Being an entrepreneur means squeezing the most out of every hour of every day, and having a daily routine that will set you up for success.
The growing number of entrepreneurs really shows how keen we are to make our own hours, get away whenever we want, have the money to live the lifestyle we deserve and do the work we love that makes a difference.
That’s a lot to live up to, and there are only 24 hours in a day. So what’s the trick to getting everything in place?
The answer is routine.
The key is balance and to achieve that you need to be organised, structured and have a working process.
No one can give you access to more hours, but we can learn from the best entrepreneurs on the planet the ways to make the hours that we have truly worthwhile.
Knowing your outcome is the first thing you’ll need to work out to match your day to the perfect routine.
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin’s daily routine started and ended every day with knowing his outcome. Rising at 5am every day he would ask himself the morning question, ‘What good shall I do this day?’ He would then spend the morning until 8am getting ready mentally, physically and spiritually to meet that goal. In the first three hours he would:
Rise, wash and address Powerful Goodness; review the day’s business and make a resolution for the day; and breakfast.
Franklin would then work from 8:00 to 12:00, breaking until 2:00 to read or overlook his accounts and dine.
From 2:00 to 5:50 it was back to work.
At 6pm he set aside time to tidy up, have supper, listen to music or engage in conversation. This evening time is also when he would examine the day and ask the evening question, ‘What good have I done today?’
By 10pm he planned to be sleeping.
While the demands of his printing business meant that this was not always completed exactly, however, everything was in place to get back to a structure as soon as possible. Meaning that even though the routine was interrupted, it couldn’t be broken.
If you’re a morning person, you may take a page from Benjamin Franklin and other successful CEOs and business owners who start their day at or before 4:30am. In doing this they take advantage of that quiet, still time, they set their personal goals early so that when the day starts for everyone else, they are already half way through.
This works for the Disney CEO Robert Iger, Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks and Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple who has all his email to staff completed by 4:30 am and hits the gym at 5:00.
Eliminate Distractions for a Better Daily Routine
It’s amazing just how much you can get done with no distractions.
For example, Leo Babauta, author of the Zen Habits blogs and who today still holds a position as one of the top business motivation books on Amazon with The Power of Less, published his morning routine to really show what’s possible.
Keeping it simple, with his focus on family, this is what this early morning starter does while the rest of the world is sleeping.
- Wake at 4:30 a.m.
- Drink water.
- Set 3 Most Important Things (MITs) for today.
- Fix lunches for kids and self.
- Eat breakfast, read.
- Exercise (run, bike, swim, strength, or yardwork) or meditate.
- Wake wife & kids at 6:30 a.m.
You can really see how having this as a start-up routine makes the rest of the day completely manageable, no matter what kinds of spanners get thrown in the works. It also includes some flexibility and variety in exercises and he doesn’t get too chunked down into what breakfast and lunches are. We’re looking for a structure, not a drill sheet!
The most important thing to remember is your routine needs to be flexible, perhaps not significantly in the short term, but certainly in the long term. As your life and your business grows, the routine you put in place five years ago may become completely irrelevant.
When you started out you may not have had children, you may not have had staff.
Changes to the business structure might impact your working hours, your travelling time, your interactions with your staff and partners. What you are doing now, will hopefully not be what you are doing in 12 months’ time, 3 years’ time, 7 years’ time, not blow for blow. Have your routine work for you and set up points where you can reflect, evaluate and alter that routine to best suit what you are creating NOW.
My recommendation in business is to check in every 90 days and see if the structure you have in place is most effective to get you to your goal.
Nothing can prove this point better than a look at Jack Dorsey’s routine from 2012, when he was first developing his new company Square, while also maintaining his CEO role at Twitter. That’s two full-time roles! Running two companies and putting in 16 hour days sounds impossible, in order to achieve that, as Jack says, “you need to be very disciplined and very practiced.”
He created a focused mind set by working the same areas of business on the same day across both companies. This enabled him (and his company) to have a clear goal for each day as well as measurable outcomes week to week in each area.
|Monday||Management (including one on one meetings)||8 hours each|
|Tuesday||Product||8 hours each|
|Marketing, communications & growth||8 hours each|
|Developers and partnerships||8 hours each|
|Company, culture, recruiting||8 hours each|
|I take off, I hike||0|
|Reflection, feedback, strategy and getting ready for the week.||8 hours each|
This is no longer Jack’s method of operating. This was something he created and implemented to get Square going. Long term, a routine like this would cause stress and burn out. He now spends the majority of his time at Square, and engages his team to run Twitter independently of him. At the time; juggling both companies, this routine was necessary, and it worked amazingly well.
