Starting a business is hard. Realizing that I needed a routine after quitting my 9-5 came out of necessity, rather than desire. In the following paragraphs, I’m going to tell you a little bit about why I personally found routine helpful, how it can help you in your entrepreneurial/maker journey, and my ideal routine versus my actual routine.
Many people that I talk to assume that running your own online business must give you tons of flexibility. Sure, it does just that – it gives you the flexibility to work when you want, how you want, and what you want to work on. However, what many people fail to understand is that this flexibility is a double edged sword.
For me, I quit my 9-5, well technically my 10-7 in the Valley, in November of 2016. I started Craft & Oak with a friend of mine in January 2017. That first year was tough. Momentum was hard to build, and there were roadblocks everywhere. In my opinion, I was on the wrong side of flexibility for the majority part of this year. Being on the wrong side of this meant that roadblocks that could have been solved earlier, or growth that we so desperately wanted out of our busienss, could have been achieved sooner.
Let’s be real, I was the kind of student in class that did just enough to get a B-, B grade point average. I was lazy when it came to homework and studying for tests – and I believe that this is my natural tendency when it comes to work.
I found myself making excuses in my own head for when we hit a roadblock and justifying “waiting one more day” before I started on a task or just one more day before I did “something about it.”
At some point in late 2017, while our business was growing, I still thought it could have been better. I participated in some introspection of my own personality, and came to the conclusion that although I was hungry for success and growth, my actions and work ethic were misaligned with my desires. I decided that I needed to try something, ANYTHING, and I settled upon setting up my own routine, in addition to any productivity aids to assist and make things as easy as possible for myself and keep myself accountable and on task.
Having a set schedule
While this may seem like a no-brainer, I really struggled with the idea of having a set schedule. When you’re working a 9-5, it doesn’t take much mental effort to decide on what you’re going to do that day. You show up at 9AM (or whatever time you get in in the morning), and you fall into a pattern or routine and you do your work for your job. It’s highly structured in that everyone else is doing it, and that social pressure holds you accountable.
When working for yourself, or creating something of your own, it’s easy to not stick to a set schedule, and slack off on your responsibilities. It’s the easiest thing to do, and without discipline – it could cut your entrepreneurial journey short.
Anyway, in late 2017 after doing some research, I came up with an ideal schedule that I believed would keep myself accountable and help me stay productive throughout the day. I also set clear and actionable goals that I would hold myself accountable against. I watched a few YouTube videos on discipline, work ethic, etc. Most all of them suggested waking up early. Luckily I’m a morning person so this wasn’t too much of a problem for me, but I can see it being really difficult if you are naturally more active at night.
When you wake up early, you set the tone for the rest of the day – you’ve already conquered one difficult thing (waking up early), so when it comes to the next task at hand, you have the momentum on your side of being disciplined enough to wake up early, so you are less likely to cheat or slack off on your next task.
My ideal schedule looked something like this:
- 5:30AM – 5:45AM Wakeup
- 5:45AM – 6:30AM – Coffee, Shower, Breakfast
- 6:30AM – 9:00AM Work
- 9:00 AM – 11:00AM Workout
- 11:30AM – 12:30PM Lunch
- 12:30PM – 5:00PM Work some more
- 5:00PM – 9:00PM Free Time / Dinner
- 9PM – 10:00PM Work / check up on some things etc
- 10:00PM – 11:00PM Get in bed / sleep
However, after doing this for two straight weeks, I was just too tired. In theory it was working, some of the most productive days I had were on this schedule. However – the sleep deprivation was catching up to me. Some nights I wouldn’t get to bed till 12AM, and that would just not be enough sleep to operate on. I found the lack of sleep problem to have a compounding effect, in that the less sleep I got over the longer period of time — the more useless I became. Also, being 29 years old at the time did not help either, as many social events on the weekends would go until 12-1-2AM. So my weekly “bed time” and weekend “bed time” became misaligned and the entire schedule became difficult to stick to.
After finding what works for me and what doesn’t, I made a few tweaks to my schedule and have settled on something that looks closer to this.
- 6:30AM – 6:45AM Wakeup
- 6:45AM – 7:30AM Coffee, Shower, Breakfast
- 7:30AM – 10:00AM – Work (at times I will work till 12PM)
- 10:30AM – 12:30PM – Workout and get lunch
- 1:00PM – 5:00PM – Work
- 5:00PM – 9:00PM – Free Time
- 9:00PM – 11:00PM – Work or Free Time
I generally work between 6-8 hours per day, but they are broken up in the morning and night, which I find helps me concentrate, as I personally perform better when working in shorter spurts.
Consistency is key
One of the most helpful things for me is using a Productivity Planner, I bought one from the Intelligent Change company. I also try to put more of my administrative tasks in the morning and longer projects/tasks in the afternoon. I find this works for me, but I have spoken to other entrepreneurs and they have said the opposite is better for them.
After implementing some sort of schedule, I started to see results in my business almost immediately. Within a few weeks, no doubt. I knew what was happening within my business, I could figure out the problems we needed to solve, and fast – to increase our growth rate and potential. I was more in sync with my team members, and in general we just got a LOT more done. I still stick to a routine to this day.
Of course, I still make time for anything I want to with this flexibility. But, I make sure I get my work done, and that the amount of work I put in per day/week is consistent.
Consistency is key here and I believe success follows consistency and the desire to learn something everyday.