Set Yourself up for Success by Building an Entrepreneur Routine

EF Staff Updated on February 29, 2020

As entrepreneurs, we want to know the secrets to success without having to search for them.

We’re always looking for the most efficient systems, the most productive practices, and the routines that will benefit us and our businesses the most.

We look at our fellow entrepreneurs and think, “what are they doing that I’m not doing?” What principles do they live by? What’s the secret ingredient to their success? How the hell do they run five businesses all at the same time?! The answer to those questions lie in the routines they keep.

We humans are creatures of habit. Our routines define us, whether good or bad. They keep us happy, healthy, and productive (if, of course, your routine is a good one). And when it comes to business, the routines we keep will either make or break us.

All successful entrepreneurs have a routine. If you don’t already have one, you should.

The following list contains routines practiced by some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs. While they may be helpful, it’s not mandatory that you follow each and every one of these habits. Cherry pick the routines you want to adapt to your lifestyle, and go from there.

Morning Routines

You probably already have a morning routine set out. Whether you wake up and check your email right away, exercise, or make your kid’s lunches, that all falls under the definition of a routine. But are you making the most of your mornings?

Eat That Frog First

Research has shown that our self-control depletes throughout the day. It’s like a muscle. The more you use it, the more fatigued it gets. In a study done by the University of Nottingham and the National Institute of Education in Singapore, the depletion of self-control is actually a psychological and physiological response. Not only does your mind lose steam, but also your body.

That’s why you ought to Eat That Frog early on in your day. Do the thing that will take the most effort on your part right as you are waking up. You’ll have both the energy to get it done efficiently, and the stamina to actually complete the task.

What does this mean for your current routine? Well, it means you should hold off on checking social media and reading through those emails. In some cases, but not all, eating that frog could mean getting out of bed earlier than you might like. However, you and your business will be better off because of it.

Ask Yourself…

There are many questions you can ask yourself in the morning. What clothes am I going to wear? Do I have time to shower? What am I going to eat for breakfast? But none of them are the truly meaningful questions you should be asking.

In his 2005 Stanford commencement address, Steve Jobs said:

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

Jobs isn’t the only one who asked himself more significant questions when he woke up. Entrepreneur and author Ron Friedman visualizes the end of the day as soon as he wakes up: “The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?”

So while it’s okay to ask yourself logistical questions like “Should I exercise?” (the answer is always yes), try to go deeper and ask yourself, “How can I make this day the most productive it can be?” or even the age old “what am I grateful for?” These questions will not only force you to think harder about yourself and the work you are doing, but it will drastically alter the way you go about your day.

Be Healthier

Most successful entrepreneurs have pretty similar morning routines to the rest of us. They wake up, get ready for the day, and go to work. Except for one thing: they’re all characteristically healthy and organized. After a good night’s sleep, all entrepreneurs seem to do these four things:

  • Wake up early (relative to their bedtime)
  • Eat a balanced breakfast
  • Stretch and/or exercise
  • Plan for the day

Living a healthy lifestyle is half the battle to becoming successful. And it’s a hard one. If you aren’t a morning person (like me), waking up early may seem like the end of the world. If you like a sugary treat for breakfast (also like me), eggs and orange juice may not seem the most appealing. Don’t even get me started on exercise. The key is to force yourself into these habits and keep at them no matter what. When you do, you’ll start seeing an improvement in your personal and business life. Then you can focus on your work routine.

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Work Routines

Success isn’t just about having a productive morning. It’s important that the rest of your work day has an efficient routine for you to follow.

Set a Time Limit

Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey juggles a full-time role at both multi-million dollar companies. At one time, it required he put in eight hours a day per business. That’s a sixteen hour day. While that may be possible for some, for others it is simply unreasonable.

Set a time limit on your work day. Whether it’s five hours, eight hours, or twelve hours – designate a solid part of your day to your business. One sure fire way to fail as an entrepreneur is to not be constantly working on your business.

It’s important that you stick to this schedule too. If you go over the hours you’ve set, you may burn out, and if you work under the hours you’ve set, well, you may be letting yourself and your business down.

Jack Dorsey also themes his work days, separating management, marketing, developing, and recruiting to different days of his scheduled work week. This may not work for your business, but if it seems like something that would, try it out.

Cut Down on Meetings and Emails

If it feels like too much of your day is filled with unproductive meetings and responding to emails, you’re probably right. So many entrepreneurs spend their days doing unnecessary busy work, and they neglect the work that really matters.

Scott Cullather, CEO of inVNT, keeps his meetings to about fifteen minutes, so his company can instead focus on finishing important projects.

Besides setting a strict time limit on your meetings, and even limiting the number of meetings you have in one day, refrain from flashy presentations and detailed agendas that take a long time to set up and manage. Get to the meat of the discussion as soon as possible, to make the gathering more productive for everyone involved.

Managing emails also takes up an unnecessarily long amount of time. Whether you’re deleting junk, reading and responding, or just sitting there staring at a full inbox, developing a routine to manage your emails will help make you more productive. David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, suggests sorting your emails into specific folders based on importance.

Much like the advice for meetings, try setting a specific time and time limit for checking your emails. The key is to focus most of your day on the meaningful work, the work you actually want to be doing.

Keep it Flexible

Things change. It’s a fact of life. So it’s important to be flexible when those changes happen. When you set a routine, know that you may have to adjust every now and then to evolve with your business and maximize productivity.

Tim Ferriss’ routine is as flexible as they come. In fact, it changes almost every day. That doesn’t sound very much like a routine though, does it?

On the contrary, Tim has some general regulations for his work week. Mondays and Fridays are off-limits for phone calls from assistants. That way, if he needs to take a long weekend, one is already set in place. Also on Mondays, Tim plans for the week and does general administrative tasks.

However, Tim keeps a very fluid attitude about his schedules:

I don’t have to do anything in this schedule. I choose to do them because I like them. None of them are financially-driven or unpleasant obligations. If the chance to do something more fun comes up last-minute, I can cancel all of them.

This may not be viable for you or your business. So take his advice with a grain of salt.

Nightly and Weekend Routines

Once your work day/week is over, you have the rest of the night to relax and wind down, right? Sort of. It’s important that you keep your routines going past the morning and day. What you do at night can greatly affect how you feel the next day, and how productive you are.

Plan for Tomorrow, Tonight

Whether you choose to do it on Sunday, Monday, or every night before you go to bed, plan out your day/week in advance. When you plan in advance, you cut down on time that could be wasted planning your day as you go. Plus, it’s a lot more organized.

President Obama is a huge proponent of planning for your days the night before. He even gets a head start on his work for the next day, and will stay as late as 10 pm in his office every night. This is so he can keep his morning routine of spending time with his family and exercising (what we were saying before, with making time for morning routines).

If you want to get super ahead, try planning for the week on Saturday or Sunday. It may mean being more flexible throughout the week, but it also means you can spend more time relaxing or being creative at night.

Set Yourself Up for A Good Night’s Rest

A good night’s rest is quintessential for being productive. If you’re tired, you’ll have a much harder time getting motivated, and you won’t be as excited about the work you’re doing. A good night’s sleep, especially on the weekend, will leave you energized and optimistic about the week ahead of you.

This might sound repetitive, but that’s because it’s important. Eating healthy and regular exercise has been proven to increase sleep quality. Living a healthy lifestyle also means not consistently binging on alcohol – as it also disrupts your sleep patterns.

To make sure you get the best night’s sleep you can, have your last meal two and a half hours before you expect to turn in. That way, the digestive process is underway and you don’t feel heavy with food.

Furthermore, keep away from screens for at least an hour before you go to sleep. The blue light of your computer, phone, and television disrupts your melatonin and affects your quality of sleep. To avoid the temptation of your screen, try journaling or reading a book. Both are productive activities and beneficial to your overall quality of life.

Spend Quality Time With Loved Ones

This may be the most important routine you can get into the habit of. While running a business may be incredibly time consuming, I guarantee that your people matter more.

Your family and friends are who you’re fighting for, who you’re trying to support, and who are there for you when things don’t go so well.

Not only is spending time with your loved ones important for your relationships, but it’s also important for your health. Building relationships and having fun with your friends and family helps recharge your brain and clear your head.

Even if you don’t have a family or friends to spend time with, you still need to set time aside to live your life. Go to the movies, or on a hike. Go to the mall and buy yourself something nice. Take a vacation every now and then.

While productivity may be the number one concern for your business, the routines you keep should be the number one priority in your life. They make a difference. I promise.

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