In my book, the greatest entrepreneurial lie of all time is the one that states that if you run your own business, you’ll have all the free time you want! And clearly, the best summary of that idea is found in the title of Tim Ferris’ classic, “The Four Hour Work Week.” Yeah, right!
I haven’t met or heard of any owners, entrepreneurs or service professionals who’ve ever succeeded greatly who’ve achieved that kind of lifestyle (especially not in the early years). Instead, just the opposite seems to be true. Most entrepreneurial leaders work massive numbers of hours.
So, what gives? What is the truth about entrepreneurial hours and lifestyle? Well, the truth is that we don’t have unlimited hours of free time—not if we want to succeed in the market place. But, what we do have is … control over our schedules.
Without a boss over us, we get to choose how we spend our time. And since most of us love working, we tend to spend a lot of time working. Not because someone is telling us to, but because we like it.
• We like the challenge.
• We like taking risks.
• We like making offers and closing deals.
• We like assembling teams and motivating them to accomplish something great.
• We like making good money.
• We like influencing others.
• We like making a difference.
• We like learning.
• We like getting our products and services out into the world.
• We like competition and a “good fight.” Etc.
So what tends to happen to most of us—because we like/love all of the above—is that we allow (yes, I said allow) our work to engulf our world. Instead of controlling our schedules, we give control over to the business and become a slave to it.
In other words, while most of us started out with entrepreneurial dreams of being in control, of going on vacations whenever we want, of playing golf (or tennis or whatever your hobby is) whenever we want, of being able to attend all of our kids’ sporting and school events, etc. The reality is that most of us never get around to doing those things.
The dream has turned into a nightmare (or at least a bad dream). We thought we’d experience freedom, but what we’ve really experienced is bondage. And instead of designing our lives and fitting our businesses into them, far too many of us have allowed our businesses to overtake them.
Now, none of us can change the past so that’s irrelevant. But from this day forward we can make a change. We can turn the tables and reassert our lives back into the equation—and I can’t think of a better time to do that than at the end of a calendar year as we begin to plan for next year.
So let me ask you,
If you’re no longer in control of your schedule, if you aren’t able to do the things you want to do, if you’re not able to spend quality time with your family, if you don’t have time to take care of yourself physically, etc. then you know you’ve got a problem.
If you know that there’s something you ought to do but you catch yourself saying, “But I can’t …” you know the answer to the above question. You’ve abdicated control to someone or something else. Take it back!
One of the rewards of being the person at the top is that you get to determine the system. So create a system with rules that serve the lifestyle you want. Don’t make your life serve your business. Make your business serve your life.
Now to help you diagnose what’s been robbing you of life, I’d like to recommend that you do something very simple. In fact, I’m attaching a tool I use with my clients, it’s called a Traffic Light Analysis
All you need to do is answer the three key questions related to the activities you’re currently engaged in. Using a traffic light as the background, red light activities are those activities you’re currently engaged in or are required to do that drain energy from you. Yellow light activities are those that you’re indifferent to. And green light activities are those activities that energize you (or could energize you).
Now, if you’re like most entrepreneurial leaders (who tend to be tired and exhausted most of the time) chances are you’ll find that you have a large red light list and a small green light list. The challenge then is to design next year so that you’ll do less red light activities (delegate them away, hire someone, outsource them, change the rules about how customers or employees interact with you, etc.) and do more green light activities (by intentionally scheduling them).
If you’re looking for a very practical way you can start redesigning your life so that you’ll feel more energized by the work you’re doing, this is it. In a short span of time, you’ll once again feel back in control and you’ll be experiencing more of the life you dreamed about living when you first started your business or organization.
Remember: Always design your business around your life. Never the reverse!
To your accelerated success!
P.S. If you have some ideas about how we as entrepreneurial leaders can take back our lives and re-energize them, make sure you add your comments below (or click here if you’re reading this by RSS or email)