Is there a Murphy's Law for entrepreneurs? I don't know what it's called, but it's real. There's force of nature, an inevitability that says whenever I plan to set aside “focus time” or “work time” or “write time” that's the exact moment something crazy comes up. It's not letting that be your excuse, or letting that stop you, that will help you succeed. You have to have a “I'm getting this done if it kills me.” Attitude not just sometimes, but most of the time. It takes that much tenacity to fight against chaos.
If that sounds daunting to you, I'm telling you now–you may not want to be an entrepreneur.
I read a lot of blogs and many of them write great things, like this article from Jonathan Milligan. In it he outlines some key strategies for increasing your focus. He says things like set your 90 day goals, and set aside 2-3 focus sessions over the next week.
Those are absolutely things that I recommend, use, and I even have videos on my YouTube channel about how I schedule out my goals from yearly goals right down to daily tasks (I love a good checklist).
But here's the thing the focus planners and the daily schedule planners don't tell you: It will never go like you plan. Never. and that's not a result of you needing a better planner, or a different kind of schedule. Schedules aren't what make it work, you are what make it work.
You have to watch for opportunities during your day. You have to live watchful. You have to use your planner to establish what tasks have to get done in order for you to get where you want to go then you have to live constantly on the prowl like a lion chasing it's prey, ever watching for that split second chance to seize your opportunity.
For example, I have committed to writing an article on this blog every Tuesday. I had planned to write up the dialogue from this video I posted to YouTube and share that information in a post. Instead, Murphy's Entrepreneurial cousin brought up some random but urgent business that's taking me 4 hours out of town today, so I'm not transcribing my video for you, I'm sharing my thoughts on an idea I can type up while my kids finish breakfast before we hop in the car.
I found my opportunity.
As many moments of chaos that there are in a day, and there are many of them, there are that many opportunities as well. The trouble for most of us is that we spend so much time lamenting the chaos that we let the opportunity pass us by.
[bctt tweet=”Most of us spend so much time lamenting the chaos that we let opportunity pass us by.” nofollow”yes”]
I could have lamented the need to do my work on the road today and cancelled all my appointments (I have a standard FB Live video to do this evening and I'll be in another state at that time.) So what did I do? Did I throw my hands up and say “I can't do it today, it just won't work?” No. I packed the Ipad and located wifi spots near where we will be today and I'm going to broadcast from the car.
When you're taking yourself seriously as an entrepreneur, when you're trying to do what Jonathan Milligan talks about on his blog and start a blog–you have to want it bad enough to do the hard stuff. To overcome the obstacles for there will be many.
Using your schedule and setting aside focus time is ideal. But consider planning extra time than what you think you'll need so that the chaos you can expect to show up doesn't stop you. Maybe bring in help so that your kids and pets and life in general is tended to by someone else who can catch the chaos at your door for the duration of that focus time. Tell chaos to take a number. Say no to events you think you'll be done with work in time to attend just to be sure you have time to finish your work. Do what it takes. Make no excuses and always find a way.
No one will make this business work for you. Especially as a beginner, you have to get up early when there's no alarm clock. You have to start work when you're tired. You have to complete the project when there's no guarantee it will sell. You have to put your best effort into product creation when you don't know for sure if anyone wants it. You'll feel like no one is listening. You'll fight doubts that your work doesn't matter. Do the work anyway.
When beginners see small measures of success (that they think are huge in the moment) they will say “Not me, but God.” When they talk about their success, using the hashtag #blessed when something awesome is achieved in their business.
You hardly ever see a true professional seasoned with decades of experience say something like that. You know why I believe that is? As someone who believes in giving God credit and someone who certainly believes His grace empowers and deserves praise, I'll also argue that God doesn't steer a ship that's sitting still. People who worked hard to earn their success are willing to say “I worked hard to get this done and God sustained me.” Not God did it and I just sat here. That doesn't really happen.
Please stop using the #blessed hashtag. You never see profitable business owners saying #blessed in their status updates. Think about that.
If you want to see success–be that money, losing weight, more time, better health, more friends, or whatever your goals are–if you want to achieve them, they won't become a reality until you tenaciously pursue them with relentless determination. Not even discipline, not even organized, just never quitting. The fortitude needed to withstand that hard work can be credit you give to God, but the person who has to do the daily work is you.
As someone who has built a business alongside my Dad literally from the ground up (we started in the basement of our family home on a wing and a prayer), God is active in our company and His mercies are everlasting, but we built this company with hard work and determination. It wasn't some cosmic accident. God didn't “show up” and “boom” we have money and a successful company just because God likes us, and certainly not because He blessed us without us having to make strategic choices.
We had to build the products on Saturdays when other people were going to the lake. We had to edit videos and spend hours learning how to burn DVDs when other people were watching the latest tv shows at night with popcorn. When other people read magazines, we read how to market your business. In college, some of my and my husband's first dates were him helping me setting up lighting equipment to film for our latest production. I taught him how to do lighting and he was my stage hand while I directed our first films.
We didn't accomplish what other people couldn't have done. We weren't more unique than someone else, but we certainly made different choices. We managed our time differently.
To this day when I start to get tired, or think I want to go take a nap instead of finish this project, or I think that I can get by without getting up early to get to work because no one will know when I get to work, I hear my Dad's voice saying indignantly “What? You can't go to sleep now. Get to work. We have a company to build!”
His fierce focus was what disciplined my creative power and gave the company the fortitude to succeed against the forces of fatigue, doubt, and failure. Those things come in mass and on purpose, but what my Dad's direction in business has taught me about planning my work day is that through all of the hard work chaos is prevalent, constant, and relentless, but it doesn't have to reign unless you let it.
[bctt tweet=”Chaos is prevalent, constant, and relentless, but it doesn't have to reign unless you let it.” nofollow”yes”]
When you plan, include reality, and expect chaos. We call that “being practical” or “getting real” but what it means is: You can expect chaos to show up right at the moment you planned to be productive. If you expect it, you can fight it. It doesn't have to win.
I didn’t plan to write this article today, but I’m getting it written. I met the goal. Am I still driving 4 hours out of state to solve a random problem I could not have anticipated? Yes. Is that derailing my productivity today? No. Why? Because I’m not letting it, that’s why.
Start planning on that chaos and stop letting excuses stop you.
. . .
I know a few things about chaos, and one way I tame that chaos is to plan for it. For a limited time you can grab my complete planning ebook for setting annual goals and breaking those down into daily tasks (no more than 3 per day) in my FREE Tame the Chaos Planner. Get your copy here.