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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 13 Ways to Stay Productive on Your Darkest Days

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 13 Ways to Stay Productive on Your Darkest Days

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

Failure can be pretty devastating but it’s part of business. What trick do you use to stay productive on those dark days?

1. Keep a Thank Bank

Martina Welke

    I started keeping an email folder labeled “Thank Bank” in the early days after starting our business to keep all the supportive messages, positive comments and thoughtful introductions I received. On the really hard days, I go back through the folder to be reminded of all the people who believe in what we’re building, and it never fails to motivate me to forge ahead.

    Martina Welke, Zealyst

     

    2. Play With Positive People

    Kelly Azevedo

      It’s easy to get down in the dumps and attract all those people who knew “that would never work” and like to wallow in your misery. Instead, consciously seek out the positive people you can work with who will lift you up after a failure. These people don’t necessarily have to be entrepreneurs, but it helps when others know what you’re dealing with and can provide perspective.

      Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

       

      3. Practice Meditation

      Robert-J.-Moore

        Meditation is a great way to gain perspective by putting emotional distance between you and the stressful things in your life. It’s a great complement to the lows you experience on the bad days.

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        Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics

         

         

        4. Take a Step Back

        peter minton

          Go for a walk and breathe some fresh air, grab lunch or drinks with some friends, call your family, play with your kids, whatever works for you to refocus and gain some perspective. Remember why (and for whom) you are working so hard, take that deep breath and attack that next challenge.

          Peter Minton, Minton Law Group, P.C.

           

           

          5. Try Music and Napping

          Michael Bruny

            I use a playlist I call “Get It Going.” I also leverage naps as a reset button. When I get up, it’s a brand-new start.

            Michael Bruny, The New Art of Conference Networking

             

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            6. Focus on Getting Back Up

            David Ehrenberg

              I have faith in myself and in what I’m creating. And I remember that everyone who swings big misses sometimes — failure doesn’t matter, just the ability to get back up and go for it again. In the Bay Area, there is no stigma attached to failure. Here, people are allowed to fail because there’s a belief that in an environment where failure is allowed, there is the ability to create something new.

              David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

               

              7. Use Failure as Motivation

              Bryan Silverman

                We use failures and naysayers as our motivation to continue to push. With each failure, we know that we are able to learn, and we are that much closer to the next success. Our fellow employees, due to our company culture, help foster that motivational mindset with one another as well.

                Bryan Silverman, Star Toilet Paper

                 

                 

                8. Look at the Past

                Wade Foster

                  Simply looking at a graph of our results over the past year will show the remarkable progress we’ve made. On bad days, we’re still a thousand times better than we were on day one.

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                  Wade Foster, Zapier

                   

                   

                  9. Keep Your Perspective

                  Jeremy Hitchcock

                    Perspective is the silver lining in the dark cloud of failure. Entrepreneurs are usually successful because they have both a willingness to serve and a love for solving problems. If there’s a problem in 2013, it means that the problem is hard. Realizing things don’t happen overnight and remembering why you’re working so hard to begin with are the best ways to get through even the darkest of days.

                    Jeremy Hitchcock, Dyn

                    10. Focus on Action

                    Elizabeth Saunders

                      You can’t guarantee success, but you can decide what actions you will take each day to move yourself and your business forward. When I need to increase my motivation and productivity, I come up with a series of actions to take. Then, I focus on completing those and celebrating what I can control (actions) without worrying about what I can’t control (results).

                      Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®

                       

                      11. Learn From Failure

                      Ziver Birg

                        Always remember that experience is the result of failing and learning from that failure. As long as you’re learning from failure, you’re growing and improving. Always remember this, and smile in the face of failure. Positive energy is contagious. If you’re positive, chances are your team will also be positive. It’s hard not to feel great in a super positive environment like that.

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                        Ziver Birg, ZIVELO

                         

                        12. Leave and Start Fresh Tomorrow

                        Andrew Angus

                          On the darkest of days, I don’t use a trick to stay productive. It just won’t work. There are times when you have to realize that no matter how bad things are, you are in no shape to fix them, and you are only going to make them worse — so I leave. I get a massage, get a good night’s sleep and start again the next day. You need to end the pain quickly and start fresh.

                          Andrew Angus, Switch Video

                           

                          13. Realize Time Brings Perspective

                          Michael Costigan

                            Being effective at doing what you do is much more important than always being productive. If you experience a failure, even if it’s a massive failure and you decide to take the rest of the day off to unwind and do something you find happiness in, it’s okay! Sometimes, we think that we always need to be reacting to problems; we spin our wheels and don’t always realize that time brings perspective.

                            Michael Costigan, Youth Leadership Specialist

                             

                            More by this author

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                            Last Updated on January 2, 2019

                            Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

                            Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

                            The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

                            It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

                            To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

                            So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

                            1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

                            We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

                            Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

                            Stop focusing on the material objects

                            Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke[1] in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

                            Plan gifts in advance

                            We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

                            Suggest a better way

                            If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

                            Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

                            You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

                            Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

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                            2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

                            It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

                            If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

                            How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

                            Here’s what you can do:

                            Set a healthier pattern

                            For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

                            Get a fitness watch

                            Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

                            Find a physical activity that you enjoy

                            Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

                            Try intermittent fasting

                            This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

                            Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

                            You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

                            3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

                            In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

                            But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

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                            These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

                            Leave bigger intervals between meetings

                            If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

                            Plan time to relax

                            As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

                            Try to be a little pessimistic

                            We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

                            Try waking up earlier

                            Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

                            Plan your day the day before

                            Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

                            Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

                            If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

                            4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

                            If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

                            Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

                            Binge-watching TV series

                            Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

                            You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

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                            Running on coffee

                            Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[2]

                            As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

                            Procrastination

                            Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

                            Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

                            If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

                            Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

                            5. Stop over-consuming

                            We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

                            Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

                            • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
                            • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
                            • Can I rent it?
                            • Can I make it myself?
                            • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

                            For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

                            Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

                            6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

                            Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

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                            But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

                            Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

                            Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

                            For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

                            Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

                            Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.[3]

                            Set your phone on flight mode

                            When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

                            Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

                            You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

                            The Bottom Line

                            As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

                            But this year, promise yourself this:

                            Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

                            Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

                            Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com

                            Reference

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