When I started my business, from one day to the other, I was thrown into chaos. I was used to the routines from my previous job: set times for the mornings and lunch and processes and departments in place for all our needs.
As an entrepreneur, I did not have an office at the start; I worked from home. I also started out on my own. Later on, my team was spread across two continents. Apart from the obvious product development, everything else – accounting, legal, HR, marketing – had to be developed. Founders wear many hats at the same time. It is crucial to have some structures to handle the chaos and communicate to your team that you are in charge and that you can handle it. Today, I would like to share how I managed to not get lost, how I conquered the chaos and stayed productive.
When I quit my job, my mentor’s advice was to establish rituals: wake up every day at the same time, go to the gym at the same time, have set lunch times etc. It sounds really basic but once you start working for yourself it is easy to get lost in thoughts like: “I will work through lunch and eat later.”, or “Today, I sleep a bit longer.” However tempting these thoughts are, routines for me are the key to productivity. I wake up every day at the same time, have lunch at the same time and go to the gym at the same time. Of course, you can never plan and structure every single day. But there is enough chaos in a new business anyways, so certain rituals help you handle all of it. Read more about my rituals here.
Find a Workplace that Inspires You
If you work from home, turn part of your apartment into a home office which inspires you to spend the majority of the day there. If you have space constraints, find a space which facilitates your productivity. For me, it has become the dining table or even the couch (the latter is not great advice for your posture though…). Three times per week, I spend the afternoon at a nearby café. Even though it is a bit noisy, for some reason it is a place where I get a ton of work done. And it is nice break from the home office. I also worked from a coworking space for half a year. If you find the right one and want to invest the money, this can be a great alternative as well.
Similar to the rituals mentioned above, try to give yourself certain work times. I start every day at around 7am (yes, crazy early bird…). I try to finish at 7pm or 8pm at the latest, unless there is a big project or something urgent. My breaks are about 2 to 2.5 hours in total (if I go to the gym that day). I really struggled in the beginning. My business is my “baby” and of course I want to see it grow. In the first year I worked until 11 or midnight and started again at 6.30 in the morning. I worked every single day and did not take enough breaks. However, one day you will realize that you are just a human being and you cannot do this in the long run.
Don’t Be too Flexible
A lot of my friends work in corporate jobs. When I left and wanted to meet up, I initially made the mistake of being too flexible. “Sure, you are at the office and you have a lot of pressure from your boss. No worries, I’m here already but I can wait for 30 min.” No! You cannot. It is a really tough task but you need to show the people around you that running your business is similar if not worse when it comes to pressure and time constraints. It is really difficult for people who have always been in corporate routines to understand that working from home does not mean enjoying the day and doing nothing. Make it clear that your investment is worth as much as theirs.
The “I Don’t Have Time for This”-Trap
Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. And by working realistic and productive hours, you will finish that marathon. It is crucial to take days off, relax and socialize. As a business owner, it is you who needs to be productive and creative. If your body is drained and if you are tired, you will not be able to achieve anything. While work is important, your social life and the time you invest in yourself are crucial as well. On days where I stare into the screen unable to finish anything, I shut down my laptop and try to do something else for a few hours. Try it, it works wonders!
How do you establish routines? Do you have any advice for us which you would like to share here?