How can business leaders stay focused and productive throughout the long hours they have to work? Structure, strategic prioritization and some healthy excess are key.
Running a business is never going to be easy, and most entrepreneurs know they will have to put in long hours to get their business off the ground. But can creativity and leadership be sustained for 60, 70 or 80 hours a week?
Of course, business owners have a different relationship with their work compared to their staff – everything they do is for themselves, after all. So rather than suggest a reduction in hours, it is perhaps better to think of ways to ensure the leader remains on top of his or her game. How should business leaders structure their day in order to stay fresh while still getting everything done?
Many creatives have a hobby or place they specifically use in order to clear their mind for the next task, or find inspiration. For example, going to the beach or jogging through the local park. Personally, I like to go for a bike ride in order to find inspiration for my copywriting and thought-leadership work. But it's not just about looking for ideas: I find a 45-minute ride gives me a boost in productivity that more than offsets the time spent in the saddle!
Leadership is also creative, so you have to completely change your surroundings in order to get the clean break needed to focus on the next task. But, unlike the carefree freelance writer, you need to structure your day.
Build a routine
Despite having the freedom to work when and where they want, most successful business people follow a daily routine. Otherwise, they know they would constantly get sidetracked with urgent but minor matters rather than concentrating on what is strategically important.
This is very different from merely having a to-do list – it entails the business leader setting out time for all the key business tasks she or he must fulfill. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," don't prioritize what's on your schedule, schedule your priorities.
Scheduling your priorities for the business ensures that you don' putt off the tasks you don't like. This approach also encourages productivity by ensuring that individual tasks are completed and accounted for in a set timescale.
Now shake it up!
No one can be productive, efficient or even polite to staff and clients if they are working nonstop for 10 hours at a time. Therefore, it's essential to change things within your routine and to give yourself a few minutes to unwind a little on a regular basis throughout the day.
You'll need to actively take your mind off things, so go and make a cup of a coffee, ideally getting out of the office for a few minutes.
For the small business owner, adding a gym session into your daily routine is a great way to recharge mentally while also keeping the body in shape. You might think you don't have time, but a targeted, 30-minute workout can unleash far greater levels of productivity than merely brewing a cup of tea.
Remember, you're the boss – there's nothing stopping you from installing a rowing machine or exercise bike in your office, or the foyer. Some bosses go even further and incorporate a spot of team building into the workday by inviting their staff to join in on a jog, ride or even a spot of lunchtime soccer!