by Chris Edgar
Author, Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work
If you’re involved in a startup, I imagine you’ve browsed through a lot of strategies for getting through the early stages of your business.
As I’m sure you know, it’s one thing to learn a lot of “tips and tricks” for marketing, finding employees and web apps, and so on. It can be quite another to actually put everything you’ve learned into practice. If your attention keeps jumping from task to task, you feel sluggish and uninspired, or you’re paralyzed by fear of failure, all the business strategies in the world won’t keep you on track.
This is where what I call inner productivity ideas — techniques for restoring your motivation and focus — come in. In this post, based on my experience coaching entrepreneurs in finding the efficiency and enjoyment they want in their work, I’ll talk about four ways these techniques can help with the issues entrepreneurs tend to face.
1. Stay In The Present. Business gurus urge us to be relentlessly, singlemindedly focused, but this is easier said than done. Distractions, whether they come from the world or our own thoughts, are always around to sidetrack us from our important tasks.
When you find your attention getting scattered, I’ve found, it’s useful to take a moment and focus your awareness on what you’re feeling in some part of your body. Notice, for instance, the pressure of your feet against the ground, or your back against your chair. Putting your attention on the sensations you’re feeling right now helps your mind shift back into the present, and leave behind worries about the past and future.
Meditation teachers have taught their students to focus on the body to tune out distraction for thousands of years, and this exercise brings that approach into our working lives.
2. Notice The Big Picture. Inevitably, especially if you’re a one-person show, you’ll be dealing with a lot of tasks that seem mundane or boring — bills to pay, folders to organize, spreadsheets to input, and so on. In these moments, our usual reaction is to gripe “why am I doing this?” and get frustrated.
If you find yourself in this kind of situation, I invite you to take that question seriously. Why are you doing this? What’s the larger contribution you’re making to your business, and to the world, with the task you’re doing right now?
When you get in touch with the larger purpose behind what you’re doing, you reconnect with the sense of mission that drove you to start your business in the first place, and this can be a great source of motivation. If you’re organizing your folders, for instance, what I think you’ll realize is that you’re doing it to serve your customers more efficiently, and to reach all the wonderful goals your business is meant to achieve.
3. Embrace Uncertainty. In the early stages, even if this isn’t the first time you’ve been involved in a startup, there will almost certainly be a lot of things you don’t know how to do yet — whether they have to do with product design, marketing, or something else. In my experience, many entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff they don’t understand — and, sometimes, too intimidated by it to get off the ground.
We usually react to this fear by trying to convince ourselves we’ll eventually find the answers. Unfortunately, this kind of anxiety is often hard to debate out of existence. So what can we do to let go of it?
If you’re having this “I don’t know the answers” concern, take a moment and notice how you experience the anxiety in your body. What physical sensations tell you you’re feeling afraid? Maybe it’s a tension in your shoulders, a sinking feeling in your stomach, or something else. When you notice the place where you’re uncomfortable, see if you can relax the muscles there, and breathe deeply into that spot.
Just becoming aware that this anxiety is really a sensation in your body, I think you’ll notice, can put the fear in perspective. Our fears seem less threatening when we let go of the mental stories we’ve created around them, and see them for what they really are.
4. Appreciate The Process. Many entrepreneurs in the early stages, I’ve noticed, have a nagging fear that they’ll never reach a “stability” or “equilibrium” point where they can relax (a little) and stop worrying as much about the business’s survival. This anxiety makes it hard to enjoy running the business, and can have us dread getting out of bed in the morning.
Interestingly, I’ve found, some later-stage business owners I know actually get nostalgic for those early days, and wish they’d let themselves enjoy the risks and challenges instead of treating them as problems. No matter what happens in the end, you’ll never get the chance to repeat your business’s startup phase, and keeping this in mind can help you appreciate it for what it is.
What’s more, even if you do reach that “stability” point — whatever that means to you — that definitely won’t be the end of risks and challenges. Learning to welcome challenges, instead of resisting them, will be helpful to you throughout the life of your business.
Chris Edgar is an author, speaker and personal coach who specializes in helping professionals transition to careers aligned with their callings, and find more satisfaction and productivity in what they do. Chris’s new book, Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work, uses insights from mindfulness practice and psychology to help readers develop focus and motivation in their work. You can find out more about the book and Chris’s work at www.InnerProductivity.com.