As an entrepreneur, your mindset—the mentality you bring to your work and life—is the most important factor in staying productive, working smart, and reaching your goals. Here’s a collection of tips I’ve pulled together from my decade-plus of experience that will help you create an unbeatable entrepreneur’s mindset, organized in seven different categories:
- Managing Time and Focus
- Work-Life Balance
- Learning from Mistakes and Failures
- Gratitude and Humility
[Disclosure: Some of the links in this chapter are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking the link, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.]
Here we go!
If you want to succeed, you have to know what you’re trying to achieve first—you need to have goals to work toward. But you need to set up those goals in the right way, and then you need to set yourself up to take the right actions each day that will lead to success with your goals. Sound like a lot? Don’t worry—let’s break down what you need to do to knock it out of the park with your goals.
Tip: Set Great (S.M.A.R.T.) Goals
You need goals if you want to succeed. But a lot of people think of goals like a vision: Here’s where I want to be. But that doesn’t give you enough to work with if you actually want to reach that goal.
Instead, you need to set your goals in a way that maximizes your chances of actually achieving them. How do you do that? By creating what we call S.M.A.R.T. goals. Each letter in S.M.A.R.T. stands for an element of your goal that makes it much more likely you’ll be able to achieve it. Here’s what it means:
- Specific – targets a specific area for improvement
- Measurable – quantifies the progress you’ll make
- Achievable – is something you can realistically achieve
- Relevant – aligns with your vision of where you want to be in business and life
- Time-bound – specifies when the result(s) should be achieved
When you can nail those five criteria, that’s where the real magic can start to happen with your goals. So instead of just saying, “I want to build a passive income business next year,” you need to dial in exactly what you’re going to achieve and when. A better version of that goal might be, “I want to start making an extra $3,000 a month by August of next year by creating and launching an online course.”
Tip: Take Bite-Sized Chunks Out of Your Goals
Once you’ve set your S.M.A.R.T. goals, you need to figure out how to, you know, actually reach them. This means working backward from the goal itself and figuring out what you need to do each day to get to the goal. It’s the whole idea that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step—and it’s accomplished by stacking up those single steps until they turn into miles. When you make your goal-related actions bite-sized, you make it possible to achieve your goal without being overwhelmed. And you will stay motivated and excited as you make progress toward your goal—even if it’s small—each day.
Tip: Create Goal-Supporting Habits
When you decide to take the small actions each day that will get to your goal, you need to make it as easy as possible to perform those actions each day. Simply put, the conditions need to be right. If your goal is to write a 50,000-page book, you might decide that you’re going to write 200 words a day until you reach that magic number. But what happens if every time you sit down to write, you find yourself distracted by Facebook, or the TV, or your kids? You need to tweak your environment so you can create a productive daily writing habit—which could mean writing when the kids are in bed or at school, blocking access to Facebook, and not having the TV nearby.
It’s not enough to know what those daily actions are that will get you to your goal. You need to create the conditions that will make you successful with those actions each day.
Tip: Find People to Hold You Accountable
Having accountability is huge when you’re trying to reach a goal, and leaning on other people who can hold your feet to the fire is one of the best strategies for success. When we’re only relying on ourselves for accountability, it can be easy to justify not hitting the targets we set. But when it’s someone else asking you why you didn’t sit down to write your 200 words today, it’s harder to dodge. So share your goals with people who are close to you and who also care about your success, and ask them to check in with you from time to time. Just knowing that they’re keeping track of your progress will give you the extra push you need to keep going.
2. Managing Time and Focus
Time. You only have so much of it in a day, so how do you make the best use of it? It’s not just a matter of maximizing the hours you have available to work on the things you need to—it’s also about the level of focus you can bring when you sit down to work. Here are some tips to help you get more time in the day and improve how you use that time.
Tip: Know When You Work Best (and Don’t)
Most of us hopefully know when we’re most productive, whether it’s first thing in the morning, or late at night after everyone else has gone to bed. So find your “productivity time zone,” and lean into it. You should also take note of the times when you are at your least productive each day. We often feel like we should be working even when our brains and bodies just aren’t feeling it, but when we act on that impulse, we can end up spinning our wheels. Instead of forcing anything, intentionally allow yourself to decompress and disconnect during those times.
Tip: Don’t Waste Your Dead Time
Maybe it’s your commute to work, or the time spent in the shower each morning. Can you upgrade your time spent during these “dead” periods? One of my favorite ways to do so is by listening to audiobooks or podcasts related to business or entrepreneurship. Try it out—you might learn something new, or at least head into the rest of your day a little more inspired.
