12 Unproductive Habits of Entrepreneurs
Ready to turn your blog into a business? Becoming your own boss requires a serious mentality shift. Because if you’re an entrepreneur with unproductive habits, the only person you’re cheating is yourself. And what does a lack of productivity cost us? Plenty!
When you’re running a small business, every second of every day counts. It’s absolutely thrilling to be the boss, of course, but it’s also terrifying. Whether you’re managing an office of one (you) or you’ve got a team behind you, now’s the time to avoid sliding into not-so-great work habits. “Procrastination, failing to plan and over-promising can cost you your reputation or even your business.”
Worst of all, these unproductive habits rob us of time we could be spending with our families, enjoying ourselves and getting the most out of life (the reason most of us become entrepreneurs in the first place)!
So if you’re ready to break free from your bad habits, here are the top 12 unproductive habits to ditch today.
1. Reactivity Over Proactivity
Do you strategically plan? Do you look ahead, check out what needs to be done and jump in or do you hold back until you’re faced with a disaster? When there’s a project on the horizon, do you start tackling it right away or do you put it off?
Reactive people might jump in when needed and even do a great job, but proactive leaders are more likely to succeed long-term! Proactive people offer suggestions and solutions. They plan for the future. They embrace every client’s project as their own. Proactive people are go-getters who take pride in their work and stay forward focused. They take care of problems before they become full-blown disasters.
If you want to brush up on your proactivity, the first step is to get a handle on the items on your plate. Organize your calendar and plot out the items ahead for at least the next quarter. Use a planner and check out project management tools like Asana or Trello. Look at the future, stretch yourself to set big goals and develop a proactive plan to get there.
Ask yourself what else you need to do to make a project flourish. Jump in BEFORE the need arises.
We’ve all been guilty of procrastination. In fact, some of us (falsely) believe we do our best work when we procrastinate. Guess what? We don’t.
Procrastination is often used as an excuse or safety net for not moving forward. If we don’t do a perfect job, we can always say we were under the gun to finish. For those of us who get nervous about doing a perfect job, we may even procrastinate because we’re scared.
To fix procrastination, learn to just do it. Even if you aren’t “mentally prepared” to give it your all and even if you’re nervous, jump in and do it scared.
We put off tasks because they’re daunting. They seem too hard. We don’t want to face them. Pick one big, procrastination-worthy task each day and take care of it first (i.e. eat the frog). Block out an hour and knock out all items on your to-do list that take less than five minutes. Stop putting them off and take care of them.
You start work twenty minutes late. In the days before you were your own boss, you’d look around to make sure your boss’ car wasn’t in the lot yet. Phew, dodged a bullet there, right? Wrong.
Even though you might not punch a timecard these days, remember that even twenty minutes can add up fast. In a month, that’s almost 7 hours of work you’ve missed—basically a whole day. In a year, you’re taking 10 “extra” vacation days. That’s a lot of lost productivity. Not only that, but tardiness to meetings and appointments sends the wrong message to clients.
When we run late, we’re often frazzled. We take a while to settle in to our work routines. We feel paranoid we’re missing tasks and forgetting items we need to follow up on. We’re distracted because we’re running through a litany of excuses in our head, in case we get confronted. We’re also telling others we didn’t prioritize them in our schedule. Being late sends them the powerful message they don’t matter.
Instead, set your alarm so you arrive to meetings ten minutes ahead of schedule. Set an alarm to wake up and another for a few minutes before you need to begin your workday. Keep a schedule and use time blocking to manage your work, just like an office job. You may not need to worry about traffic delays or traffic (especially if you work from home), but you should still stick to a schedule and make every effort to arrive on time for appointments. You’ll feel more relaxed and productive.
4. Failing to Plan (Planning to Fail)
When you jump on a project, do you start with a plan or outline? It seems like a waste of time sometimes, right? This is especially true when we don’t answer to anyone else—we may tell ourselves we’ve got it all in our head.
But how often do we send a memo only to realize we forgot a point? How often do we get halfway into our work only to realize we’re about to hit a bump in the road we failed to plan for?
In some careers, you never know what the day will bring. Emergency room nurses or law enforcement officers may have no idea what’s headed their way. For entrepreneurs, that unpredictability might not mean life or death, but it’s still there.
Even in the most uncertain jobs, you can look at the lay of the land, go through the scenario of a “typical day” and craft the most effective approach. Examine the factors you can control (the “knowns”) and use them to fill in the time between the surprises.
