on the No Matter What list. She goes home to eat dinner with her husband and kids every day, even if she has to work after dinner. Other entrepreneurs might put racketball, yoga, or attending a music festival on their list. Your list will be personal to you.

The point is: you have to figure out what you’re not willing to give up. Then, don’t give those things up. Defend your boundaries. No one else will.

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