Habits. Rituals. Schedules. Routines. We all have them, whether we realize it or not. I wouldn’t call myself a creature of habit, but I enjoy a good ritual or routine. I have personal routines and rituals I enjoy–the getting-ready process before a date or meeting friends, taking my supplements while watching a comedy special or video podcast, calling my father to catch up while I’m walking home from doing errands, etc.–but it’s the business ones I want to talk about today.
I read a lot about the habits and routines of successful entrepreneurs. Not only do I find the insights into their lives interesting, but sometimes I pick up tips based off their habits and routines that I can incorporate into Allison’s World. I know who I am and what kinds of habits I’d be likely to stick to, so when I read about something that I think would improve my professional life and make sense for me, I give it a try.
But there are other things that don’t work for me. Some I’ve tried, others I just know. I see several of the same habits and routines come up repeatedly in interviews with successful entrepreneurs. It’s great that they’ve worked for so many people, but they do not have a place in my life. I think there is a small voice in many of us entrepreneurs always telling us to improve (which is good) but also sometimes telling us we need to do certain things that have worked for others (which is bad). Maybe I’m reading too much into it–wouldn’t be the first time I did that–but it seems that some of the articles I read imply that if you don’t have the same habits as some of the mega-successful entrepreneurs in the world, you’re not doing it right.
So I want to smash the idea that we must do some of these habits and routines that circulate so widely. I’m by no means the most successful business owner in the world, but I’ve been in business for over 10 years and we are having our best year yet on many levels, so I’m not totally screwing up. I’m not saying these routines are wrong or bad, but I want to point out that they may not work for everyone, and that’s okay.
Here’s what I’m not into:
Getting Up Early. “Early” to me is between 6:00am – 7:00am. “Gross Early” is between 4:00am – 6:00am. Anything earlier than than is “Film Crew Early,” which is part of why I don’t work on movies anymore. When I have morning clients or appointments, I set my alarm for 1.5 – 2 hours before I need to leave. That gives me time to have my coffee, work on a blog post, answer any urgent emails, shower and get ready. But when I don’t have to be anywhere in the morning, I wake up whenever my body says, “We’re good on sleep now, ma’am.” (My body is polite, and maybe Southern.) I like the idea of getting up Early or even Gross Early, but I regularly work until 10:00pm or 11:00pm, which means I fall asleep around midnight. Forcing myself to wake up 4 – 6 hours after that would not only be cruel, but it would make for a very unproductive day. I am not a good business owner when I’m tired. Every task takes twice as long when my brain is in an exhaustion fog, and even the simplest things feel difficult. So while I have had days when I’ve naturally woken up Gross Early and have loved the amount of work I’ve gotten through before it was even 10:00am, those days are rare and my sleep is precious. I’m not going to voluntarily move to Struggle City so I can seem like a more disciplined or productive business owner. (Besides, can you imagine living there? Every day would be 57 degrees so you wouldn’t know what to wear, stores would never be open during the hours you could get there and you would only have a strong WiFi connection on Wednesdays.) So y’all can wake up when it’s still dark out if that works for you, but I’m sticking with my slumber schedule (or lack thereof).
Making The Bed. Now why would I want to do that? As a business owner with a brutal schedule (which yes, I created), I sometimes feel like I could collapse under the sheer volume of never-ending work. Sometimes I need a power nap to replenish. If my bed is un-made, boom!, I can jump right in. If it’s already made, I have to peel back the layers–more work–and then get in. I’m mostly kidding with this one. I don’t consistently make my bed because I’ve never been a bed maker. I’ve been sleeping like a maniac lately, sheets all twisted and pillows thrown on the floor (what is happening in my dream world?!?!), so tidying up that disaster zone takes a couple minutes. I figure I could use that time to do something more productive, like work on this blog! I know the idea behind this Successful Entrepreneur Habit is that it starts your day off on a productive note and immediately puts you into Routine Mode, but I don’t need help with productivity or routines. So for now, my bed remains unmade most days and ready for me to easily get back into it whenever I need to.
