This is part 2 of 4 in a series where I share lessons learned around starting a new business. Make sure to read the first part, Competent and Capable Business in Erie, PA.
As an entrepreneur, your work begins and ends with you. You’ll cultivate mentors and seek feedback from customers. They’ll provide constructive criticism and strong recommendations, but they’ll never tell you exactly what to do or how to schedule your day. If you wear the badge of founder, CEO, President, or Executive Director, the organization moves with your will.
During the initial or growth stages of a venture, it is hard to gauge whether your efforts are enough, even after fourteen-hour days.
Also, amid the rush to grow, it is easy to lose sight of the longer-term vision, whether that is building a sustainable, responsible company or growing as an individual. Immediate responsibilities, tasks, and chores can take priority.
Developing a professional pace means that you understand the rhythm of your work and establish processes to ensure short, medium, and long-term success. It is easy to burn out and difficult to navigate the daily stress of running a business, especially after the novelty and excitement of the first couple of months wears off.
Success in any new venture takes time and persistence. The journey is one of starts and stops, sprints, jogs, and walks. It’s not quite a marathon, not quite a 400-meter dash. It’s all of these put together. Looking back, it was only until recently that I learned to cultivate a healthy professional pace.
Balance your Professional Pace
What does your list of tasks look like? For entrepreneurs, it can be a page or two long. Some items have a longer time horizon than other. Others have an immediate priority.
There’s virtue in consistency. When you step down from the high of a new product launch, remember to settle in to consistent processes. It won’t feel as exciting. That’s ok. But periods of maintenance will help balance the excitement of launching a new service or a period of rapid growth.
As examples, maintenance processes might be establishing regular communications on social media or maintaining accurate accounting and financial records. They aren’t glitzily or glamourous, but make sure to acknowledge your efforts with the same importance of the exciting new. Give yourself credit and plan for the reality that these tasks too need accomplished. They can be done on your own terms and without the hectic pace of daily support to customers and stakeholders.
In my own professional rhythm, I complete maintenance tasks on weekends. On weekends, we typically don’t have urgent action items or meetings. It’s an opportunity to relax while I work, usually with copious amounts of coffee. I might switch up the work environment or focus time on professional development such as reading or preparing for the next week.
Maintaining your Spirit
As entrepreneurs, we plan for new stages of growth all the time. Planning is detailed: how we’ll operationalize and market the new idea, how we’ll reach out to new customers … the lists goes on. But we typically don’t plan for maintenance and professional development. Instead, we squeeze or pack them into our schedules.
Do you plan out leisure time? Do you have the discipline to allow yourself a few hours each week to not think about work? Take the time to plan your leisure as well as your longer term professional development. It is just as important as building for the immediate tomorrow. Know Thyself.
Knowing thyself also means understanding your professional rhythm. For example, I’m a sprinter. I love to see how fast I can work through an extensive list of tasks. Everything about it, down to how fast I type and respond to emails. I enjoy the speed and the challenge of working faster. But it took me a while to realize that I can’t work at that speed all the time. In fact, because I spend periods of time sprinting through work, I need to be extra careful to re-charge or else I’ll burn out.
Over the past two years, I’ve adjusted my expectations. Not all projects can be completed quickly. Long term projects need periods of rest, periods of time spent waiting on responses. I used to get very overwhelmed at long term projects because I felt like if I wasn’t sprinting, I wasn’t working quick enough. That’s just not the case.
Another adjustment I’ve made is to spend more time and energy planning my time off. One thing that helps is attending events, both professional and leisure events. I make sure to attend at least a handful throughout the week, even if I don’t want to, because I know it’ll help keep a sense of balance.
Inner Confidence and Personal Worth
Part of being able to maintain a professional pace, is to develop an inner confidence that puts your well-being ahead of immediate business gain. Confidence allows you to maintain a healthy perspective during extended periods of urgent work. Lay a foundation of confidence for your career, one that establishes your personal worth on equal terms of the whims and fluctuation of your business or profitability.
Establishing confidence also means asking for support from your community. Even small requests can help take the pressure off. Don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re going through a slump or can’t seem to overcome a challenge, the Erie community will gladly help. But it’s up to you to reach out.
My Own Takeaway
Throughout my own entrepreneurial journey, establishing a consistent, professional pace was one of the biggest challenges. Because I didn’t have a professional pace, I went through periods of sprinting followed by burning out – boom and bust. Once I established a professional pace, I felt more confident about my work and the progress that my business was making.