About health, productivity, environmental design, and much more.
Working for somebody else is easy. Working for yourself isn’t.
As a solopreneur, no one ever tells you what you should or shouldn’t do. There isn’t a scenario where somebody comes to your desk and says, “Now listen up: you finish this task by the end of the day, and we’re good. Continue like this for another 8 months, and you’ll get your promotion.”
While the absence of such a boss motivated employees to become self-employed in the first place, there are new challenges that come with extreme self-ownership and freedom.
And unless solopreneurs figure out the most important one — how to become the best boss for themselves — they find themselves back working for somebody else faster than they think.
Here are five things that will prevent you from going back to employment. Fundamentally, each one can turn you into your best boss.
Set a Hard Limit for Your Maximum Work Hours
Working as long as you can is no way to get more done. Consistently working too much will make you less productive.
Economists call this invariable drop the ‘law of diminishing returns.’ After you reach an optimal level of capacity, adding an additional input will eventually result in an output decline.
So after you’ve reached your maximum amount of productive hours, any additional hour will worsen your work output.
This is why Henry Ford reduced the 48-hour workweek to 40-hours. In his experiments, he found 40 to be the optimum number of hours for highly-productive workers. Working beyond 40 hours a week meant their productivity dropped.
This applies to factory workers, a 60-hour online hustler could argue.
Recent findings show, however, the optimum workload for knowledge workers could be even lower. Grace Marshall and Cal Newport write in their respective books on productivity and deep work that our capability for hyper-focused knowledge work is far lower than we might expect.
How many working-hours a week will maximize your long-term producitivy?
4? 20? 35? Productive solopreneurs who want to produce their best work set a hard limit for their maximum working hours. They don’t work for work’s sake. Once they reached their maximum working capacity, they stop.
Work From Places that Inspire You
Two decades ago, the well-known academic journal Science, published a study called Do Defaults Save Lives? Researches demonstrated that default choices significantly affect organ donation rates in different countries.
Then, behavioral scientists Thaler and Sunstein dug deeper and came up with findings that, in 2017, brought them the Nobel Prize in Economics.
In essence, both findings show that ‘choice architecture’ can nudge people toward desired decisions. So the question for solopreneurs is:
How can you design your work environment to influence your desired behavior?
Environment design is a hidden secret that determines whether you enjoy your work. A lot of what we attribute to success is the result of our environment. As a solopreneur, you are free to choose the location of your work.
A blanket in the park? A rooftop café with a view over your city? The lobby of a hip hostel? Your dad’s office? A flex-desk in a fancy co-working space? The living room of your best friend?
If you want to be your best boss, make this choice a conscious one. Once you’re deliberate about designing your environments, you become the architect of your reality.
Or, as James Clear, author of Atomic Habits put it:
“Our behavior is not defined by the object in an environment but by our relationship to them. In fact, this is a useful way to think about the influence of environment on your behavior. Stop thinking about your environment as filled with objects. Start thinking about it as filled with relationships. Think in terms of how you interact with the spaces around you. For one person, her couch is the place where she reads for an hour each night. For someone else, the couches where he watches television and eats a bowl of ice cream after work.”
Design Your Personal Health Program
When you read through the routines of world-class performers, you see a common thread between their minds. Success seems to be intertwined with some form of physical and mental exercise.
Yet, too many self-employed working bees forget about this.
Whether it’s a sport, daily meditation, journaling, or going to the gym, being aligned with your mind and body will help you get through the mental marathons required to produce great work.
What habits will you schedule to protect your health?
As your best boss, you want to take ownership of your health. Just like Henry Ford wanted to keep his employees healthy, you want to look out for yourself. You’re generating 100% of your income, so you want to make your function.
Here’s how my health program looks like:
- 5x Movement Sessions a Week (2x Yoga, 2x Gym, 1x Hike)
- 7x 15-Minute Meditation a Week
- 2x Sauna Visits a Month
- 1–2x Health-Related Seminars a Month
- 1x 60-Minute Shiatsu Massage a Month
To ensure there’s enough space in my calendar, I’ll block the activities 2–3 weeks in advance and make them non-negotiable.
Plus, instead of only thinking of exercise as a way of “getting fit,” I think of it as a routine that will help me excel in any aspect of my life.
By prioritizing your mental and physical health, you’ll become a better boss for yourself.
“The best investment you can make is an investment in yourself.”
— Warren Buffett
Build an Emergency Fund 6x Your Living Costs
As a solopreneur, you likely know how to make your money work for you. You know you shouldn’t save what is left after spending but spend what is left after saving. You know your salary won’t make you rich, but your spending habits will, and most importantly, you know the single best investment you can make is one in yourself.
But despite all your financial knowledge, have you ever worried about money instead of calmly sinking into your pillow?
I did. And it sucked.
As humans, we don’t like to lose things. Behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman names this ‘human loss aversion,’ meaning you prefer avoiding losses over acquiring equivalent gains. So the question is:
How much money do you need to break your fear of loss?
Once you build an emergency fund, 99% of your money worries will vanish. By having a safety net, you’ll still have something to live from if you lose a client or face a personal crisis.
Here are the three steps you need to take to build it:
- Open a separate account.
- Determine the money you need to survive for six months.
- Set an automatic transfer order and start saving.
Cherry Pick Your Co-Workers
Many people confuse solopreneurship with working alone. There’s a difference: Solopreneurs can choose whether they want to work alone or in a team.
Instead of being forced into a team and having to make friends with people you don’t look up to, they can decide whom to work with. They don’t need to make friends with co-workers they don’t respect.
Remember this rule of thumb: The 5 people you spend the most time with are a reflection of you.
If you surround yourself with people that are interesting, intelligent, warm, and driven, then those qualities will spill over to you.
So as a solopreneur, it’s even more important to take a look at whom you work with, as your self-selected co-workers are the people you spend the most time with.
With whome would you love to co-work?
Make a courageous move and reach out to them. If nobody comes to your mind, go to co-working spaces and cafés. By surrounding yourself with people you admire, you’ll enjoy your work even more.
Dr. Dre said it best:
“The people you surround yourself with can either be the rise or fall of your career.”
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