At the beginning of my career as an entrepreneur, I endured a three-year training program designed to help me “harness my hustle.”
Anyone who has felt the call of the hustle knows it can be invigorating, but also scattered, frantic and undirected. You hustle over here, get distracted, hustle on over there, and by the time you get to the end of the day, or week, or year, you have a lot of hustle but not much to show for it.
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The training program I experienced was run by a dynamic duo—a young man and woman. The tactics they used, like sleep-deprivation and physical exhaustion, were extreme and questionable, and yet their training was the single greatest key to my eventual entrepreneurial success.
While the program may not be available for everyone, the lessons I learned as a result are applicable to anyone who wants to focus their hustle for better results.
The program? Motherhood.
The lessons I learned as a result are applicable to anyone who wants to focus their hustle for better results.
It was July of 2010 when, after months of planning, I approached my boss and let him know I would leaving my position and starting my own thing. It was thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
A week after I quit, we found out we were pregnant with our first child. Which meant, not only was I going to be a brand-new entrepreneur, I was also going to be a stay-at-home, first-time mom to a son and, shortly after, a daughter. And so the training began.
I hustled for my dream early in the morning before the babies were awake, while they napped, and, if I wasn’t too exhausted, after they went to sleep. With only these small windows of time to work with, success was much less about the quantity of grind than the quality.
I worked like a mother. Here are five things that training taught me that has helped focus and harness my hustle ever since, and can help you no matter who you are.
1. Work it backward:
Like any entrepreneur, I had some very specific financial goals I wanted to achieve. I also had a limited amount of time to commit to the actions that would generate the income. Therefore, I’m sure much to the surprise of my seventh-grade geometry teacher, I did the math. I determined what I wanted to make in a year and divided it by what I estimated my work generated per hour to get the number of hours I would need to work that year.
For example, if you want to make $100,000 a year and value your work at roughly $100 an hour, you’ll need to work 1000 hours a year. Equipped with that number, you can make your plan.
2. Make it visible:
Once you have the number of hours you need to work to achieve your goal, schedule your weeks in a way that makes it easy to see.
I put mine on my calendar—get up an hour before everyone else (five hours per week), work during naps (seven hours per week), stay up an hour after bedtime (five hours per week) sneak off to a coffee shop on Saturdays (three hours per week). Whatever you do, make your schedule visible to hold you accountable.
3. Do what matters most:
Determining what work you will do in those focused hours is perhaps the most important part of the training. When it was time for one of my scheduled hours of focused hustle, I didn’t waste it on social media or sending logistics emails. I spent that hour on what mattered most for my business—at the time, creating content and sales outreach, and nothing else. If distraction did creep into one of my sacred hours, I couldn’t claim it as a work hour. I’d have to find another hour somewhere to make up for it.
4. Set a timer:
Because sometimes focusing on the hard part of the hustle doesn’t always equate to immediate results, it’s best when focused hustle is measured in time input vs. output. Set a timer and make sure each hour is truly accounted for.
Results aren’t always obvious, and when you’re working on limited time, then at the end of some weeks it’s easy to feel like you failed—to think you didn’t do as much as you could have or should have. I learned in my motherhood/entrepreneurship intensive training that focused work itself was worth celebrating and in doing so, greeted each new week hopeful for what was possible.
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It’s been years since I graduated from the training program. Once they were potty-trained, my social kiddos were thrilled to head off to preschool for a few hours each day and I was thrilled to have time all to myself. And while my business looks a lot different now than it did 10 years ago, this system for focused hustle remains my main method of operation.
Hustle is good. Hustle with the focus and intensity of a mother whose baby is stirring from their nap and she still has to finish her blog post, is unstoppable.
Watch next: Having a Career and Being a Mom: You Can Do Both
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by Criene Images/Twenty20.com