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5 ways we can all be smarter

5 ways we can all be smarter

How many of you entrepreneurs have felt burnt out, tired or unmotivated? Chances are you have, probably more often than you’d like. It’s common to be frustrated with your efforts and feel unsatisfied with where your business is going. It seems like you’re doing all the right things, so where are the results?

Thankfully, humans have the innate ability to learn vicariously through other people’s experiences. Our civilization has had tons of incredibly intelligent, pioneering people come and go for us to learn from. We’re also fortunate to have the Internet, which lets us research these individuals at any time; the power of knowledge is a click away.

This article will focus on five ways you can work smarter as an entrepreneur. We’ll talk about work/life balance, networking and what needs to be done to succeed as an entrepreneur, supported by quotes from talented people in our society.

1. Get rid of the need for perfection!

 

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    “Your first projects aren’t the greatest things in the world, and they may have no money value, they may go nowhere, but that is how you learn – you put so much effort into making something right if it is for yourself.” – Steve Wozniak

    Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak knows a thing or two about working and self-effort. Perfection can be a monster that forces you to strive to meet the standards of others. Perfection can drive you crazy from the amount of time and effort you spend chasing it. Smart people realize that their best work won’t come on the first, second, third, fourth or even fifth try. Don’t let perfection be your Achilles heel.

    Perfection holds us in the past and disrupts our ability to focus on what’s important. Once you deem something perfect, it loses its ability to grow or get better. When it comes to your business, this is absolutely unacceptable. Just like with the people in our lives, sometimes it’s the little quirks and flaws that make you special. Striving for excellence in what you do and how you serve people is necessary, but looking for perfection in every area of your business will have you spinning your wheels.

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    “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

    2. Get ready to give before you receive

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      To make the transition from entrepreneur to running a full-fledged business, you’ll need the support of your community. It’s easy to run a successful business when people in your community know who you are and recognize you for being helpful. Giving back works best, when you expect nothing in return. Think about it as your “civic duty”. You can take pride in helping out other people in your community, and if you’re lucky you may be repaid in opportunity.

      Giving back to your community is a great way to meet prominent people in local companies, local business owners, local media persons and just people in general. The smaller the place you live, the more important this becomes.

      “The results of philanthropy are always beyond calculation.” – Mary Ritter Beard

      While you should give back without looking for anything in return, volunteer work inevitably comes with some benefits. Volunteering helps with branding your business as one that cares and at the same time you’re actually helping real people. If you have employees, volunteering is great for engaging everyone and building team camaraderie. As an entrepreneur, you should strongly consider including giving back as a part of your business routine.

      3. Practicing gratitude will help you feel less overwhelmed

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        The life of an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. Even the most grizzled entrepreneur veterans will admit to this, it takes an almost inhuman amount of discipline and focus. While you work may seem to be never-ending, it’s important that you still enjoy your life.

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        Finding happiness as an entrepreneur will follow finding a balance between your work and the things that make you happy. You can’t just plow away through your life and work at full speed all the time. Without setting aside the time for breaks, you’re guaranteed to crash and burn out.  Remember that taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as getting work done.

        “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.” – Maria Edgeworth

        It’s easy to become consumed with your work, especially if you have a burning passion for success or to attain your goals. Although an entrepreneur’s life is associated with freedom, sometimes this freedom can turn you into a slave to your own desires. Staying in the moment is an excellent way to avoid this. Think back to why you started your own business, was it to work 24/7 and still feel stressed about getting nothing done?

        Remember that your work will always be there, and that half the fun is in the journey anyways. You’re almost guaranteed to endure your fair share of failures, especially if you want to attain high levels of success. Taking the time to relax every day will help you mentally put things in perspective and return to work with a new energy.

        “You can’t be an entrepreneur for other people. You can’t start a company for other people. You have to love it more than you ever thought of loving something that wasn’t a human being. The demands will kick you down and rob your life – but yet, it is so rewarding.” – Blake Lively

        4. Read, Read, Read. And when you’re done, read some more.

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          “Think before you speak. Read before you think.” – Fran Lebowitz, The Fran Lebowitz Reader

          It goes without saying that knowledge is key to your success as an entrepreneur. Knowledge makes it easier to make good decisions as well as save you time and money. An uneducated entrepreneur does their own business a disservice by not being committed to growing their knowledge base. New insights will help you find new unique and efficient ways to get things done as well as discover new opportunities.

          Reading is also a complex task that gets multiple parts of your brain active at the same time. Reading makes you sharper, promotes brain health and can even slow diseases like Alzheimer’s or Dementia from developing. When you read on a regular basis, it helps to improve your short-term memory ability.

          Think about it: to read a story you have to remember the characters, where they came from, the important keys to the story and the subplots. Getting your brain to do all of this helps with your memory, and it will also expand your vocabulary. As an entrepreneur, you really have no reason not to read! Even if it’s for fun, you should try and read daily.

          5. It’s not going to be easy!

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            Entrepreneurship is rewarding in many different ways: monetarily, spiritually and mentally. Entrepreneurship is also difficult, demanding and lonely. It’s important to remember as an entrepreneur, and in life, in general, you have to take the good with the bad. Your time as an entrepreneur won’t be all sunshine and roses; in fact, you’ll probably experience more stormy days at first.

            Entrepreneurs aren’t very likely to have many friends who understand their stresses of running a business on a daily basis. You might even be forced to sacrifice relationships for your work, which can further make you lonely. Your inner motivation and desire to achieve your goals is what will keep you going.

            “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” – Bruce Lee

            As Bruce Lee said, you “survive by bending with the wind”. Both good and bad times will come; it’s up to you what you focus on during those times. It may be tempting to do nothing and brood in self-pity during difficult times, and sometimes you may even be justified in feeling like a victim. But any entrepreneur who wants to make progress needs to keep a clear mind in the face of adversity.

            During bad times, ask yourself: “Is what I’m doing now going to help me get out of this situation? Will it help prevent similar situations?” If the answer is no, then it’s clear what you need to do. Don’t shy away from hardships as an entrepreneur. Everything you avoid because it’s “hard” is a chance that you pass up to get better.

            Applying these five things to your business will help you plan out smarter steps to your success. Remember that it’s not always about how hard you work compared to what you work on. The five things discussed in this article will contribute to the growth of your network, business and help you achieve balance in your life.

            Getting rid of the need for perfection, embracing hardships and cherishing your life will help you approach problems with a new perspective. Reading and giving back to your community will make you more knowledgeable about your industry and your community.

            Featured photo credit: New Scientist via newscientist.com

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            Last Updated on December 2, 2018

            How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

            How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

            Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

            The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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            The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

            Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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            Review Your Past Flow

            Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

            Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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            Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

            Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

            Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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            Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

            Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

            We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

            Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

              Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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