Tip: Sacrifice Something
Once you’ve figured out the times of day when you work best (and don’t) and started to take advantage of your dead time, you might start to feel like you’re running out of ways to create more time for yourself. This is when you need to take a hard look at your daily habits and patterns to see where you’re spending your time and understand what’s getting in the way of being more productive. For instance, how much time are you spending on your phone checking Instagram or email instead of focusing on work? An app like Moment or the built-in Screen Time in iOS can tell you how much time you’re actually spending staring at your mobile screen when you could be building your business.
Tip: Find Ways to Work More Efficiently
Once you’ve squeaked back as much time as possible each day, it’s all about how you use the time you have. Nir Eyal, the author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, shares four powerful strategies to help us get around potential distractions and focus on what’s important:
- Master our internal triggers like stress, anxiety, uncertainty, or fatigue, which can drive us to distraction as we try to escape them.
- Make time for traction, the opposite of distraction. Traction includes the things we do with intent, that pull us toward what we want in life.
- Hack back external triggers like smartphone notifications that can distract us from the things we should be working on.
- Make pacts or pre-commitments that make it harder to become distracted from the things we should be doing (like turning off your internet router at 10 p.m. each night so you have to get your work done before then).
You can also explore other ways to become more efficient with the time you have available. Two of my favorite strategies are just-in-time learning and speed reading.
There’s so much content out there for us to consume, more than we could ever get through—even if you only count the content that’s potentially beneficial to the growth of our businesses! Just-in-time learning is all about only consuming the content that’s going to help you reach your current goals and carry out your current tasks. When you come across a blog post, podcast, or video that looks really interesting but isn’t related to what you’re working on right now, you can file it away for later reading or listening when it’s time to actually take action on things related to that content. Doing this can help eliminate the fear of missing out (FOMO) you might otherwise experience!
Another of my favorite methods for maximizing my efficiency is speed reading. When you can shave time (even seconds) off of repetitive tasks, over time those tiny savings add up. And since reading is something most of us probably do at least a little each day, by learning to read a little faster, we can make huge gains in productivity over time. You can read more about the speed reading approach I use in chapter 3.
Tip: Practice Meditation
As an entrepreneur, it’s super important to have downtime. But sometimes it’s hard to switch off your work brain and really take advantage of the time you should be spending connecting with your family or just decompressing.
I used to be skeptical of meditation, but I’ve come around. In fact, it’s changed my life. It’s improved my focus and well-being, and it’s altered my workday productivity radically. I started meditating using an app called Headspace, which is a great way to dip your toes into meditation. Eventually, I moved on to the Muse system, which includes an app and a specially designed headband that tracks your brainwaves and gives you real-time biofeedback as you’re meditating so you know when you’re in a calmer or more active state of mind.
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These three powerful strategies are used by successful entrepreneurs to approach each day ready to tackle the challenges of running a business.
3. Work-Life Balance
We all need balance in our lives, but the life of an entrepreneur can be especially hard to balance. It’s important to have strategies for juggling everything and maintaining your sanity when you’re trying to build a business alongside the rest of life’s demands.
Tip: Have a Schedule
Many entrepreneurs work from home, and if that describes you, then it’s hard to emphasize this enough: you need to have a set work schedule. This means getting started with work at the same time each day, and closing up shop at the same time as well. Yes, even if you work from home. It may feel artificial at first, but over time you’ll appreciate creating a separation between work time and family time or downtime. And yes, there are going to be times when you need to work “overtime” to get something done—like a new product launch—but hopefully that’s the exception rather than the rule. (And if that describes most days for you, then check out my tips above on improving your time management and and focus.)
I also recommend getting dressed for work, even if you never leave the house.
Tip: Separate Work Physically
If you work from home, it’s really important to have some physical separation between your work and personal life. This means having a separate space where only work gets done. Even if you can’t dedicate an entire room of your house for an office, find a space where you can set up a little work station. If possible, it’s also helpful to have separate computers for work and personal use. Along with having a set work schedule, this will help you get into work mode at the beginning of the day, and disconnect when it’s time to call it a day.
Tip: Plan, Plan, Plan
There’s no magic formula or easy answer to make work and life balance perfectly. You have to figure out a lot of it as you go. But no matter what, planning ahead is still crucial when it comes to your business.
If you don’t know what’s going to happen and when, you’re going to run into trouble. Your work will suffer, and so will your sanity.
