Exactly two years ago today, I woke up at 5 in the morning. Yes, I was suffering from our generation’s new sleeping problem.
Europe’s leading tech festival
TNW Conference is back for its 12th year. Reserve your 2-for-1 ticket voucher now.
It is caused by too much blue light, especially when you stare at your cell phone before sleeping, which leaves you awake after only a few hours of sleep. I thought it was useless to try sleeping any further, so I decided to get up and start working.
After checking my emails, I found myself on Twitter. One of the tweets took me to an article about Ruby on Rails on TechCrunch. That article took me to Codecademy, where I discovered you can actually learn how to code.
Then I was distrupted by a call from a friend of mine. During the call, I realized that day was actually the birthday of a friend of mine so I got on Facebook where the top post on my newsfeed was about a new social network.
Guess what? I even came up with a new startup idea that could be much better than SoundCloud! Soon, my mind was exploding with amazing ideas and I was exhausted.
Oh wait, I just saw another tweet. This time it was about “HOW TO bla bla bla IN bla bla bla STEPS.” That tweet took me to Inc.com where I spent another…
OK, STOP. FU*K ME, I WAS AN ENTREPRENEUR. But it was 2 a.m., the middle of the night, and I had truly wasted another day doing nothing but jumping from one website to another.
I had a headache and felt so much pressure on my forehead. I was in bed with my cell phone logged into Facebook.
Oh, I also realized, I never wrote to my friend to wish him a happy birthday.
That day, two years ago, I decided to change the way I work because I was finally so fed up with the one thing that made me fail over and over again:
I was the distracted miserable guy jumping from one website to another, from one idea to another, while getting absolutely nothing done.
Oh, I also found it cool to call myself an entrepreneur.
Distraction is the new illness of our generation of entrepreneurs
There is too much noise, too much information overload. If you don’t start controlling your environment, you are destined to fail.
Of course I had my excuses such as:
- “But I am an entrepreneur and I need to be inspired,”
- “I need to learn new things if I want to become a successful entrepreneur,”
- “I am just curious”
Yes, it’s true. We, the entrepreneurs, are curious. Actually, the problem is, we are so curious and critical about everything that we are constantly distracted while getting nothing done.
Here is what I did that has since revolutionized my life:
1. Control your environment, you little brainy
Entrepreneurs are the smartest people I have ever met. I don’t think it’s just because they are born to be so, but also because they use their brains much more than their peers working in the corporate environment, who are usually checking the clock to call it a day and go home.
Use this to your advantage and control your life. It all sounds easy, but how will you implement them on a day-to-day basis? Here are my suggestions that helped me a lot:
- Write a little to-do list while you are enjoying your coffee. On a piece of paper, write down the things you will get done that day. Key: Don’t over-target. Be realistic about what you can accomplish during a single day. Don’t turn your PC on until you finish your breakfast.
- Don’t check your emails or Facebook/Twitter at least for the first two hours in the morning. This will revolutionize your workday. Don’t let an email or Facebook post control your day; let you be the power here.
- Go offline. Literally. Use softwares like Anti-Social or Cold Turkey to block websites like Facebook or whatever you want to. I personally use Cold Turkey; it’s free and I block distracting websites for hours or I go completely offline (you can block your entire browser application such as Chrome) when I need to focus.
- Don’t bring any of your blue light devices (PC, iPad, cell phone) to bed and change your focus by doing something other than your business. Read a book or socialize with friends. This is crucial for two reasons:First, for your creativity and keeping yourself fresh without burning yourself out. Second, for letting your body produce melatonin, which has been identified as an absolutely crucial sleep hormone. And blue light is the biggest enemy of melatonin.
No matter what, control your environment. You are the smartest thing you have ever met. Use that.
2. Find that famous “one single thing” that you are insanely passionate about
Come on. It’s not rocket science. You are not looking for the love of your life. If you are reading this, I assume you have spent about 18 years on this planet and have at least an idea of what you like and what you don’t. Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Discover what you are really passionate about and what you would change in your life or people’s lives. Think about what one thing you can do better than others, or how you could improve an existing problem.
I understand you need inspiration, but wasting a million days in a row jumping from one distracting website to another won’t help you find the idea of your life.
How do you make sure you’ve found that one single idea? Maybe Mark Cuban can help with his 12 Rules for Startups:
Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.
3. You found the thing of your life? Great! Now do one thing: START
Stop the vicious cycle and just start. You will be impressed by how many people will contact you or will want to work with you once you begin. Scratch your idea onto a piece of paper (yes, just on a piece of paper) and walk out of your apartment. Talk to people.
By the way, get a life and stop that bullshit of, “What if they steal my idea?” Talk to as many people as you can. Let them steal it if they really will, but you will kick their ass.
Please also stop saying, “I need to find an investor.” How about making some sales first? Maybe you will even realize you don’t need to give any share of your business to an investor. Even if you really need an investor, by making some sales, you will have a stronger hand to play.
4. Say no to other ideas: Keep doing one thing, and do it fu*king well
Just because you started working on your idea doesn’t mean you won’t meet distractions along the way. Your mind will be about to explode with all the ideas you can apply to your business, the many features you can add to your product, etc.
Keep your focus. Say no to distracting ideas. If you keep doing that, another thing that will impress you will be the power of what you studied in your marketing book: word of mouth.
You will be truly impressed by the number of people coming back and asking for more work. Who cares about competition? You are just beating yourself. Isn’t that what matters in the end?
5. Stop giving a fu*ck what other people think
If you are an entrepreneur because you want to prove other people that you are successful, then please go back to step one above. Make sure you are following your passion because you have a vision and you are out to change something in this world.
Otherwise, this will kill you. You will have difficulty focusing and you will keep being distracted because you won’t really be passionate about getting anything done.
Now what? Stop wasting your time reading this article and get your ass back to work.