Reflections

Underrated: Getting Into a Routine as a Solo Entrepreneur

By August 25, 2020 August 26th, 2020 No Comments
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(This is not a blog. It’s a codexraw, unpolished and brutally frank)

I’m a new, full-time business owner trying to create something that has never existed before. So I get to deal with uncertainty every single day. There is no clearly defined path, no obvious answers and no safety net (I’m all in).

It has now been over 45 days since I’ve been working on my business full-time, and my main struggle so far has been developing a routine, which is the fundamental “infrastructure” on top of which any profession is built (‘The Great Work Of Your Life‘ by Stephen Cope).

Investigating the “routine” reveals the deeper problems a business is currently suffering from. Moreover, building a routine is a massive step towards fixing the problems.

What gets measured, gets improved. But when you’re in the very beginning trying to “build an airplane on the way down after jumping from a cliff”, you have a lot going on. It’s easy to focus on things that give you an illusion of progress, and neglect the stuff that really moves the needle – and you don’t notice until too late.

At first, I was just following an idea and trying to develop it, and I didn’t feel like a “business owner”, so I didn’t have anything with a semblance of a clear routine. Unfortunately In fact, I’m only starting to feel like I have one now.

The only routine I had was my personal morning routine, which involves doing a few rounds of Wim Hof Method breathing exercises as soon as I wake up, followed by a full-body workout, then a shower and breakfast of oatmeal. And then I’d “sit down to do stuff”. Usually I’d intend to start with some journaling and planning my day, sometimes trying to write a mini-visualization of a day in my future/dream life. This was supposed to get me motivated and ready for the day ahead.

I wouldn’t always be able to stick to this routine, because something on my phone, or an email, or the first browser tab when I flipped open my laptop would throw me astray. Or it would just be my wild train of thoughts refusing to slow down or come to a halt.

If you don’t control your morning, you can’t control your day, and you can’t control your life. That’s a concept I have been very familiar with for a long time, but now that I’m working for myself (and don’t have a job to show up to), it’s more tangible than ever before.

Losing my mornings means losing my business, which means losing my dreams, which means losing the life I want to live. Writing this sentence just now almost made me shudder. I had to take a pause. Wow, it’s really hitting me now.

<Quick diversion>

I now feel even more motivated to take charge of my mornings, but a little voice inside me is saying that I shouldn’t trust myself – a day will soon come when Future Me betrays the decision that Present Me is about to make. This little distrustful, unbelieving, naysaying voice inside myself has caused enough pain in my life already, but it’s going to be a long journey to really become friends with it. I don’t think know if I’ll ever truly get rid of calm down this voice.

</Coming back to story>

For instance, a big question eating up my mind has been marketing. How should I position myself, how should I promote myself, how should I grow. Should I advertise or not, what should I advertise, what do my target customers want? Where are my target customers and how do I know for sure? What could I be missing, am I going after the wrong opportunity, etc etc etc. Asking any one of these questions opens up a can of worms in my head and drives me crazy.

Although it feels very uncomfortable and stressful to not have clear answers to this falling domino chain of questions, I’m not upset that I’m on the tip of my toes. (“Only the paranoid survive” – Andrew Grove) I should give myself more credit.

But this discomfort can only go away with clarity, and clarity requires knowing. Knowing needs testing / experimentation. Testing needs work, and work will take time. Doing the time takes faith – faith that I will figure it out, that I’m not going to fail yet, that the answer lies somewhere ahead.

Unfortunately, this discomfort can be paralyzing. Decision fatigue is very real. Stress and lack of faith (not in god, but in what you’re doing) is the main cause of procrastination. And boy that hit me hard – I’d sometimes find myself on a random day bingeing an entire season of a Netflix series. While supposedly being a full-time entrepreneur.

To get into a routine, you first have to PUT YOUR FAITH into the work you’re doing. You have to develop MASSIVE CERTAINTY that what you’re doing will pay off in some way, and that the pay off will be awesome.

So here’s my way of developing faith. First, I’m going to isolate the different aspects of my business so that I can schedule them independently.

I’m beginning to organize my work into 3 categories: BUILD, SELL, DOCUMENT. I’ll explain them in a moment. Even if I’m thinking about a certain aspect of my business, those thoughts fall into one of these 3 categories with a 40-40-20 distribution. Now I can schedule 3-4 hours of my day to BUILD, 3-4 hours to SELL, and 1-2 hours to DOCUMENT.

Since I’m most uncertain about the marketing part (SELL), I’ll only worry about it during those dedicated hours. I’m already an expert in teaching and other stuff, so I can now put in those hours without too many distractions.

BUILD

Essentially, everything that directly relates to the development and delivery of my product/service. This includes:

  1. Creating course content (also includes research and prep)
  2. Live sessions with students
  3. Classroom stuff (updates to students, class management)
  4. Day to day management tasks related to course creation and teaching
  5. Team building and happiness of employees

SELL

Everything to do with growing the business – front-facing asset creation, promotion, external discussions and marketing.

  1. Web development and design
  2. Social media updates, conversations
  3. Outreach / cold contacting
  4. Public speaking
  5. Sales meetings
  6. Recruiting
  7. Writing new content of different formats
    • Research
    • Technical articles
    • Business articles

DOCUMENT

  1. Admin work like invoices, accounting, payroll
  2. Daily reflection and journaling around the business
  3. Publishing and sharing these daily reflections
  4. “Planning activities” (writing about business strategy etc)

This distribution is not for shits and giggles – it gives me hope. It makes me say “Hey! I can move the needle on the things I’m certain about, and gradually figure out the others. I don’t have to be paralyzed by my indecision about what to do.”

I still need to figure out the exact sub-routine for SELL and DOCUMENT, which I will be doing in a separate codex entry. But I’m at least 70% less stressed about it now that I’ve isolated these things.


I have made a decision to document and openly share my journey building this business, while being as frank and transparent as I can.

This is directly influenced by Austin Kleon’s wonderful little book, Show Your Work. Although the very creation of this codex was inspired by that book, it is only now that I will heed an important piece of advice he shared: Do it every single day.

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