Every entrepreneurial journey begins with a great idea — or at least a passionate one. That idea drives an intense motivation to bring that idea to life. Entrepreneurs are famously zealous in their goals, often sacrificing long hours for their business.
Does that sound like you? You’re definitely part of a passionate crowd. As entrepreneurs, you’re willing to go above and beyond to build your dream business.
But you might be going too far. Whatever your dream, you likely don’t want to work every waking moment. You want your business to be a success but not at the expense of your well-being.
Unfortunately, it’s all too common to rely on workaholism to achieve your goals, especially if you come from the corporate world.
Work Less, Think More
Many business “gurus” will advise budding entrepreneurs to “work smarter, not harder.” In other words, lean on automation and delegation to lighten your workload. That way, you don’t end up sending all day working.
Ideally, you want to be working on your business, not in your business. But “work smarter” doesn’t really cover that. If something can’t be automated, are you still doing it? And be honest: are you delegating as much as you should?
Instead of working smarter, let’s work less. In our hustle culture, many entrepreneurs assume that working 60- to 80-hour weeks is par for the course. Some even glamorize that lifestyle.
No one should have to work all day to achieve their goals. In fact, over-working on your business could stifle its growth (more on that in a moment).
When you work less, you can think more. That frees up your mental energy to strategize your business’s growth — and perhaps even dream up your next enterprise.
If you’re protesting, “But there’s so much to do!” consider this. Many of the tasks you assume need to be done are unnecessary. Or at least they can wait until your business is humming along smoothly.
And by the way, most will suggest tasks that “every entrepreneur must do.” Resist the temptation to follow such a checklist. Your goals are unique, and you likely don’t need the latest fancy SaaS tool everyone’s talking about.
At the end of the day, your entrepreneurial idea translates into a promise you make to your customers. Uphold and prioritize that, and everything else follows naturally.
Busy-ness Rather than Business
Our society romanticizes busy-ness. We celebrate the “hustle” as a sign of integrity, ingenuity, and grit.
What if I told you… that you can build your dream enterprise without hustling 24/7?
It’s true. Most entrepreneurs feel an intense responsibility to their business. They closely link it to their identity, and it’s hard to relinquish any tasks it may need.
All that means you might be prone to overcommitting to your enterprise. You want everything to be perfect, so you pull long hours to cross every T and dot every I.
And if you don’t already have an endless to-do list, you seek new tasks to ensure you’re putting in enough time.
That’s hustle culture speaking. But often, that urge results in your taking on “fake work.” For example, perhaps you’re spending tons of time (and money) on your marketing and branding. You’re getting business cards, flyers, a spiffy website, all the bells and whistles.
Marketing and branding are important, but ultimately futile if you don’t prioritize your customers. What do they want? How can you fulfill your promise to them?
Resist the “shiny object syndrome” in which every marketing gadget or social media platform seems vital to your success. Those tools only matter if you’re already connecting with your ideal customers. But if you add them to your list, you’re only multiplying your work hours — for potentially little gain.
Also, you must ensure your internal processes are solid before you start pushing heavy promo. There’s no point in posting on every social network or investing in pricey CRM software if your team isn’t ready to fulfill orders.
In short: don’t worry about leveling up and automating your business too soon. Build a foundation first, always keeping your core promise in mind.
That great idea you had as a new entrepreneur? Let that shape your strategy, and save the busy work for later (or better yet, for someone else).
Self-Employed or a Business Owner?
Here’s another way to look at this. When you’re self-employed, you’re doing all the tasks yourself. You bill your clients, pay the taxes, and otherwise handle the logistics. Often, you link your worth to the hours you’re spending rather than the impact you’re making.
As a business owner, you focus on strategy. Someone else can manage your calendar or invoicing. You worry less about the hours you’re spending and more about how to grow your enterprise.
Most importantly, you can focus on your great idea instead of the daily grind.
No shade to self-employed individuals — there are many good reasons to pursue that path. However, entrepreneurs are not meant to be glorified independent contractors. You must be willing to let go of the tedious tasks so you can turn your idea into a sustainable enterprise.
Also, let’s be honest: many self-employed people work long hours, often on tasks that don’t serve their goals. No matter who you are, you deserve to enjoy some balance in your life.
Forget the Myth of Overnight Success
Many entrepreneurs have fallen prey to the idea that hard work will instantly produce a highly lucrative business. The media doesn’t help as they profile people who struck gold overnight.
That will not happen for the vast majority of entrepreneurs. And that’s honestly a good thing.
Explosive startups sometimes get too big too fast. Often, entrepreneurs assume “more is better,” so they open new locations, release new products, or expand their market long before they’re ready. For a great example, look at Shyp, which grew faster than it could become profitable.
By contrast, enterprises that develop organically have time to adapt and grow. You can tweak your strategy and ensure you stay aligned with your promise. Plus, your task list stays lean so you don’t become overwhelmed by your own business.
Hustle culture emphasizes constant work and instant gratification. The most successful businesses require neither. Take the time and care to nurture your enterprise. You’ll know when it’s time to level up!
The biggest mistake most entrepreneurs make is to push too hard, too soon. That bloats their to-do list and distracts their precious energy from their great idea.
To help your enterprise be successful, you must let go of the busy work and embrace your core promise. Set aside all those enticing SaaS tools and marketing hacks for another day. Be willing to delegate tasks so you can work less and think more.
Otherwise, you’ll likely find yourself hustling 24/7 to make your dream a reality. And that’s not fair to either you or your brilliant idea!
This article is inspired by an episode of the Simplifying Entrepreneurship podcast in which I interview Bryan Clayton, founder of GreenPal.