When I was in the corporate world, long hours meant I was working hard.
I knew I was, because staying late each day, and sometimes going back to the office on weekends, meant I was indeed doing it.
There was a somewhat ‘clear cut’, visible measurement of the notion. If you deliver, and if you put in the time – you are there.
My days were starting at approximately 8 or 8:30am., and finished about the same time with a 'pm' at the back. Ten hours were acceptable, normal and sufficient.
Those same ten hours were filled with:
2/ Catch-ups on specific tasks or performance conversations
3/ Writing and sending emails
4/ Doing or reviewing formal progress updates
5/ Drinking coffee (and reminding myself I have to also introduce water to my diet) ...
I was a manager at the time. Someone who had crossed the line between being fully engaged in the operational part of the work and now being involved in the decision-making, strategic things. It was challenging and familiar at the same time. A few years later, and from a different perspective (an entrepreneurial one to be precise), I no longer knew what ‘hard work’ was and whether or not I was actually doing it.
“When you were an employee you could sit for 8hrs, Monday to Friday, picking up the phone again and again, hearing “no” many times, and you kept doing it, because that was your job. Sure it wasn’t pleasant but in those 8hrs and among the numerous “no”s you sometimes heard a “yes”. You noted it down as a small win, a progress tick, and went back to the grind, because that was your job. Are you doing the same for your business?”
Entrepreneurship is often way more EMOTIONAL than working for an organization that’s not yours. Whether we are talking about entrepreneurship within or outside of acompany, people are invested on a more personal level. That means that the interpretations of different situations – successes, failures, plain old daily effort – all of them become heavier with meaning and of course the perceptions of what’s happening get distorted.
Am I working hard enough? Am I picking up the phone for 8 hours straight, hearing “no"s and moving on to the next? Am I delivering as I used to in my corporate position? Am I managing the priorities correctly? Did I spend too much time eating my lunch? Should I go out with friends at 7pm., given that I haven’t covered the “compulsory” 10hrs today? Who, if anyone at all, has seen and acknowledged my work?
All of those questions pop up in an average entrepreneurial head. They are normal, and yet, despite how it may seem, they are far from easy to answer.
What’s more, even if tempting, the usual advice from friends, colleagues, or from ourselves such as: “Of course you should go out andsee your friends at 7pm, life is about balance.” or “of course you are working hard, any business just takes time…” – don’t cure the feelings of doubt and uncomforted lack of clarity.
Because these existing feelings question the past, the present and the future of our beliefs about work and much more.
What might seem a simple, surface manifestation of the struggle to adapt to change or the lack of clear boundaries, is in fact an existential growth journey, filled with inevitable pain.
Ownership of the standards, of the methods, of the measures and of the value we assign to ourselves.
So, is there a clear cut definition of 'hard work’ that could help you as an entrepreneur lift that invisible burden of constantly questioning whether or not you are doing enough?
Yes, there is but you have to sit down, spend time and define it for yourself.
Introduce “performance management framework” that you are happy to hold yourself accountable to and start accepting the fact that brick by brick you aren’t building a business but yourself, through the means of a business endeavor.