Meditation. During my freshman year in college, I was part of a mandatory new student group that met once a week, I think with the goal of helping freshmen acclimate to college life. (If acclimating meant “finding new places to hide bottles of Bacardi in my dorm room”, I acclimated very quickly.) For one of our meetings, our teacher/guide/shaman/whatever she was, brought us to a meditation class. We all laid on mats on the floor–which I didn’t care for–and were guided through a meditation exercise. Afterwards, everyone in my group said they felt so calm and relaxed during it. Me? My body cramped up and I could not wait to GTFO. That was my first experience with meditation. I have tried meditating multiple times since that forced meditation ambush and have always been met with lackluster results. My thoughts do not turn off, and I always feel frustrated after attempting to meditate. I think I used to get in a meditative state when I was lying out by the pool or at the beach, which was my favorite way to relax until Esthetics school ruined sunbathing for me. I can see how meditation would be helpful for entrepreneurs, but it’s just not my thing.
Morning Workouts. I get the appeal of working out early. You get that necessary evil out of the way early, enjoy a sense of accomplishment first thing and get an energy boost to help you start the day off right. Fabulous! My problem is that if I try to work out soon after I wake up, I feel like I’m going to throw up. Feeling nauseous isn’t my favorite way to start the day, so I push my workouts to afternoons or evenings. I can do my favorite arm workout, stretches and crunches first thing, but my body needs to wake up a bit more before I do cardio (which is always running for me). If you can do workout out first thing, more power to you. But my body has deemed this cruel and unusual punishment, so it’s got no part in my morning routine.
Waking Up With A Cold Shower. This is the quickest way to get me in a foul mood for the entire day. Will I use cool water to rinse my conditioner out so my blue balyage fades less? You know it. But immersing the body of a snowbird in cold water can cause fainting spells, and I don’t have any time scheduled in for those. I am sticking to my warm showers, and I will not budge on that.
Daily Affirmations. I can not bring myself to do this. The closest I get is frequently watching the final battle scene from 8 Mile. I find that very motivating and empowering, which I think is the point of affirmations. I don’t have any problems with professional confidence at this point in my career and I’m self motivated by nature, but maybe my brain is doing secret subconscious affirmations all the time. I will kill it like B-Rabbit, I will kill it like B-Rabbit. Eminem is never far from my thoughts. He’s like a living guardian angel from Detroit for me, and we can all use one of those.
Going To Bed Early. I’ll be honest–I’m jealous of people who fall asleep at 9:00pm. I know if I did that, I would naturally wake up Gross Early, and as I said, I like those days when I do wake up before the rest of the world (or so it seems) and get a ton of work done by 10:00am. However, that’s not the schedule my body is on. I work late, and part of why I do that is to make my mornings better. Hear me out. When I reply or send emails at 10:00pm or 11:00pm, I usually don’t get a response right away. That means I can cross a lot off my list before I go to bed. And then I wake up with less in my inbox, which makes the day feel easier. Starting off the day right is very important to me, and working late at night feels like it gives me a head start on the next day.
When it comes to habits and routines, I think it’s all about what works for you. I have routines I’ve created to make my days productive and organized, but I change them when they stop working for me. I’m open to incorporating new habits or routines, but if something doesn’t make my life easier or make me a better entrepreneur, why would I hold onto it? Surely not because it worked for someone else!
I’ll still read articles and listen to talks about other entrepreneur’s routines and habits, because there will be things that speak to me. And even if they don’t, I like learning about what other people do and what’s worked for them. I find it inspiring to hear any entrepreneur’s story, and if their path to success includes waking up at sunrise, drinking hot water with lemon then loudly chanting for 12 minutes, that’s cool. It’s not for me, with my late nights, sensitive teeth and downstairs neighbors who I would scare, but like DMX says, do you.
If you’ve got a habit or routine that you think helps with your professional life, I am all ears. I’ll be sharing some of mine in Part 2, because you know I can’t resist a two part blog series.
Have a beautiful day 🙂