How To Survive Your Own Business

27 September 2010, by A. Cedilla

If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s frighteningly easy to slip into the “one-man band” mind-set without noticing it, especially if you do run a one-man business. You got into it, you built it, you’re running it — of course you’ll feel it’s all on you.

It’s your baby, your show. No one knows it like you do. You’re the CEO, CFO, secretary, delivery man, technical support and IT, food-service provider and maintenance.

With so many roles to fill, if you don’t take precautions you will burn yourself out. What can you do to help yourself and survive your own business?

Know your priorities and build strong routines around and under them. Breaking things down into manageable chunks, this boils down to:

  1. Knowing your priorities.
  2. Establishing a strong routine.
  3. Building strong boundaries and enforcing them: two helpful articles explain the value of limits and how respecting them can help you.

What’s important to you?
When you prioritize, you assign things a level of importance and deal with them according to that level. At this point you probably know about the quadrant formed by importance and urgency: important and urgent, important and not (so) urgent, and vice versa.

Side note: We have articles on time-management, visions and goals, and breaking things down and putting the pieces together. You might want to take a look.

What we’re stressing here is finding out the underlying foundation of your priorities. What are they for?

  • What is success for your business for? Money. What is the money for? Stuff. What stuff? Think about it.
  • What is your exercise program for? Pain management? Looking good? Health to carry you into your future?
  • What are good community relations for? A good reputation? Friends?

When you’re stuck on the, like, duh, obvious answer, don’t give up. Keep digging. Ask yourself: What’s the point?


Knowing your priorities keeps you aware. Living around them keeps you centered. When you slip, no two ways about it, things get pushed to the side. Important things. Vital, even. Vita, from the Latin for ‘life’. You get lost in work and somehow the important things in life get pushed to the back. You miss out on the stuff that matters to you.

It’s a painful thing to realize that your success does not lie in a zero-inbox state, or perfectly-filled out forms. It lies in knowing what you want and knowing that you’re choosing to do now what you need to get the most out of your life.

Build strong routines. A routine is defined as “a course of normative, standardized actions or procedures that are followed regularly, often repetitiously.”

Routines grows organically, out of need, availability and impulse. Routines evolve around regular event in your daily life, from going to work, or prepping your food (or dialing for it), and a host of other activities: how often you clean up the kitchen, how you do laundry, or spend your weekends, what you watch and when you watch it, or the route you use to go to work, and so forth.

Think of a strong routine in this sense as a support structure, something underlying things, linking through and through-out events, like the bones of a house, or rebar-enforced concrete.

In case of emergency, a well-designed routine is supposed to be strong enough to bear the extra load and flexible enough to carry you through tough times.

In regular times, a routine gives a rhythm to your life– a respite in the 24/7 rush of always-connected, always-on tech. It’s Saturday morning and the laundry’s done, and the living room too, so you’re good, for example. In-laws come calling suddenly, and you don’t have to clean up (much) since you nibble away at the clutter every day. See?

Stuff like that helps clear up little irritants before they grow and gives you room to move and breathe easier. Daily accounting, even in small dribs and drabs. Reconciling statements. Following up on leads. Making a quota for customer email responses. Small bites of daily issues are easier to deal with than huge, forced gulps.

You also need to consider the following internal supports in your routines. In terms of energy use and wise expenditure, how do you generate and sustain your personal energy? How can you deal with energy drains? Remember, it’s a marathon, not a race.

  • Decompress. Get out of the office, connect with family and your happy activities. Ever studied piano, violin or guitar, or wanted to play an instrument? Why don’t you brush up on rusty skills or take lessons? There are even music lessons online if your know where to look.
  • Get away from work. Devise an overall plan with several built-in options that will help you walk away and spend time thinking about or doing non-work related activities. Let your cup refill, don’t drain yourself trying to handle everything.

Common complaints about routine:
Dull, boring. The same old shtick, hah. You’d be surprised at how much dull and boring can be a life-saver. Too much drama? Blandness tamps the spice down and leaves you room to buzz out and unwind.

For example: cleaning out outdated possessions and junk mail is a boring chore, but doing so on a regular basis keeps the clutter down and instills discipline. Plus, mindless tasks lets your hands get busy and your body moving while your mind is free to do other things.

Mindless. When you’re too tired to think but you still need to get going, or really can’t stop, mindless drone-work can help you zen out, or leave your mind empty for new ideas to slip in and gently bubble on your mental back-burner.

Safe. And when did “safe” in this sense become a bad thing? Addiction to drama and excitement just leaves you wanting more, or leaves you with a bad aftertaste in your mouth. Safety is security, reliability. Something you trust will be there for you when you’re too tired to think. Safe means no worries. Safe means little or no stress. Sheesh.


A little more on boundaries:

  • “Don’t tread on me.”
  • “Good fences make good neighbors.”
  • “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Make good boundaries. Boundaries support routines, and vice-versa. The sayings you just read illustrate the different aspects of safety that having strong boundaries give you. Hard limits you won’t stand for, giving you enough room to move and ‘play well’ with others, keeping things in their proper place. There’s a lot to said for knowing your limits.

The common issue with setting limits is not in stating them but their enforcement, especially if you set them for yourself.

“Ok, I’ll only check my email for fifteen minutes, tops. No Facebook or tweeting.”

And then what happens? You make excuses, and the crack between self-credibility and self-discipline widens to let in, “Just a peek, couldn’t hurt, ten seconds, tops. I swear.” and then, “Ooh.”

What’s left is a gaping hole in your schedule and a mounting build-up of backed-up tasks, not to mention a weakened belief in your willpower.

Knowledge and self-awareness, plus time-management, are invaluable assets when it comes to making a go out of any undertaking, whether it’s running a business or living your life. And like with any skill, the more you practice, the better you get. So practice every day, in consistent, small actions, and you’ll have succeeded in making the most of yourself, and surviving your business.

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