Whenever you start your day, go in with a plan of attack. Create a to-do list with an approximate idea of what you’ll need to successfully complete each task. Take the time to plan your approach before you start a project. This might mean drafting the salient points before you write a blog post, crafting a lesson plan before you teach a class or preparing all your ingredients before you cook a meal.
5. Overpromising and Being a “Yes Ma’am”
Do your clients believe you when you say yes? Most of us get nervous when it comes to raising a red flag to say we might need more instruction, more help or additional resources for a project. We want to appear professional—like we have all the answers. So, instead we say, “Sure! I’m on it!” and then we scramble, stress out and end up under-delivering.
Clients quickly pick up on this pattern. You’re building a relationship of trust. If you make a promise, be honest about what you need and what you can do. Most people would much rather hear the truth than a rosy picture and an underestimate. Unfortunately, overpromising leads to missed deadlines, lost productivity and project failures, when it could have easily been mitigated early on.
Instead, resist the urge to become a people-pleaser. This is tough, because we all care what people think of us! We all want to do a good job. But if you’re constantly biting off more than you can chew, you’re not going to give the best effort possible.
The next time you want to take on a big job, or commit to a project, pipe up about your concerns. Clarify and ask plenty of questions. Communicate if you’re worried about a deadline, more help or feel reservations about the agreement.
6. Resisting Change
Change is scary for many people. It’s fully of uncertainty. It’s ambiguous. No wonder why so many of us feel resistant when we face changes in our work. Yet, for entrepreneurs we face change. Every. Single. Day.
Whether it’s a new trend, a new office space or new software updates, change can throw us into a tailspin. We might dig in our heels and refuse to move forward. If you catch yourself saying, “Well, this is the way I’ve always done it, so I’m going to stick to it,” you should hear alarm bells going off—you’re resisting change!
We live in an ever-changing world. If you work in an online or technical industry (like blogging), there is constant evolution. We must learn to roll with the punches. Every day is a new adventure. We should reframe how we think of change. Instead of nebulous and scary, we should think of change as an opportunity for growth! The greatest entrepreneurs find success because they constantly adapting to change.
Careers where expectations stay stagnant quickly become boring. We become unstimulated and every day is the same. We need challenges to foster growth. Growth is scary, but it’s also positive. Start viewing change as an opportunity to evolve and move forward. For entrepreneurs, the thirst for change is what propels us forward. Don’t fear it—lean in!
7. Being the Squeakiest Wheel
If you notice something amiss with a project, of course, speak up! I know when my team lets me know about a problem, I’m always grateful. BUT, on the other hand, if you find you’re constantly dissatisfied with your life or your work, it may be time to take a long look in the mirror.
When you’re the boss, the buck stops with you. There’s no one else to complain or whine to. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. If you’re unhappy with what you’re doing, it’s up to you to change it.
We’ve all worked in offices where there’s a person who ALWAYS has a problem and they quickly become a drain on the team. This is especially problematic if the Debbie Downer of the office brings up problems but offers no solutions or assistance (or complains to coworkers after the meeting).
As an entrepreneur, you may lead a small (or large) team. They will look to you to set the tone and tenor of your company. Remember: a negative attitude is infectious and will quickly pull the entire team down. If you feel as though you’re always complaining or frustrated, you may want to shift your approach. You may also find it helpful to work with a coach or mentor who will empathize and listen with an unbiased ear.
8. Covering Up
Do you shift the blame when something goes awry? If you make a mistake, do you admit it and work to resolve it, or do you gloss over it and hope no one notices? You may think as an entrepreneur your mistake-admitting days are over. Unfortunately, when you’re answering to a client, mistakes are even more critical.
It’s hard to face the truth when we make mistakes and it’s even harder to admit them to others, especially when those “others” are your clients. In a professional setting, we’re all eager to prove our competence. Believe me, we’ve all made cringe-worthy mistakes where we panic and struggle to cover up.
Instead, be honest. If you’ve made a mistake, put forth a less-than-stellar effort on a project or had a misstep, admit it. Ask if you can use more time to resolve the problem or make adjustments. Your client will notice the mistake eventually, so alert them to the issue (before someone else does) and help fix it.
Covering up mistakes is a critical situation. If you cover a mistake and it comes to light, your reputation is on the line. Instead, fess up, get it out in the open and work toward a resolution.
