5 Lessons I Learned My First Year in Business

August 25, 2015
Last year I quit my job and started my own company. The day after I quit, I flew to Austin, Texas with my boyfriend. He was going for a business conference. I was tagging along because I could work from wherever. I was living the dream for the next two weeks: By day I worked poolside launching my company. By night I attended networking events and beautiful dinners with successful business people. When I got back home, the dream was still very real, later came the burnout. As I've been in business for a year now, I've been reflecting on what I've learnt and the lifestyle changes that I've made. These are the biggest lessons I've learnt.

1. Be Selfish
Every morning I would wake up, check all my business social media feeds, while waiting for my pot of tea to brew. Tea in hand I would sit down at my desk in my pajamas and work until I was so hungry, I couldn't see straight. This led to poor food choices and zero energy. I would skip my evening workout in lieu of sitting on the couch, working on my laptop again. Your business should not come first. You come first. You can't be successful in business if your physical and mental health is failing. Now my mornings look like this: wake up, go for a walk while listening to a podcast, shower and get dressed, eat breakfast and journal. Only after my morning routine is complete, I'm allowed to start working. Since I've started doing this, I am much more equipped to handle anything that comes my way.

2. Ignore Your Inbox
I used to have my email open all day. The minute an email would come in, I would respond immediately. A blog post that I could have finished in 30 minutes, soon turned into a two hour chore because of all the interruptions. I was so worried about my customers judging an untimely response that my productivity plummeted. It is now a rule that I only check my email once a day, at the end of the day. I use the auto-responder to let my customers know that I will respond within 1 business day (no weekends) and thank them for writing to me. Since I started doing this, I'm able to accomplish more in a day. I'm still able to keep my customers happy.

3. Set Office Hours
I used to work all day, every day -- weekends included. Then I would jolt awake in the middle of the night, anxiety ridden because I forgot to do A, B, C, D and E or I would start scrutinizing my Facebook ad strategy. I had to set boundaries, which translated to office hours. The latest I'm allowed to work is 5PM and I take off on weekends. After that no more laptops or iPads. If I have a stray idea it goes into my 'brain dump' notebook and I address it at later time.

4. 86 List Anxiety
You don't need to finish every single thing every day. As an entrepreneur, the "to do list" will never end. You have to get comfortable with that. I used to mentally beat myself up for not getting enough done at the end of the day. I tried not having a to do list after reading a couple articles on the subject, it did not go well. The trick to not having list anxiety is prioritizing what must get done that day. I work on those things that must get done and with the remaining time that I was left, I give myself 1 hour to work on ongoing projects. For example, yesterday my "Must Do Today" consisted of writing a blog for Huffington Post, editing a YouTube video and redesigning an advert campaign. After that was completed, I spent 1 hour (3 hours total) styling a photoshoot, designing an invitation and writing a marketing plan. I finished my day with 30 minutes of emails.

5. Style Your Space
It doesn't matter if you work at the kitchen table or if you're lucky enough to have an entire office. Your work space should make you smile. I spent the year working in our guest room. It was an all white after-thought and my lack of organization was shameful. I realized I wanted to work in a space that inspired me. I turned the guest bed into a couch (day beds rock), painted my desk, added plants, books, color and organized EVERYTHING. My office is still a work in progress, but it's so much more relaxing and inspiring. I can't wait to sit down at my desk every day. If you don't have a dedicated office, put together a mobile office. Pick a beautiful tray and place items that inspire you on it: your favorite candle, an air plant, a picture of your family and a pretty crystal paper weight. When you sit down at the kitchen table, you can take your tray and laptop, light that candle and get working with a smile on your face.

I hope you can learn from my mistakes, so you don't wear yourself out like I did. Being an entrepreneur is an exciting learning process. It's easy equally get caught up in the excitement and the challenges. Remember: be selfish, ignore your inbox, set office hours, 86 your list and style your space.

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