This article is a part of a mini-series by Megan Broussard, a career-lifestyle blogger at ProfessionGal.com. Megan is participating in the IBM My Smarter Commerce campaign in pursuit of starting her own business, and she’ll be sharing what she’s learning with us along the way.
Buckle up. It’s probably going to get bumpy.
Ever had those days when you realize at 5 PM that you didn’t have lunch and you’ve barely touched your to-do list? I’ve been having a lot of those days lately. My initial conclusion was that there had to be a tiny time thief hiding in my desk, stealing the seconds away (along with my pen and the hair clip I can’t find anywhere).
The real bandits of my missing time, however, are three habits that seem incredibly helpful in the early stages of a business, but that are actually ruining my productivity. Whether you're trying to start a business of your own or just want to be more productive at work, read on for a few things you might be doing that unknowingly slow you down.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Libra and easily see both sides to every story or situation (or so says my $15 psychic in the East Village), but I’ve got a bad habit of second-guessing myself. I’ve spoken to a few other entrepreneurs about this, and it seems to be a common battle in the beginning.
As an early entrepreneur, double-checking your decisions seems logical. After all, you want to be sure you’re making the right ones. Because you’re new, you contact as many experts as you can for recommendations, which are often contradictory. Then, just to make sure, you scour the internet for opinions and reviews, sizing them up to the suggestions you solicited from your network. In the end, you’re more conflicted than when you started.
While gathering knowledge on subjects you’re unfamiliar with is smart, getting too much input is dizzying and time-consuming and can end up pushing you five steps back in the process. The best way to avoid being overloaded by this information is to cap the number of people you reach out to, making sure they represent a variety of expertise and backgrounds. If, after a week of deliberating, there still isn’t a clear answer, go with your gut and trust that it will be okay.
Going on Tangents
Especially when you’re stuck on a problem in your business, it’s natural to get distracted by other things—social networking sites, apps, articles, or unrelated projects can be pretty tempting. Problem is, these mini-breaks can set you off into another direction entirely—one that probably won’t get you any closer to solving the problem at hand.
For example, I got stuck while deciding on the format I wanted to use for my e-commerce site. Rather than sticking with it and working it out, I clicked back to my blog to check site stats. That led to me loathing (yet again) the current theme on my site, which set me off on an hour-long search for a new one. Not necessary! There went an hour of valuable time that I needed to stay on schedule and to finish my site mockup.
Stay on track and save the wandering and tangents for the weekend. Notice I’m not saying to ditch them completely—daydreaming and digressing are powerful habits to have in your free time, and letting your thoughts run wild allows you to do critical thinking on the current state of your business and come up with new ideas. Make sure to block some time for this type of laissez-faire brainstorming so that it becomes a part of your agenda without interfering with your commitments.
Multitasking sounds great in theory, but we all keep hearing about how it doesn’t really work. I was inclined to ignore this—after all, when I worked at a global digital PR firm before going rouge, multitasking only helped me stay ahead of the competition. But when I found myself trying to apply the same methods to my new venture, I quickly found that I was starting big projects, bringing in other people to help me work on them, and then getting distracted by other things and not pulling my weight to keep all the balls moving. I was making the progress much slower for each project and, in turn, much more expensive. Not a good combo.
You have a lot on your plate as an entrepreneur, but you’ll be doing yourself a favor by blocking out time slots to start and finish each project before moving on to the next one. Why does this work better? First, it gives you clear deadlines for each milestone, keeping you on track with your business plan timeline while also giving your life the (semi-) balanced structure it needs. Second, you’ll be able build a solid foundation for your business with completed projects that can support the larger goals you have in mind. Fragments of half-finished ideas and good intentions can barely support themselves, much less your dream company.
There you have it, folks: the list of things that may seem to help you as an entrepreneur but that actually serve as speed bumps for your new business. If you think you might be in the same drifting boat, try keeping the urges to act on curiosity and impulse at bay—or else risk burning out early or pushing your timeline back significantly.
My next step is to officially decide which e-commerce site and service I’d like to go with for my online boutique. I’ve heard great things about both Magento Go and Shopify, but I’d love to hear your feedback. I’m also looking for a summer intern (paid only in college credit and great work experience), so if you know a great candidate, send him or her my way. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.