So when building your routine, consider what is sustainable, ie- going for that hike, and how long you plan on doing this practice for – what is your goal and outcome?
Of course, this was Jack’s focus but many many things would interrupt that routine, the way this worked is that Jack knew what his focus was for that day and would be able to quickly handle the distraction and get back on task.
Knowing what you are meant to be doing and when enables you to stay on track to your goal and be in the driver’s seat of your business.
Daily Routine’s Keep You In The Driver’s Seat
The driver’s seat will always be your check in place. Is your routine right for you? Only you can know. When we look at examples of what other successful people do you’ll notice that every person’s routine is individual and unique. It’s important to create this in your own routine, what works for you is just as unique as you are.
You may not be a morning person, which is fine, not everyone is. So if you work best at night, structure your routine that way and be sure to get adequate sleep.
For some people that might mean an afternoon nap.
Many successful people swear by the afternoon nap as a great way to get through the rest of the day strong, with more energy and renewed focus. The way to make an afternoon nap work is to always take it at the same time of day, for the same duration. Even if you just grab 40 winks when you are exhausted, you will most likely feel a significant difference. If you like a nap, build it into your routine, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you are consistent.
For example, Winston Churchill conducted most of his prime ministership from his bed in the morning! He would routinely do all his work while he ate breakfast in bed, from when he woke at 7:30 to when he went for a walk around the gardens at 11:00.
He dedicated his lunchtime to great food (3 or even 4 courses) and great company (his family and closest friends and colleagues). He valued this socialising time greatly, saying it made him a better Prime Minister. He would then work in his home office from 3:30 to 5:00, have a nap, sometimes until 6:30, then work through to dinner at 8:00.
Unusual yes, but it worked for him, so much so that he did it for years on end.
He’s not the only head of state to do so, President Kennedy would eat his lunch in bed so that he was immediately ready for his daily nap. President Johnson took a nap at 3:30 every day and it was also built into Ronald Reagan’s routine.
It’s about understanding your own personal priorities, values, goals and preferences, and leveraging them to make a perfect day.
The best routines are the ones that you can keep over the weekend as well, especially in terms of waking and sleeping times, as giving your body a structure will help create an automatic response. It will also keep you energised by giving you more time on the weekends, you’ll be surprised how much more rewarding a successful, active weekend can be, compared to sleeping in and zoning out in front of the TV.
When it comes to routine traits, here’s some that almost every successful business person has.
Set Goals Early
Eat That Frog is a book by successful businessman Brian Tracy. In it, he highlights the importance of identifying your biggest responsibility and doing that thing first. He’s not the only one to do this. Identifying your highest priorities, listing them in order, and starting from the top down was adopted by President Eisenhower during his time in the White House, and went into a print version, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey.
It is so essential to mind and body to create movement, it really does do incredible things to your energy and state of mind when you have good circulation and strong blood flow. You don’t have to go hard, just building a 30-minute walk into your morning routine will make all the difference to your ability to respond to your day, the way you feel about yourself, and it’s also good for your body.
Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, manages her week with two high intensity one-hour personal-training sessions.
If you like a jog or working up a sweat and mornings don’t work for you, go in your lunch break or leave work early and stop in on your way home. This is what Ev Williams, CEO of Medium learned to do when he discovered his most effective working hours were in the morning. Going to the gym early meant he wasn’t as effective at work.
Really take the time to get to know yourself, and when you get tired. How often do you need a change of pace, scenery or task? Do you get your best work done early, or late, do you like three big meals a day or six or seven light snacks?
Knowing what you like means building a routine that will best suit you, make you productive, and propel you towards your goals. It gives you a structure for a set up that will really work and work well not only for you but for what matters most around you, your family, your dog, your partner. Build your routine around what you love and need and you are already living the life of an entrepreneur!
People aren’t robots. You might wish you were, or think it essential to get everything done all at once, but the truth is the real path to success is a long one.
Success brings together all your experiences and mistakes, your growth and your opportunities. This takes time and living. So if you feel that the only way to be successful is to fill every moment of your calendar with meetings, plans, work and progress checks, think again.
Stepping out of the office and engaging with people, doing activities like hiking, scuba diving, or paragliding, will open your eyes to new perspectives, new vantage points and discoveries you can bring back to the office.
More than that, it will give you a creative outlet and inspire you to keep going.
Michael Prichinello improves his work passion by actually living it, the co-owner of Classic Car Club Manhattan races cars or motorcycles on weekends. Barack Obama plays basketball. Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, actively shuts off her smart phone for a break overnight and cuts off the constant need to be busy and be attached.
Set up a routine that enables you to regroup, recharge, and connect and give you the support, energy, and passion you need to take your business to the next level!