That’s why it’s crucial to have a calendar where you map out your work tasks, meetings, and deadlines, along with what’s happening in your personal life. This lets you see the picture of where you need to spend your time so you know when you’re going to be busy, when you’re going to have less to do, and how to best balance things so you can give adequate attention to both your business and your health/family/hobbies/friends.
Motivation. It can come and go, and sometimes it’s gone when you need it the most. Thankfully, there are many ways—more than you probably realize!—to increase your ability to stay motivated so you can achieve your goals.
Tip: Find the Little Things That Inspire You
When you’re trying to build a business, motivation is a valuable resource that can sometimes be in short supply when you need it the most. Thankfully, sources of motivation can take many forms. One great strategy is to find the simple things that motivate you, and stick them in your back pocket for when the going gets tough.
Maybe it’s seeing what other successful people are doing and striving to be like them. Maybe it’s the desire to build a better financial future for your family. Maybe it’s serving others and helping them improve their own lives. Maybe it’s appreciating what you’ve got and the privileges you already enjoy in life. Maybe it’s the time you’ll have to spend with your family and friends once you have more passive income coming in. Maybe it’s an inspirational quote that always makes you feel like anything’s possible. And yeah, maybe it’s the money!
Whatever it is, find what motivates you, and tap into it when you’re feeling down on yourself.
Tip: Sidestep Self-Defeating Thoughts
We’ve all been there with the defeating self-talk. It can be so hard to manage the little gremlins in our head that can sap our motivation. Here are some of the most common self-defeating thoughts entrepreneurs encounter—and what to do about them.
- “I’m not getting anywhere.” If you’re putting in a ton of work, but it doesn’t feel like anything is getting done, maybe you’re biting off more than you can chew. Make sure you’ve broken your goals into bite-sized chunks, and try to appreciate the progress you make each day, even if it seems like a small amount. Chances are good you’re making more progress than you think.
- “I don’t know what to do next.” If you have a vision, but no clear path of how to get there, it can kill your motivation. Try getting things out of your head and writing them down on paper so you can sort through the mental “junk.” Like in the bullet above, if your goal seems overwhelming, break things down into mini-tasks until it feels more manageable. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from people who have accomplished what you’re trying to do.
- “I don’t care anymore. Why bother?” This is where finding your best “go-to” sources of motivation comes in handy, to jump-start you back into action. It can help to remind yourself why you got started on this path in the first place. And when all else fails, you might just be overwhelmed and need a break.
- “Maybe my idea isn’t so great after all.” It’s easy to believe that that all the work you’re doing now will ultimately be for nothing. It happens to everyone. The biggest key is to think positive; it may seem cliché, but it’s true.
- “That person is doing something similar already, and it’s way better.” Guess what? The fact that someone else is succeeding at what you’re doing means that there’s a market for what they’re offering! Instead of giving up and finding something else, look at how you can do what they’re doing but do it even better. How can you differentiate your business or product by adding your own unique touch to it?
Tip: Approach Your Projects the Right Way
To stay motivated, it’s also super helpful to approach your work projects in a smart way.
First, don’t give yourself any “outs.” If you go into a new project thinking you can always fall back on a backup idea if the current one doesn’t work out, then you’re not going to put as much urgency. And when things start to feel challenging, you might find yourself backing off and thinking about your other options instead of pressing forward to make the idea work.
Next, if you have a big idea for a product or service, pre-sell your idea to your target customers so they can start using and testing a version of it early on. This lets you build a “minimum viable product” to see if it’s something people want. If it is, great! You can keep building it. But if you try to build the whole thing first, before you even know if it’s something people want, you might find yourself running out of steam.
Tip: Avoid the Post-Vacation Blues
Difficulty getting back into work mode after a vacation (or even a long weekend) is a real thing. The good news is that just knowing that it might happen can help you manage it better. The more you can anticipate and plan ahead for the possibility of post-vacation blues, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with it or even avoid it.
Before you go on vacation, leave yourself something exciting, but not too daunting, to do when you get back. Small wins and just getting started can go a long way to get you back on track. Just don’t leave yourself too much to do when you get back. That can backfire and leave you even less motivated. You might find it also helps to take an extra “buffer” day before getting back into work, especially if you’ve traveled a long way and have to deal with jet lag. Or it might be more helpful to jump right back in. It’s all about what works for you, so experiment until you figure out a smart approach.
Tip: Remember Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing
When you’re feeling like quitting, try to consciously remember the underlying reason you’ve put yourself in this situation in the first place. This can be tough to do, especially if you’re frustrated, or in pain. But, sometimes all it takes is a conscious effort of just remembering why we’re there to put it all back into perspective and keep us going.
