Making consistent progress in growing your business requires consistent action. And that action requires consistent habits to fuel the action. This is why it’s so important to develop and follow a solid work day structure.
Self discipline is incredibly hard to develop, and structuring your days around what happens to you (reactive), rather than taking control of your days (proactive) will hinder any progress because the consistency won’t be there from one day to the next.
If you stick to a routine, it will become habit, and when it is a habit self-discipline will come naturally meaning you can move forward daily rather than being stuck in a cycle of productive to nonproductive from one day to the next.
So here’s a basic entrepreneur’s day structure which I follow and which will help you develop a strong routine that will drive you forward daily.
Early to rise
This is entirely subjective, of course (some may find they are more productive later on in the day), but 5-7AM, before the rest of the world starts to wake up, is the best time of the day.
The psychological effect of waking up this early is a benefit in itself. You feel more productive. Not only that, there are no distractions at this time so you can focus on your morning rituals without interruption. Check out my post on the advantages of waking up early here.
How you start the day is how you finish the day. Rituals like meditation (best done in the first 90 minutes of waking up), rebounding, writing in my Five Minute Journal, writing my goals down, having a cold shower and drinking a pint of water, are some of the methods I like to use to start my day the right way. Check out my morning motivation routine here.
Another point to back up the fact that how you start the day is how you finish the day – exercising first thing will clear your mind, instill self-discipline, make you feel energized, and will have huge health benefits in the long term.
Ask any highly successful (and highly busy) business person, and most of them will tell you they squeeze in some time to exercise every day. Why? All the reasons mentioned above. Once you get in the habit of exercising, your day won’t be complete without exercise. For me, a day without working out first thing is not a productive day because I don’t get that self-discipline first thing in the morning.
Plan your day
This is something I like to do when I finish a day’s work, but I also review my plan before I start working every single day. You should be entirely results oriented and extremely focused when planning your day. I now mainly focus on my IGTs and KRAs (income generating tasks and key results areas) – in other words, what can I do today that will get me as close as possible to my goals?
Many people get comfortable spending their days on less results based work. They plan, analyze and research when in reality 90% of their time should be spent acting on their plans. So focus on results, and write your to-do list in order of priority. Do the biggest, most results oriented task first. It could be pitching a potential client, making 10 sales calls, or promoting a product through the media. It shouldn’t be planning how to make the sales calls, or media promotion strategy. That sort of stuff is saved for later. Action comes first.
As you go through the day, moving from task to task, you should only be focusing on one thing at a time. Try to plan all meetings, phone calls and events far in advance so you know where you should be and at what time. If you are focusing on your first biggest task of the day, an impromptu phone call can wait. Remember, proactive not reactive.
Try to set times for each task – a rough estimate will do so you know if you are on track or not. This shouldn’t be strict, when you’re done with something you’re done and that’s that. A simple plan could be:
- 8.30AM – 10AM – sales calls
- 10AM-11AM – meeting with new client
- 11AM – 12.30AM – media interview (promotion)
I use lunch time to get a large meal in that isn’t too stogy (too many carbs make me crash around 2-3PM), and get some learning in. I’ll watch some educational videos I’ve bookmarked or listen to an audiobook. There’s no point doing this stuff when I should be working because I’ve got action to take instead.
You can also use this time to work out, or even have meetings over lunch. Eating is a passive exercise so try to get a proactive task in there with it to maximize your time.
Afternoon/evening – creative
As the afternoon passes by and the day starts to run out, usually you’ll start to slow down a bit. By this time you should have completed your daily results-oriented work, so you can now start to focus on the more creative stuff. I find I’m far more creative in the afternoon/evening, especially when I’m feeling tired.
This is when I’ll research/plan/overlook new projects, and brainstorm. I’ll do my ‘reactive’ stuff at this time, too – emails, checking in on social media, tweaking ad campaigns etc. It’s important to leave this sort of stuff until after I’ve done my results-oriented work because reactive work can often lead you down a rabbit-hole and have a negative effect on your focus.
Safe in the knowledge your day has been a success, it’s time to reward yourself and wind down. Catch up with some friends, go do something fun.
When it’s time to go to bed it’s important to have an evening ritual too. Celebrate your daily-wins by writing them down, or write a journal entry for the day. I do this every evening to reflect on the day’s successes and failures and focus on how I can learn from them and improve in the coming days.
I’ll also read before I go to sleep too. Biographies are great in the evening, or anything that is less spoon-fed knowledge and more thought provoking. Think Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl as opposed to How to Get Rich by Donald Trump.
This is a basic structure to get the most out of your day, especially when working hard on getting a business off the ground. Of course, everyone works well at different times in the day, but the most important point I’m getting across here is that you should follow a pattern daily so that it becomes habit, and that you should only focus on one thing at a time in order to be most productive in it.
I challenge you to plan a schedule and follow it for one week. If you can pull that off, you can continue for as long as is required. Having a set routine to follow rather than making it up as you go along is the difference between plateauing, or making consistent progress towards your goals.