Photo by Emily Long
In the past five years, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with dozens of entrepreneurs. Since my vocation (public relations/content marketing) is so versatile, I’ve been able to help small non-profits looking to change the world like I-TEC to communication agencies whose founders had two very different ways of running their business (and two very different outcomes).
Since my job requires me to work closely with the C-suite, I spent countless hours learning how each founder ran their own business and how they live out their professional and personal lives. Not all of those start-ups I worked with are here today. But one thing I noticed about the most prosperous ones is how each entrepreneur spent their free time. I discovered that the most successful entrepreneurs made it a habit to do the following seven things after work.
Whether this is done through social media, wining and dining, a game of golf, or through other methods, networking keeps options open. Building relationships equals options for further investment, partnerships, marketing campaigns and expansion in any number of ways. Networking can manifest as PR support or a testimonial, or even actual investment dollars. There’s no limit to the value that committed networked relationships can bring to the entrepreneur who is building her business.
2. Study or Read
An entrepreneur should always be learning. Whether that is accomplished by reading an industry-related book, learning a foreign language or how to use new software, an ongoing and active effort to learn new skills, perspectives, industry trade secrets or marketing approaches is always a beneficial pursuit for the entrepreneur – or anyone, for that matter.
This is obviously an activity that can be done in the morning or evening – but because mornings are often already busy for many entrepreneurs, I’ve found many use their evenings to fit in exercise. Exercise keeps a healthy body in alignment with a healthy mind, which is important for a positive outward view as well as keeping energy for the busy schedule and active routine. Whether therapeutic, reflective or cathartic, exercise is conducive to physical and mental well-being, and is very important for self-maintenance.
4. Plan for the Next Day
This is often done in a relaxed setting, like in front of the TV or outside on the porch with a glass of wine. Planning the following day, like prioritizing tasks and creating a list of daily goals, are habits of many successful entrepreneurs and people, including President Obama who gave the advice, “Get a head start on tomorrow, tonight.”
No man is an island – even the hardest working entrepreneur. A social life is part of a well-rounded individual, and even though it is not required in order to run a business or even be somewhat successful, the most successful entrepreneurs understand their target market because they are out in the real world socializing with people and fostering relationships. You can’t understand your audience if you never have any social contact with them. There’s no rule that demands you have to socialize for hours every evening. But, a few times a week, go to dinner with friends, see a movie, engage in a team sport or just hang out. And no, tweeting and Facebook chats do not count.
6. Spend Time With Your Family
Even the wealthiest corporate heads or busiest company founders and CEOs can make time for their families. According to a Harvard Business School study, the most successful people even try to prioritize it. Because a good relationship with one’s family can often affect public opinion and interest, family time is time well spent. Of course, it’s important for reasons beyond those tied to business. Your family may be the only people you can be the “real” you around – not “the boss,” not a CEO or authority figure – which gives you the chance to unwind. And it makes your family happy too.
7. Relax and Reflect
While every entrepreneur should absolutely be prepared to work themselves blind during startup years, and continue to work hard even when business is stabilized and growing – she should also be able to set aside some relaxation time. Not accommodating “me-time” can lead to exhaustion, mental fatigue, short temperedness and slowed cognition. To be at the top of your game, pencil in a massage, a good TV show or, like BufferSocial’s CEO, go for a 20-minute, leisurely evening stroll. The point is to completely disengage yourself from work activities. This may be the perfect time for you to answer the Benjamin Franklin question, “What good have I done today?”
While the above activities and habits are not etched in stone to achieve success as an entrepreneur, they are the habits of female entrepreneurs like Karie Shearer, co-founder of WebpageFX, and Shawn Geitner, CEO and Founder of Beleave Teas. Since these ladies left us some pretty good blueprints for the evening routine of an entrepreneur, it’s not a bad idea to follow suit.