Tip: Tell Someone What You’re Going to Do
Want to achieve something? Tell a friend what you’re planning to do, and when you’re going to get it done. By simply announcing what you plan to do next, you’ll feel more of an obligation to follow through. And you’ll have someone who can help hold you accountable if you don’t. If you fail at getting it done, you won’t just be letting yourself down—you’ll be risking the chance that your friend will think less of you. And that can give you the extra bit of motivation you need.
Tip: Find People with Similar Goals
When you’re with other people who want the same thing you do, giving up is less likely to cross your mind. I’ve definitely found this to be true, whether it’s because I don’t want to let those people down, or because I’m competitive and don’t want them to get ahead of me. Whatever it is, it works. It’s a lot easier to go to the gym, stay on a diet, or build an online business if someone else is doing it with you. That’s what the next section of tips is all about.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Networking and building relationships is crucial if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur. Here are my three biggest tips for finding the people who can help you on your journey.
Tip: Find a Mastermind Group
A mastermind group is just a fancy term for a group of people with a common goal who meet (in person, on the phone, via Zoom, chatrooms, meeting software, etc.) to share and learn to improve what they do. Think of it as a show and tell (and ask) for highly motivated individuals who want to get things done.
I consider mastermind groups absolutely necessary to anyone’s success as an entrepreneur. The benefits are huge: problem-solving, accountability, and exposure to fresh ideas about your business, all of which can help you get unstuck and find new ways forward.
Tip: Find a Mentor
A mentor can be an incredible resource to accelerate your business success. If you have the chance to find a mentor, somebody who can guide you, check in with you, and hold you accountable along the way, then do it. A good mentor can give you a glimpse of the potential road ahead, share tips and strategies, and kick you in the butt when you need it, especially if you’re feeling down or you don’t know what to do next.
Tip: Go to Conferences
Conferences are one of the best places to meet and network with other entrepreneurs, learn new things that will take your business forward, and to have fun and get inspired. Networking can be a frightening idea for many people, but if you just think of it as having conversations with people, it can feel a lot less scary. Every time something cool has happened in my business, it’s always been a result of someone I’ve connected with, so I go out of my way to network with others whenever I attend a conference.
6. Learning from Mistakes and Failures
As humans, we’re conditioned to look at mistakes and failures as, well, bad things. But the truth is that they can be excellent opportunities to learn and grow.
Tip: Embrace Your Failures
The first tip is to know that you’re going to fail. You won’t always know how you’re going to fail, but it’s going to happen no matter what, so be open to it and embrace it when it happens. “Failure is an option” is a phrase that was used often by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of MythBusters. I love that show, and I love this philosophy. That is, after all, what science and experimentation is all about, and what life is all about.
Without mistakes, we don’t learn and adjust the next time around. Whenever we fail at something, life is teaching us a lesson. The difference between those who are successful in life and those who are not is that the successful ones learn from their failures and follow those lessons.
Without the freedom to fail, you’re cutting yourself short. Remember that the best and most successful people out there have most definitely failed at one point or another—some of them at many points! If they can fail, then you can—and should—as well.
Plus, being willing to fail helps keep you grounded. It reminds you that everyone has flaws and struggles sometimes, and that no one is better than anyone else—something that’s really important to remember as you become more successful.
Tip: Don’t Mind the Haters
If you’re doing business online using your own name and face (and you should if you want to build successful relationships with your audience) you’re going to encounter negative comments and even downright troll-like behavior. It’s just part of the territory, and you’ll have to decide how you’re going to respond (or not) when it happens to you.
If you stumbled across a negative comment on one of your YouTube videos, a lousy review of your new book, or someone dissing you on another website, how would you react? It’s easy to blow things out of proportion when we get negative feedback, even if it’s way outnumbered by the positive comments. Instead of overreacting and crawling into a hole, I suggest you do one of two things when people begin to hate on you for whatever reason:
- Brush it off, and let it go.
- Use the situation to your advantage.
In almost all cases, I suggest using the first option: ignore the haters. The second option is a little trickier, and I talk about it in more depth in chapter 7.
Tip: Focus on What Is Working
Just like we’re drawn to negative comments, even if they’re a drop in the bucket compared to the praise, we’re naturally attracted to what’s not working in our business. We don’t have enough followers! We’re not profitable yet! Our logo sucks!
