Look up: Draw a line between your day-to-day work and your goals

There are a lot of things you can be doing right now. We’re all busy, busy, busy. All the time. But what if I told you that all of the time you’re spending doing those things you’re doing could be a completely waste?

Many of us live out of a to-do list, or a task manager. We wake up, check our email and then see what we have to do for the day. And from that moment, we’re playing a game of catch up. Emails need to be replied to. Projects need to be completed. Meetings need to be held. And if you’re pointed in the right direction that all works beautifully. There’s nothing to say that emails, projects or meetings are inherently unproductive.

But if you don’t look up every once in a while that entire system falls apart, and hours, days or even years can be wasted. So what does it mean to “look up”?

Looking up means drawing a line between those big hairy audacious goals and your day-to-day work.

If you are working toward something meaningful, your goals are likely to require a lot of time and effort. Looking up means drawing a line between those big hairy audacious goals and your day-to-day work. It means checking that your daily to-do list maps to monthly goals, which map to even larger yearly goals. In short, it means knowing where you are going at all times and always being able to answer the question “Why am I doing this?”

In a world of endless email and mind-numbing noise, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds. In fact, it’s easy to work long hours and late nights when you’re in the habit. Challenging yourself enough to ask the important questions is hard. Asking “why” is hard.

If you can’t answer why you’re working on that thing you put off momentarily to read this article, here’s my advice: Put that to-do list aside tomorrow. Call in sick. And then go figure out if the thing you’re working on matters in the first place, or if you’re marching aimlessly towards inbox zero. The goal isn’t to clear your inbox or cross off that final to-do; It’s to know where you’re going and then get there.

Checks and Imbalances in the Entrepreneurial Mind (Comic)

#entrepreneurfail Checks and Imbalances

The entrepreneurial mind often skews to idealism.

Pull out those rose-colored glasses. Optimism signals confidence, abilities, perseverance and positive outcomes. These are clearly the traits startup founders need to get their first customers, funding or boost employee morale. Also, in some situations, confidence even trumps accuracy.  Sounds great doesn’t it? I can almost hear the applause for the aspiring “wantrepreneurs” out there.

Often someone who is harshly realistic suppresses the effort to realize a lofty goal, compared to someone who is foolishly optimistic. Take this example:

The optimistic entrepreneur (as foolish as they may be) may aspire to have the highest revenue of any company in his industry this year. 

And the realistic entrepreneur, on the other hand will hope to barely break even this year. 

Guess what – the ridiculous optimist, while he/she may not reach the intended goal, he/she will probably achieve more than the realist, because he/she won’t limit himself in efforts when close to breaking even.

But wait…

However, consider the flip side though: there are two potential problems with having too much optimism. When harsh reality does kick in, the idealistic entrepreneur may not even realize it, or casually brush the truth aside, thus ignoring signs of potential failure. Secondly, there is such a thing as too much optimism when dealing with stakeholders. Potential customers and VCs can see right through that. The only person you are fooling is you!  This is an avoidable #entrepreneurfail, so be aware.

So, what should you do?

Firstly, you may have heard of Jim Collins’ BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). Create a BHAG as soon as you start your company and tweak as necessary.  And then find a mentor, advisor or a board of directors who will push you to do your best, yet keep you grounded in reality. 

So where does your scale tilt? Foolish optimist or harsh realist? Why?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

This was originally created by Kriti Vichare for #entrepreneurfail

New Year's Jeers: The Clueless Entrepreneur's Resolutions (Comic)

#entrepreneurfail New Years Jeers

It’s that time of the year again.

You’ll see a million posts and articles about what to do and how to make this new year more productive. In the midst of all the hacks to stay on track, we want to share with you what the clueless entrepreneur is planning for this year.

  1. Last year, the clueless entrepreneur was all talk, with nothing to back it up.  So this year, the clueless entrepreneur will be dialing it down a bit, changing the “fluff to stuff” ratio. Little does the clueless entrepreneur know…unless there is an actual foundation, hustling will accomplish nothing.
  2. The clueless entrepreneur wants to be the brand he/she has created yet doesn’t know what the customer actually wants. The clueless entrepreneur does not think about brands and products in the long-term.
  3. The clueless entrepreneur has seen that doing free work will result in sales.  The clueless entrepreneur blindly and indiscriminately does free work for anyone who needs it.
  4. The clueless entrepreneur loves the word ‘pivot’. Throwing it around sounds means he/she has arrived!
  5. “Faking it” is music to a clueless entrepreneur’s ears as he/she doesn’t have the substance to take their business to the next level.
A very happy new years to everyone! And cheers to no more clueless entrepreneurs!
What are your new years resolutions? Share them with us below? Have you made any of the mistakes that the clueless entrepreneur did?
Adapted from an #entrepreneurfail post from Jan 7, 2014.