Are You Focusing or Fiddling?

“When you work for yourself, you only have to work half a day. And you get to choose which 12 hours that you want to work.”

A fellow entrepreneur in Nashville told this to me during an interview we did and I thought that it pretty much sums up my entrepreneurial life. When you work for yourself, there are no more weekends. Nor is there a distinction between “work” time and “non-work” time. When 5 o’clock rolls around, you don’t just shut off and settle into your evening routine. On Friday, you don’t look forward to Saturday. It’s all work time and any activity that isn’t work-related is just a short segue in-between one work task and another.

My friend and fellow entrepreneur from my mastermind group was telling me, “I get up at 5:30am every day and immediately start working and then I don’t stop until it’s time to go to bed. I’ll take breaks to exercise or cook, but there’s never I time when I don’t get right back to it. I need boundaries!”

She’s right. Entrepreneurs need work boundaries. One of the big reasons that I chose to work for myself and not for a company was because I wanted the freedom to set my own schedule and do what I wanted every day. But inevitably, it ends up that I work way more than the 8 hours a day I was working at a job. The key to being balanced and happy to set your own boundaries and stick with them.

When you work too much, you reach a point of diminished return. This is the point when you are “working” but you’re not really getting anything done. For example, this is when you’re physically in front of the computer (it looks like you’re working), but you’re actually just checking Facebook, updating your LinkedIn page or surfing the web (not getting anything accomplished). I call this “fiddling”.

When I find myself fiddling, I know it’s time to switch gears and either take a break or do something else. Since you are not being productive at this time, you need to do a different task and shut off your work for a while. When you can do this effectively, then you are able to “re-boot” your brain and you will feel energized for the next task instead of being drained.

In order to set appropriate boundaries for yourself, start to record the times of day that you are “fiddling”. Is it around lunch time? Late at night? Mid-afternoon? If you are able to find a pattern within your day, make a decision to take a break at that time from now on. Or just shut down for the day. In the end, you will spend less time working, but get much more work done.

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