Entrepreneurs are busy people.
There is always something to do, and most of the time it's something really urgent. That's the plight of the entrepreneur--constantly moving pieces, organizing activities, leading initiatives, and putting out fires, and making stuff happen.
Stephen Covey's famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, nails this issue. Covey sketches out four quadrants that communicate how we use our time.
Most of us spend our time in the "Urgent" categories (Quadrant I and Quadrant III). The problem is, not every "urgent" task is important. Where should we be spending our time?
We should be spending more time on the "Not Urgent" yet "Important" tasks (Quadrant II) Every activity on this list is solidly within that second quadrant--not urgent, but very important.
Creating time for these things is tough, and requires a shift in mindset. We will always deal with the tyranny of the urgent. However, to better create, dream, and thrive as entrepreneurs, we must shove aside the urgent and not important to make room for these activities.
Planning the Next Product
New products are where the money is. The more and better products you can develop, the more and better sales you'll get.
Let's assume your business is up and running. You already have a customer base. To best serve these customers, and to best build the business, create another product. They will buy it. Your business will grow.
In order to create the next product, you have to plan the next product.
Brainstorming the Next Business
I encourage every entrepreneur to stay loyal to every business that she starts. But there's always something more--another adventure, another opportunity, another stone waiting to be turned.
What's it going to be? If you spend all your time extinguishing flames in your present business, you'll never be able to plan the next business.
Don't limit your potential. Don't prevent great things from happening. Free yourself to brainstorm that next business, and watch what happens.
If you've been mentored by someone else, you recognize the incredible power of entrepreneurial mentorship.
There are plenty of other people who respect your ability and would like to learn from you. The person whom you mentor may be an employee, a co-founder, or a friend. Wherever you find these people, spend time with them.
Mentoring is always a two-way street. You have things you can learn as well, and it always pays to have someone with whom you can think aloud.
Strategizing the Next Marketing Move
Not every entrepreneur is a born marketer, but every entrepreneur has marketing ideas.
Some of the world's greatest entrepreneurs are not skilled at business, technology, or product. They are skilled at marketing.
Steve Jobs, for example, was a genius in virtually every area of entrepreneurship. But when you analyze his life and work, you discover that he was one heck of a marketer.
He introduced the age of the hyped up keynote, the nail-biting the suspense of the next big thing, and TV ads that made history.
If you can innovate your marketing--spending time brainstorming and dreaming--you can experience this same level of success.
Studying Human Behavior
I'm convinced that every entrepreneur should be a student of human behavior.
The time that you spend studying people--psychology, motivation, behavior, development, cognition--is never time wasted. For one, you'll understand yourself better. And for another, you'll understand people better.
When you understand how people think, you begin to understand what they want and how to give it to them. You understand how they make choices, and how to help them make the right choices. You understand how they face conflict, and how to mediate that conflict. You understand how they face confusion, and how to remove that confusion.
The better you understand people, the better entrepreneur you become.
I have a confession. I don't like the word "networking." The idea of "networking" as popularly conceived, seems smarmy and artificial.
But we're stuck with the word. And we still need to network.
To paraphrase John Donne, "no entrepreneur is an island." You can probably look at each business that you've started (or want to start), and identify someone--a key connection--that helped to make it successful.
You'll make connections like these in the most unlikely places, so it pays to be social. "Networking events" aren't the only times that you should be networking.
Reading a Book
So many books; so little time!
There is some good news and some bad news about reading books. The good news is that there are some really smart and talented authors who are writing powerful and explosive books.
The bad news is that we're so busy that we don't have time to read them all.
Thankfully, we can read some of them. Reading one book a year is better than none. A book has the power to change your thinking, transform your business, and initiate the next business.
If you find that you have absolutely no time to read books, try audio books. You can probably find a few minutes during a commute or daily routine to listen to a few minutes of an audiobook.
Taking Time Off
The last "activity" isn't much of an activity, and surely not much of a "business activity." Ah, but it's no less important.
Take time off. Just stop working. Turn off your phone, walk out the door, and don't come back for a day, a week, a month. Do it.
Entrepreneurs need to unplug, unwind, and do something different.
When you take time off, you can do some of the other things on this list. One of the unexpected benefits of taking time off is that we sometimes experience our greatest moments of insight and creativity.
You've got a ton to do, and you just spent ten minutes reading an article that is asking you to do even more.
Ask yourself, "Is it worth it?" Is it worth it to spend a few hours brainstorming, reading, going out to lunch with someone, or just chilling?
The only way to find out is to give it a try.
What activities do you think are essential for entrepreneurs?