That’s why it’s so important to spend time focusing on what is working in your business, because there’s probably a lot that’s going right! Unfortunately, the stuff that’s going well tends to fade into the background hum of the business, and it goes underappreciated as a result. Bring the stuff that’s going well to the forefront from time to time, and give yourself a pat on the back! Then try to understand why it’s going well. You might find that a solution for something you’re trying to improve has to do with the things that are already going well.
Tip: Use Your Fear as Fuel
When you’re trying to build a successful business, falling into a comfortable routine can stop you from ever seeing the life-changing results you’re really going for.
On the flipside, a little uncertainty and fear can be a really powerful thing. Fear and uncertainty are things we typically try to avoid, but they were important ingredients in my success, and in a lot of other people’s success stories too. So instead of allowing fear to hold you back, use your fear as fuel to take the bold actions you need to move your business forward. Use your fear—of failure, of uncertainty, of the inevitable haters—and turn it into your fuel for success.
7. Gratitude and Humility
When you’re in the day-to-day grind of your business, it can be hard to remember to find time to practice gratitude for what you already have. It can also be challenging to stay humble as you become more successful and people start looking up to you. But gratitude and humility are two absolutely essential qualities for every entrepreneur, which is why you should be focused on cultivating them from the very start.
Tip: Practice Gratitude
Gratitude should be one of your most cherished qualities as an entrepreneur. A regular and consistent reflection on what we’re thankful for helps us think positively about where we are and to keep moving forward. That’s why I encourage all of us to practice gratitude on the regular, and even try to put it on the schedule. I like to write in my Five-Minute Journal every morning and evening, but you don’t need a journal to practice being grateful: just set aside some time each day to remember what’s going well in your life and what you’re thankful for.
Tip: Practice Humility
No matter what you do, fame and fortune, or even the possibility of fame and fortune, can be a dangerous part of your journey. Our ego can be a huge obstacle to success and fulfillment, so it’s super important to remain humble. Here are four ways to stay on track and not let success go to your head.
1. Solicit Support and Criticism from Others
I talked about this in chapter 6, but you can’t go it alone. Over my journey, I’ve gotten amazing support from my audience, mastermind groups, other entrepreneurs, friends, and family. You won’t succeed if you try to do everything yourself.
The people in your life can also help you stay grounded by telling you when something is on the wrong track. To build and maintain trust and credibility with your audience or customers, and the relationship that comes with it, you need to be open to constructive criticism. Criticism that comes from a place of respect and honesty, whether it’s from your audience, your mastermind group, your spouse, or someone else you trust, can help you improve and stay grounded at the same time.
2. Remember Your Roots
Remembering where you came from is really important in staying humble. Recounting my origin story reminds me of the journey I’ve taken, and that it wasn’t always like this. Thinking about how difficult things were when I was laid off and started my business brings me back down to earth and reminds me that many people have gone through or are currently going through a similar journey.
I’m very fortunate that I get invited as a guest on so many great podcasts. A lot of times the host will say, “I want to share your origin story with my audience, but I know you’ve told it a thousand times.” But I never mind telling it again because it reminds me of how far I’ve come. It reminds me that it’s not been easy, and that obstacles and challenges are part of the process.
So remember and reflect on your origin story, and try to share it as often as possible. It will help remind you just how far you’ve come, and it’ll keep you humble as you move forward.
3. Remember That Failure Is an Option
As we talked about earlier in this chapter, being willing to fail and make mistakes helps keep us grounded. Nobody is perfect, so get out there, be courageous in your journey, and be willing to fail!
4. Give Your Audience the Attention It Deserves
I’ve been so grateful to have had the opportunity to impact others’ lives in a positive way through my businesses. Every so often I’ll have people come up to me at a conference or send me a note online telling me about how I’ve helped them. It’s really flattering to get that kind of attention, and it reminds me that my actions have an impact. So when someone recognizes me and comes up to me, I make sure to give them my full respect and attention. It’s a small thing, but it means a lot.
When you get to a point in your business where you’re getting more attention and experiencing those kinds of moments with people, remember that you’re no better than them—you’re just a little further along in your journey. You’re just someone who has taken the action necessary to get to where you’re at today, and your job is to help others take that same action. Sharing your time and attention generously and with them is a great way to give back and stay grounded at the same time.
You’ve Got the Tips—Now Get the Tools
I hope these tips have been helpful for you! Above all, remember that you were meant for this journey, and you have what it takes—with a little help—to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself and create a business you love.
Every entrepreneur needs a toolkit of resources that will help them do and be their best. So before we go, I have some great tools to share with you that will help you improve your productivity, focus, time management, and much more.