Why Are Entrepreneurs So Overwhelmed? After years of yearning to set your own schedule, you’re now liberated to work when, where and how you want to work. You can stay up until 2 a.m. propelled by a creative burst of energy. You can sleep in until noon. You have no constraints! You’re an entrepreneur.
Then after a year or two or… six, you find that the freedom in being your own boss -- or even in having a job with a flexible schedule (According to the US Census Bureau, over 7 percent of the population worked at home at least one day a month in 2005) -- typically leads to one of two responses (or a combo of both):
- Frantic activity where you actually put in way more hours than you ever did as an employee and feel on the brink of overwhelm most moments.
- Hazy meandering where you get some things done that seem important at the moment, but feel haunted by a lingering sense of guilt because you’re not quite sure you’re really moving forward in the best way possible.
Setting and keeping a schedule that makes you happy and moves you forward on your goals is a sophisticated mix of strategic thinking and behavioral modification most people never learn. The difficulty of this task is increased by the degree of autonomy you have over how and when you work. That makes running a business the ultimate challenge for today’s knowledge worker with a flexible schedule.
As someone who has overcome these entrepreneurial struggles and founded a time coach training company to help others do the same, I've found that these are some of the key time challenges for entrepreneurs:
Your Scheduling Muscles Are Flabby.
You’ve had it easy. Most people never have had much control over their schedules so their skill level at the fine art of time investment and their internal discipline to align with their values is fairly infantile. Prior to school, your parents or caretakers told you what to do and when. Then there were school administrators and teachers, and finally a boss. At times, you may have resented this external control but really, all of these people did you a huge favor. They made it clear how to spend your time by giving you a step-by-step procedure with a few open hours each day or on the weekend left for your choice of activities.
Solution: As an entrepreneur, you can choose when you work and what you do. But it's still important to make intentional choices instead of taking action based on what you feel like doing at the moment. The best way for you to engage in this higher level thinking about how you spend your time is to integrate daily and weekly planning routines into your schedule.
Technology Tempts You 24/7.
Our wired world requires that we sort and process a massive amount of inputs from an increasing number of input streams. The need for intentional focus has dramatically increased: the mail used to come once a day so you could fetch it immediately without a problem. Now it comes once a second or so -- a constant temptation to divert from our current tasks. The method of keeping up with all of these changes is emerging now.
Solution: Just like you need to intentionally plan how you will spend your time, you need to intentionally plan how you will interact with technology. If you're not sure how you're spending time on the computer, a program like Rescue Time can give you an objective assessment of your activity. You can also create a company culture that supports focused productivity by not setting the expectation that you will always be on IM or answer e-mails immediately.
Sometimes You Have to Do Things You Don't Want to Do.
Every type of work has it’s less enjoyable parts. But running a profitable business requires a diverse array of skills, including sales, management, and bookkeeping. Few people find all of these activities enjoyable, and many find them down right intimidating. Unfortunately, if you don’t make time for these difficult activities, your business will not survive. When no one else holds you accountable and you don’t have a set method for getting these critical activities done, you’re likely to avoid them until it’s too late.
Solution: One of the best ways to move forward on difficult tasks is to schedule them earlier in the day and earlier in the week. This helps you avoid the temptation to put them off when other activities take longer than expected. Also, accountability is a huge motivator so find a business partner, a mentor, a friend or a coach who will keep you on track.
Almost Everyone Wants You to Be Crazy Busy Like Them.
There’s a huge myth in the entrepreneurial community and in American culture in general that you have no choice; you must constantly have a maxed-out schedule or you’re lazy, unpopular and wasteful. People may even go so far as to criticize or chastise your choices if you let on that you stop working at a certain time or take vacation.
Solution: To undergo the process of schedule transformation you’re going to have to limit how much you share with work-all-the-time people and find people who will support and encourage you in aligning your time with your priorities. You also have to learn to how to set expectations with clients and co-workers.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E® a time coaching and training company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished through an exclusive Schedule Makeover™ process. Elizabeth has appeared in Inc. magazine, The Chicago Tribune, NBC and was selected as one of the Top 25 Amazing Women of 2010 by Stiletto Woman.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.) provides its members with access to tools, mentoring, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth. Our organization promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment.