Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

6 Rules for Being a Good Boss (to Yourself)

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Being your own boss has a lot of perks, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. And despite the fact that we love our newfound freedom, most of us can be pretty lousy bosses to ourselves.

Think about it: We’re always overextended, we put in grueling hours, we act as if everything is urgent, and we often aren’t even sure what, exactly, we’re working toward. Most of us wouldn’t work for someone else under these conditions, so why do we create them for ourselves? Plus, not only does being our own bad boss erode our daily satisfaction, it also undermines the long-term viability and sustainability of our businesses.

This is a wake up call: Taking good care of your business requires taking good care of yourself. Give yourself a self-management crash course with these six rules.

1. Define Your Job

Many entrepreneurs brag about wearing dozens of hats. And sure, as a business owner, your duties are guaranteed to be untraditional—but it’s also not your job to do everything that needs doing.

Like anyone else, you need direction, focus, and purpose in order to be productive. So, take the time to define your primary functions and responsibilities. It will keep you from having your hands in every project, and let you highlight where you need help and ensure your efforts are channeled into the right places.

2. Highlight Priorities

There’s nothing worse than working for someone who always behaves as if everything had to be done yesterday. So don’t do it to yourself, either. Treating every detail as if it were completely urgent only puts you in a reactionary mode and forces you to neglect what’s truly important.

Instead, select a few priorities for yourself each quarter and use those priorities to inform your schedule and workflow. In addition to top of the to-do list status, consider giving these priorities some dedicated strategy sessions or a few minutes of concentration at the start of each workday.

3. Set Goals

Setting goals—and the right goals—is an important part of performance. If they’re set too high, you’re bound to be disappointed. If they’re set too low, you’re likely to stop short of your potential. And if they aren’t set at all, you’re sure to feel lost.

This third category is where most entrepreneurs fail. After all, how do you know what a reasonable goal is when your business is always in new territory? But it’s crucial to measure your own success and know how to describe a job well done. Yes, sometimes that’s easier said than done, but the key is using as much data as you can. Look at your past performance, examine the market, read what the experts have to say, and most importantly, ask your peers what is fair to expect.


4. Review Your Performance

Another mistake that entrepreneurs make is to go years—even decades—without a performance review. Of course, it’s a little strange to review yourself, but it’s an important practice to take up. Hey, no one else is going to do it for you!

Schedule a time far in advance where you can reflect on your past performance and set some goals for the future. It’s best if this review comes in the form of a treat—otherwise it’s too easy to push off. Take yourself to a nice lunch or on a field trip away from the daily grind. Think about the areas in which you’ve excelled and the skills that you’ve strengthened. Ask yourself if your business is leveraging your talents as much as possible. Also reflect on your own areas for improvement, and make a separate date to hatch a self-improvement plan. Then, use what you’ve learned to create or adjust your business goals.

5. Invest in Professional Development

Entrepreneurs worry that if they admit that there are things they don’t know or that there’s room for improvement, then people won’t buy what they are selling. But the truth is, you only stand to gain by embracing the learning and professional development process.

Use your performance review as a place to make a list of areas that you need to improve. If you’re having trouble getting objectivity, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a colleague or coach. Next, brainstorm ways to strengthen these skills, whether it’s through books, classes, conferences, or even private coaching.

6. Give Yourself a Break

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to give yourself a break. Most entrepreneurs heap gargantuan expectations onto themselves, and this can lead to disappointment, dissatisfaction, and burnout.

Remember, you’re in a job that hasn’t been done before. There’s no roadmap, and there’s no one to shepherd you through the experience. And no matter how skilled, lucky, or hard-working you are, entrepreneurship is bound to be filled with uncertainty and setbacks.

So, cut yourself some slack. Make sure to set reasonable hours, give yourself vacations, and even napping privileges if you’d like. You’re probably in this for the long haul, so like any other boss that’s concerned with retention, your own level of stress and satisfaction should be of utmost importance.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Bunkers.