So, how many of us phone it in when it comes to getting ready for work? What about when it’s time to organize our workspace? How about when we are supposed to proofread or review a product? Sloppiness takes many forms. Whether it’s less-than-professional dress, an office that looks like a train wreck or passing off less-than-polished work, sloppiness is one of the biggest indicators that you don’t care.
As a business owner (and especially if you work from home), you may be tempted to slide into the land of sweatpants and messy buns every day. After all, one of the advantages of working for yourself is there’s no need to “dress up” and go into an office, right?
Yet, when we put a little effort into our look (even if it’s simply putting on something that’s not pajamas and running a comb through your hair), we instantly feel more put together and professional. Similarly, when our office is clean, organized and put-together, we’re in “work mode.”
Take pride in yourself and respect yourself, your space and your work. Whenever you meet a client, give the best impression possible. Even if you work from home and you’re running out for a moment, take time to pull yourself together. You never know when the next opportunity will arise. Pay attention to deadlines, professional attitude and client expectations. Impressions matter!
Effort works like magic. Even if you aren’t “feeling it” right away, putting forth extra effort to keep yourself polished and your office organized and neat will instantly give you a boost. It will come through in your work.
If you’re the drama queen type, you may inadvertently attract negative turmoil into your life that you don’t need—even if you get along great with others and do a wonderful job.
Certain people are naturally more dramatic. They display strong reactions to situations. They wear emotions on their sleeve. Others are addicted to creating drama. These people like to create chaos and stress wherever they go. If your drama falls more into the second category, it’s time to rein it in. Drama like fighting, crying, impassioned discussions and even simple oversharing detracts from the professionalism. It also takes away from productivity. Remember if you own your own company, YOU are the face of your brand. It’s important you put the best face forward both in public and on social media.
Another kind of drama comes from taking comments personally, feeling always defensive and constantly needing validation from others. While everyone gets insecure from time to time, excessive neediness, seeking compliments and attention, or always needing reassurance distracts not just you, but those around you as well.
Put forth effort to stay focused and not wrapped up in petty issues. Find a source outside of work who you can occasionally vent your frustration to. Cut back on the drama and keep your work life positive. Every job is stressful, even (especially) when you’re your own boss. Focus on all the positive aspects of your work to quell the drama.
11. Personal Time at Work
Like drama, your personal life spilling over to your work life can create disaster. No matter your job situation, any parent will eventually need to take time off to care for a sick child and emergencies arise for everyone.
The problem is when your personal issues consistently become part of worktime. Taking endless personal calls to sort out matters best left for off-work hours robs you of productivity. Personal emails, social media and other “free-time” activities should be saved for outside of your designated “office hours,” even if you work from home. Treating team members and clients as your personal therapists and over-sharing also creates an unprofessional environment.
It can be a little lonely when you’re an entrepreneur. But use caution, because the more blurred the lines, the less balance you’ll have between work and home. Instead, view your work time the same way you would if you put on heels and went to an office every day. Designate to focus on your job and tune out the rest of the world.
Learn to leave other errands (like scheduling your appointments) for your lunch hour or in your “off hours.” Avoid personal calls and correspondence while you’re working as well. Really focus on your task at hand, so later you can shut out work and fully enjoy your leisure time.
12. Excuses, Excuses
When a client has an issue or concern, how many of us resort to a litany of excuses? Of course, we want to rationalize what’s gone wrong and explain ourselves.
In truth, most clients simply want to hear the problem is being resolved. Offering too many excuses and reasons doesn’t really resolve the issue. In fact, it only appears you don’t understand the severity of the situation and are hoping to gloss it over. Even worse is passing the buck onto someone else and deflecting blame.
Life happens and mistakes are part of it. We all make mistakes! Rather than unpacking the “why,” offer the “how” you plan to resolve the problem. Remember to keep moving forward. Take accountability and move on.
The next time you’re confronted with a concern, take ownership and ask how you to resolve it. Apologize if you feel it’s necessary, but don’t dwell on the mistake. Adopt a no-excuses mentality. Instead, focus on solving the problem.
Being an entrepreneur is tough, yet exhilarating. Nothing beats being your own boss and seeing your ideas come to fruition. However, it’s important to avoid sliding into bad habits that may end up costing you your clients and reputation. It’s also important to focus on balance. When you work from home, it’s easy to find a hundred tasks to do instead of work. So keep your eye on the prize. If you’re an entrepreneur, don’t lose your focus. You’re the boss, so own it!