Now is a great time to be an entrepreneur.
Empowered by the possibilities of technology and the connectivity of social networking, people everywhere are launching new ventures or quitting their jobs to go it alone. I can imagine the rush they feel as they land their first clients, make their first sales, see their first referrals. I’ve been there.
The excitement will wear off no matter how passionate you are about your business. The hours are long. The work is hard. The payoffs can be few and far between. There is a temptation to give up, change direction, admit defeat. When you feel that way, you’ve entered The Grind. All entrepreneurs will meet The Grind when they’re stuck in their seats as they satisfy the needs of their businesses hour after hour and day after day.
The Grind is tough. Exhausting. It can zap every ounce of your skill, imagination and willpower. The Grind is the place where many entrepreneurs trip up because they aren’t prepared to face it. And for those in solo enterprises, The Grind is especially difficult. No one else is around to either lift you up when the drudgery gets you down or kick you in the pants when you’ve tumbled into a rut.
An entrepreneur’s success depends on what he or she does after the business gets off the ground because there’s even more work involved in keeping it from crashing than there is in launching. You can defeat The Grind with five essential disciplines.
1. Watch your words.
If you think about your worst days in The Grind, you’ll notice that your statements are pessimistic. You’ll say things like “I shouldn’t have done that” or “There’s no way I can make this happen.” The Grind has a way of beating the optimism out of you.
When you discipline yourself to speak positively—even when referring to your worst mistakes—you minimize the hopelessness that threatens to bring you down. When “I shouldn’t have” becomes “Next time I will,” the road ahead seems a bit more level. Choosing words and thoughts carefully on a daily, even hourly, basis helps build the positive momentum needed to push through tough days.
2. Take control of your time.
One of the most unforgiving parts of The Grind is the calendar. These are the meetings, the deadlines, the endless to-do lists. If you can’t master your calendar, it will master you. Here are my two favorite ways of taming my schedule. If you use them, you’ll see immediate results.
First, set limits on your work hours. I hear your screams—you feel you can’t afford to waste even an hour. I know that time on task is particularly critical when you’re a one-person show. But hear me out. If you declare all of your waking hours as being available for work, you will waste at least three or four of them on distractions such as surfing the web or, if you work from home, doing personal chores. Set consistent daily hours for work, stick to them and be deliberate with how you spend the hours when you’re off the clock. Treat the non-work periods as the breaks you need to rest, recharge and reset your mind.
Second, make a to-do list each night before you go to bed. In my book How Successful People Think, I devote an entire chapter to such front-end thinking, but here’s the summary: When you think about tomorrow the night before, you’re better prepared to accomplish things after you wake up.
3. Set your own growth rate.
I’ve written a lot about the importance of personal growth, so I’ll cut to the chase. You set the limits on your business. Long before the market or the public decides what to do with you, you determine how successful or unsuccessful you’ll be.
If you want your business to grow, you have to grow as an individual. Read books in your field. Go to conferences, trade shows, seminars and workshops. Take accredited online courses. Do whatever you need to do to stay sharp and continue growing. Your business will follow suit.
4. Get connected.
Another trap entrepreneurs can fall into is solitude. When you’re responsible for everything from sales to sweeping the floors, life as a business owner can become lonely. You must find ways to connect with other people if you want to survive The Grind. This means you have to put yourself in places to interact with others.
Conferences are ideal, but in a solo business, it can be tough to get away. Try tapping online communities. Or think local. Chambers of commerce often sponsor meet-and-greets; small-business organizations provide training and networking opportunities; social and cultural organizations host after-hours events. Pledge to attend at least one such gathering a month. You’ll meet great people while developing future contacts, friends, team members and partners.
5. Celebrate—you’ve earned it.
People often become so caught up in achieving goals that they neglect to stop and celebrate those accomplishments. They simply keep grinding.
What should you do instead? Drink in those moments of victory. Savor them. If you meet a deadline, take five minutes to enjoy the sense of completion. If you hit a major milestone, take your family or friends out to dinner and celebrate. You can even make a coffee break a mini-reward for finishing a routine task that might otherwise go unnoticed.
What you accomplish once the shine has faded will define your success.
The world may glorify new ventures, but what you accomplish once the shine has faded will define your success. The Grind is where businesses are won or lost. Starting a company is a major accomplishment. But if you’re disciplined in what you say, what you do, how you grow and with whom you connect—while celebrating victories along the way—you’ll turn your startup into a thriving enterprise.
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.