Time Flies!

In early May, I will be speaking at the SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit about the opportunities and challenges that innovators and entrepreneurs face.  And, one of my topics will be that time flies!!  Bringing innovation into educational markets is hard work, and there is way more to do than there are hours in the day.

This past month, I have created pieces of my business plan, financial projections, a website, overviews of the company, and a concept video. I have traveled nearly half the time meeting customers, partners, advisors, investors, developers and my team. I have worn more hats than I can imagine.  I haven’t managed to cross everything off my list in months.  And, Carrieonfire.com has suffered from this flight of time!

Here is what I do when time is flying (and spinning out of control!):

  • Focus on the 2-3 critical success factors for your company today, and give yourself milestones with due dates for these priorities.  For me, it’s setting up pilots and seed funding.  I know what I need to accomplish and when.
  • Take things off your list.  You can’t do everything, but it is better to delegate or postpone than to regret that you failed to complete something critical. Jim Collins, one of my favorite leadership gurus, argues that we all need a “stop-doing” list, because we have too many projects and initiatives.  Isn’t that the truth!
  • Build a team that is GREAT and brings the expertise, skills and passion for things that aren’t your forte.  If you don’t have a lot of money to hire people (most of us don’t), your team can include partners, advisors, potential and current vendors, and friends and family.
  • Take a day off every week.  Starting a company is grueling work, and you need to get away from it or you will burn out. About 10 years ago, I learned this the hard way when I landed in the hospital and spent 3 months recovering my health.  Even when I am swamped, I try to take off one day a week.  And, I find time every day to clear my head.  I exercise or practice yoga nearly every day, and I take walks with my dog, Luna.
  • Give yourself a break when you fail or fall behind.  You are only human.  And, you know that every successful entrepreneur encounters many pitfalls along the way.  You will be a lot less stressed and more effective if you  acknowledge your failure to get something done or that big SNAFU and let it go so that you can move on.

Get Some Sleep!

I do some of my best thinking in the early morning. Sometimes, I wake up at 3 am, and these riffs play in my head. I worry about that difficult phone call coming up, or some stressful situation. Have you noticed that these worries are never as big as they seem in the wee hours?

Sometimes, I wake up with a great idea. I learned that the best thing to do is to grab the little notebook I keep nearby and write it down. This allows me to capture that great idea or to release that worry.  And, then I can go back to sleep!

Sleep is also really important for entrepreneurs. Starting a company is hard work. I am tired at the end of the day, and I need a good night of rest to prepare me for the next day.

So many of us entrepreneurs have trouble sleeping that I wanted to spend a little time on this.  Here is the Mayo Clinic’s good advice, Seven Steps To Better Sleep. And, this is a fun little Inc. magazine article, 11 Ways To Sleep Better At Night, on the things that entrepreneurs need to let go in order to sleep at night.

Years ago, I learned this little meditation for sleeping.  It it a little out there (in the yogic sense) but I promise it works:

  • Sit in a comfortable and warm place, on a mat or pillow, cross legged, with a straight spine.
  • Put your hands in your lap, right hand resting over the left, and make sure your shoulders and face and hands are relaxed
  • Breathe in through your nose deeply, in four parts, rather slowly. In your mind, as you take the four partial breaths, think SA-TA-NA-MA. Do this 4 times, so that you breathe in with 16 partial breaths.
  • Then you will hold the breath for 16 counts, at the same slowish pace you inhales the four-part breath, saying SA-TA-NA-MA to yourself 4x
  • As you exhale, say to yourself, WAHAY GURU.

The yogis tell you to do this for 3 or 6 or 11 or 31 minutes. To me, it doesn’t matter how long, just practice this for a bit each night as you are getting ready for bed, and you will sleep better!