It's easy to become absorbed in the day-to-day grind of entrepreneurial life, to do only the next task on your plate and lose sight of the bigger picture. But is merely getting things done enough?
Forcing yourself to take a step back, get perspective, and separate day-to-day busywork from the bigger problems your company aims to solve is an exercise every leader can benefit from.
With this in mind, we polled 13 founders from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) about the questions they asked every day to drive themselves (and their companies) forward.
1. Am I doing what I love and getting better at it?
The questions we ask ourselves daily define our quality of life, and this makes picking just one tricky. So here are two. The first is inspired by Steve Jobs and his famous Stanford graduation speech: "Am I doing what I love?" The second is "Am I improving every day?" I believe these two questions could help any entrepreneur achieve fulfillment, expertise, and a successful company. --David Tomas, Cyberclick
2. Am I doing my best to empower my team?
As an entrepreneur who likes to plan out every minute of my day, I can get into the flow of my own tasks and lose focus on those around me. So I try to make time each day to deliberately check in with my team and see how they're doing, what their frustrations are, and what I can do better to help them succeed. A successful business leader is one who helps employees do and be their best. --Grant Gordon, Solomon Consulting Group
3. Am I having fun?
Obviously, running a business isn't always fun. But, overall, I think you have to enjoy what you're doing to be successful. Even when things get challenging, it's important for me to have fun: to do work that I enjoy and work with people I enjoy. I want to be engaged and continue to feel the passion for what I'm doing that brought me to start my company in the first place. --David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services
4. How can I learn from this?
Every good leader fails. And every good leader learns from that failure. Whether it's a difficult phone call, a team conflict, or a business challenge, always remind yourself that it is a learning experience no matter how it turns out. This way, everything you do is worthwhile. --Vanessa Van Edwards, Science of People
5. What will I do today that will matter one year from now?
Leaders need to stay focused on the bigger picture rather than the minutia of running a business. At the top of every day's to-do list I put one key bigger-picture task that will matter in the long run. Just having this written at the top of my calendar, along with a little picture of an eagle, reminds me to focus on the big picture and only dive down to ground level when it's crucial. --Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World
6. What do I want to accomplish today?
Every leader needs to have mini milestones that lead up to the endgame or an overall goal. Taking a step back and thinking, "What is something I want to accomplish today that will get me one step closer?" helps set the tone for the day and what the main focuses are. It is easy to get distracted with so many things going on, but accomplishing things will keep you focused. --Gina Mancuso, LoveThatFit
7. What did I not do?
In Ben Horowitz's excellent The Hard Thing About Hard Things, he recommends asking yourself what did you not do. With the restrictions on your time, you can't do it all, and that's OK. But there's a difference between accepting that and being conscious and deliberate about the things you are electing not to do. A great leader knows the difference by asking the question. --Jack Hanlon, Kinetic Social
8. Is this the best use of my time?
One question you can ask daily or several times a day is: "Is this the best use of my time?" It's easy to get caught up in what feels like an urgent situation and forget about the big picture. Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done or it should be done by you. --Mike Ambassador Bruny, Ambassador Bruny Dot Com
9. What should I delegate?
Thinking about what you're doing that you shouldn't be doing can help you recognize when you're focusing on the wrong things or you need to delegate more. As a leader, you need to understand your strengths and how to use those to best help the company and not waste time on things that aren't moving the needle forward. --Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.
10. How am I moving things forward today?
Most of us have so much on our plate that we have to make choices about how we spend our time, and it's easy to get bogged down in tasks of lesser importance. Asking "How am I moving things forward today?" keeps you focused on the most important tasks that actually advance your business and are the most valuable. --Leah Neaderthal, FamilyBridge
11. What is the most important thing for me to do today?
It's rarely the easiest task or the thing that's right in front of me. Tackling the most important task first helps me avoid busywork and instead use my time to further my company's goals. --Peter Baumgartner, Lincoln Loop
12. What isn't working?
It might be unorthodox, but I keep a list of what is the most crappy in my business at the moment. What makes customers unhappy, doesn't work right, or looks bad? Making the worst thing OK often has a higher impact than making an OK thing good. --Jessica Richman, UBiome
13. What matters to my customer?
Your customers are both internal and external. If you continually challenge yourself to get into the minds of your customers and employees, on the basis of current events and future needs, you can prioritize your day. Assuming you know where you want to take the business, you can adapt your communication to what resonates best with current events to get support for where you want to go. --Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive