This week we are talking about the mental side of being an entrepreneur and some of the challenges that brings. I've struggled with a bunch of these challenges myself and worked through them, and so I have some tips and tricks for you. I hope you will find this video helpful as you enter the world without the accountability or direction of a boss and without a set schedule handed to you.
One of the biggest things that I've struggled with, and that people I talk to also struggle with, is that when you're your own boss, nobody is holding you accountable to complete your work. Nobody is breathing down your neck, waiting for you to hand in that project or that report. No one is telling you where to be, what to do, or when to complete all your charts. All of this is now up to you. For the clinical stuff, that is easier. You have been through residency and various training programs, and you can probably complete the clinical items on your list with your eyes closed. But as far as the entrepreneurial side goes, it's a bit more difficult to manage. There's no more urgency behind all of your actions. Some have shared with me that merely building a website has taken over two years because they get distracted, or they don't prioritize it because it doesn't seem urgent (or fun) for them.
Another reason the entrepreneurial side is challenging is that you want things to be perfect or you don't want to attempt them at all. You are confident with medicine, but maybe you are not confident in executing the business side of things. This can intimidate some from completing the work. Additionally, the business side may not seem as urgent. You may feel led to write a book, for example, but there is no one holding a deadline over your head, so there is no urgency with it, and it gets put on the back burner. There are many reasons that your entrepreneurial endeavors get tossed to the wayside.
What I have discovered in my own journey as an entrepreneur is that you basically have to make yourself be your own boss. That may sound simple to some, but it is often very difficult for many. Thankfully, there are a lot of tricks and tips to help you with this; one of which is popularly called the "Pomodoro Method" or "Pomodoro Technique." You may have heard at some point during your studies that you should "study for 50 minutes, and then take a 10-minute break." While that can work and is backed with some scientific studies, it is not the only advice out there. Many have found greater success with The Pomodoro Method, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Cirillo is an Italian entrepreneur whose system of success is based on a 25-minute timer.
With The Pomodoro Technique, you work on one task and one task only during a 25 minute period, and you get a 5-minute break afterward. That sounds overly simplistic, right? It honestly is, but for those of you who are struggling with indecision or who are overwhelmed, it can be life-giving and incredibly productive.
Try writing all the things that you have to do on a list and selecting them one by one, executing each task by setting a 25-minute timer. This can be a kitchen egg timer or a timer on your phone, but note that physical timers have been shown to work better. If you can't stand the "tick, tick, tick" of the traditional kitchen timer, there are other options out there. Regardless of your timer type, most people are sure that they can devote 25 minutes to a task.
This method is called The Pomodoro Technique because the Italian developer, Cirillo, used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato, and tomato in Italian is "pomodoro." His simple, yet genius idea has worked for so many, including myself.
For my implementation of The Pomodoro Technique, I use a visual timer recommended by my sister-in-law, who is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist. This visual timer is helpful in that it shows how much time is remaining on the clock. At the end of your task, you can choose to make the timer "beep," or if you get into a flow or are in a groove and want to keep going, you can turn off the beep. Not only is this type of timer good for visualization and actually seeing how much time you have left, it's also good for doing the physical act of turning, which acts as a mental, psychological trick in your brain as if you are saying, "Yes, I'm committing to this task and this task only for the next 25 minutes, and once it's over, I get a 5-minute timed break." This simple implementation is one of the easiest things you can do.
The Pomodoro Technique is can be implemented for any type of task, but it is especially helpful for those tasks that aren't super pressing; those items on your list that don't have a near deadline, when no one's waiting for you to get back to them. We all struggle with these important-but-not-urgent tasks that require a bit of time. If you devote 25 minutes to it, you will be surprised at how far you can get.
Start by trying it for just once a week. With just the length of one episode of Friends, or more on-topic and current, an episode of Ted Lasso, you can potentially check an item off your list. Just set aside little mini-times of 25 minutes to spend on any one topic or task. Then, afterward, you can check your email, go for a little walk, or get a small snack. For those five "free" minutes you can adapt that time to whatever fits you. As I previously stated, you could also try the 50 on and 10 off strategy, which is what some experts have recommended. However, if you have a shorter attention span like most people do these days, or if you have a million things to do and cannot devote much time to your less-urgent tasks, starting with 25 minutes might be enough to jumpstart you and leave you feeling less overwhelmed.
The hardest part is getting started. You may be thinking, "I don't know where to start. I don’t feel like starting. Maybe I will just watch this YouTube video instead." I get it. I've been there. But if you can kind of just set your timer, and say, "I just need to do 15 minutes. I'll just make an outline, and then I'll take a quick break." This could mean positive reinforcement for you and your brain. It can potentially set you on a great trajectory.
As an entrepreneur, if you're struggling with a long-term project or short-term tasks, I suggest this Pomodoro Method. Below are some helpful links for you, including the link to the original book and Cirillo's website which has a ton of excellent information. It's free, and it doesn't take long to get started; you could probably do it today.
I hope that this small change of mindset and this potential new habit helps you with your entrepreneurial journey as you prioritize things that are important to cross off your list. Today, you can make your tasks "urgent" in your brain by using the Pomodoro Technique. Let me know if you try this method, and I will see you next time.