Starting something, whether it’s a new business, product or service, exercise or morning routine is exciting, motivating and comes with a healthy dose of vision, too.
These are the things that get us through the first week, the first two weeks, the first month and so on.
But, lets be real.
Things get hard.
Some challenges run the risk of derailing us. I’ve certainly experienced that in my own business, especially considering that my entire marketing structure is based on content. Getting derailed is easy when you see fluctuations in traffic or receive negative comments, for example. To be honest, my biggest challenge is that I get so caught up in doing marketing for our clients, that I often lose focus on our own. Sometimes, we entrepreneurs feel like the challenge that we set ourselves is simply too much. We realize we over committed and maybe we bit off more than we can chew.
When it comes to your new business, creating a new product or trying to diversify your product range, these kinds of feelings can have a serious, tangible effect on your actual, real-life cash flow too.
The great thing is there are so many tactics and strategies that you can use to stay on track, but when we consider the notion of “starting” something, we’re often viewing that from the perspective of stopping or certainly winding down, something else.
Let’s use the example of starting your first business. Typically that business started out as a side project, or something happened that forced you out of your previous job and caused you to decide to start something for yourself instead of finding another similar position elsewhere. The bottom line is, starting your first business is a different rhythm to what you’ve been doing, usually.
It’s an entirely different draw on your time, requires you to be laser focused and motivated, self-initiated and accountable to yourself. And this is where problems can start. This is when the overwhelming feelings can set in.
Discovering your pace of change.
Change should not be feared. In fact, change is something that we should all embrace. But the truth is that change is different for everyone. Change can be hard. When considering a switch into self-employment, change can be even tougher. You have a myriad of things to worry about:
- Covering your bills
- Finding out exactly what it is you want to do
- For whom you will do it
- Logistics of delivering it
- Where to work from
- How to attract customers
The list is endless.
Change is a great thing, but it brings with it a whole range of new challenges, challenges that you simply may not appreciate or be ready for. The secret to progressing through a period of change — namely starting your own business — when things appear insurmountable is to identify your own “pace of change.”
What is “pace of change?”
Don’t be like many new business owners and give up too soon because the level of change that they experience during those first few weeks and months simply becomes too much for them.
When you are starting your new business, create your own personal routine and identify the tasks you need to accomplish every single day to keep that business moving forward will feel uncomfortable.
Discomfort is to be embraced, learned from and worked through. The real issue isn’t the discomfort, the real issue is that we easily compare ourselves to those around us, those we see online and anyone else, frankly, who we feel are “better” than us. As so, we become frustrated by the progress that we are, or aren’t, making. But rather than progress against our own previous milestones, we assess it against the perceived success of everyone else. The result of this is that we force ourselves into a pace of change that can be too fast for us.
Everyone approaches change at their own pace. The secret to maintaining some early stage sanity and focus is to realize what your pace of change is. How much can you embrace before you feel overwhelmed? Where is your line? How much change can you take before you start to revert back to your default, “employed” behavior?
Habits are hard to break and equally, new habits take a time to form. Don’t forget that when you start your first business. You simply haven’t done this before and thus, you’re experiencing not only a financial change, but a cultural one too. Be mindful of your body, and listen to what your mind is telling you. Trust your gut instinct, and allow yourself to accept the change gradually.
The key is in prioritizing what needs doing versus what you can actually accept as part of your new routine. Your responsibility is to carry out tasks, every single day, that move the needle in your business. Those tasks should come before anything else. That means sacrifices.
If you’re too focused on being the ultimate entrepreneur and emulating the success that you see online from people who have been doing it for years (or people that fake it), then you will create a pace of change that is simply too fast for you. Likewise, if you try to accelerate towards your vision too quickly, you could again force a pace of change that you’re not comfortable with.
There’s a difference between being motivated, driven and results oriented and trying to do too much, too soon. Your pace of change is the speed at which you can embrace your new routines, new approaches and processes while still being focused on creating and measuring results.
This balancing act is key in the early days of your first business, and without it, one side will take over. You will focus fully on results and realize that you let the backend of your business slip, only to watch it push you into burnout, or you will focus entirely on the “feel good” work on the backend of your business, not separating what you need to do from what you like doing. You’ll find yourself left with no cash in the bank, really quickly.
5 Strategies that have helped me:
1: Set Realistic Exceptions
Unfortunately, habits don’t form overnight. Despite your enthusiasm at the beginning of a new “habit journey,” it takes a significant amount of time before the habit becomes second nature and you’ve mastered incorporating it into your daily life.
For years the standard number associated with habits was 21 days. Unfortunately, that number has tripled in recent years, and now the standard is that a daily task or inclination does not become second-nature or habitual for 66 days. Rather than looking at that as a daunting or discouraging figure, you should think of it as a guide to help you through the building process.
When you’re trying to add a new habit to your daily routine, you’re not just taking on a new task, you’re essentially changing years of thinking and behavioral patterns — not an easy feat. So, if after two weeks of going to the gym in the morning, you still dread the idea of hopping on the elliptical, don’t despair.
Be kind to yourself and remember that change takes time. It’s also important to set realistic habit expectations: vowing to make it on to the pro golf circuit within a year is not as attainable as improving your handicap by three strokes.
Experts say that unrealistic goals are often the reason why people stop short. One of the reasons goals or resolutions don’t pan out is because they’re not realistic.
2: Make a schedule — and stick to it.
Setting a schedule at the start of every week helps you hold yourself accountable. If you take the time to block out points in your day to focus on your new habit, you’ll be less likely to forget or simply skip over it. It’s dangerous, and most likely disappointing, to rely on willpower alone, especially at the beginning of a new change.
3: Find your flow.
Utilizing environment triggers can help you naturally meet your goals without too much resistance. A practice known as setting implementation intentions entails adding your newly formed habit to an existing part of your routine. This technique allows you to naturally insert your habit into your daily lifestyle, without upending everything else around it.
For example, rather than just telling yourself that you will start reading every morning, find a way to fit in fifteen minutes of reading into your existing routine. Using an implementation intention, you would instead say to yourself, “After I wash my face in the morning, I will sit down to read for fifteen minutes while my coffee brews.” You’re fitting your hoped-for habit between two pillars of your existing morning foundation. Using this habit-forming technique, you won’t be able to go from washing up to enjoying coffee without remembering your reading intention.
4: Track your progress.
Writing is a powerful self-improvement tool, and tracking your habits with a journal is an effective method for maintaining motivation. It’s hard to objectively organize our thoughts and feelings based on memory alone. Journaling our progress also makes talking about your goals to peers, friends and family easier. When you have the support of your loved ones, developing habits becomes less of a burden.
You may have felt elated leaving an evening yoga class, but it gets harder to place that feeling the longer the time that passes. However, write about that feeling in the moment, using an app or old-school journal and you’ll have proof of how good it feels to be fulfilling your goals day by day.
Forming good habits is a process, and not always a fun one. But keeping track of your daily efforts and successes will not only help you build confidence in yourself, but will serve as an extra motivating force on those days when your goals seem too difficult or out of reach.
5: Embrace setbacks.
You’re only human . . . and mistakes happen. Setbacks are a natural part of life. A minor slip-up does not mean that you have to throw all of your hard work out the window and start from scratch. Taking an all-or-nothing approach to forming new habits can actually be detrimental.
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Philippa Lally reported research that found that making a few mistakes has no measurable impact on your long-term success. When a slip-up happens, it’s more productive to acknowledge it and understand why it happened and move on, than it is to berate yourself and give up.