Running the Business of You
How to transform your everyday life by applying a business mindset.
I have heard from various sources that I’m an organised, a “got it together” type of person. And yet I was not born with a sense for attention to details; hell, I wasn’t even tidy. My mind was a mess, and so was my life.
I was born neurodiverse. My ADHD brain loves to jump back and forth between a million thoughts, at once. Have you ever seen that meme that says: “My mind is like an internet browser. A hundred open tabs, five of them frozen. And I have no clue where the music is coming from.” My mind is like that, but less music and more collages. When I was a kid, my mum made me draw a little “Be careful” sign and put on my desk, so I would avoid mistakes while doing homework. The sign didn’t help much.
Lucky for me, my mum was just strict enough to get me disciplined. Later in life, that skill probably saved my life. I learned to have rituals and habits, to meditate and to be still. I’m still learning. I still have more projects than I could physically do all at once. But I’ve learned enough to plan and to slow down.
But what my mum didn’t expect was I also suffer from anxiety. Fun stuff. There’s another obstacle I need to overcome. That’s okay; my mum also taught me how to be resilient. I experimented, and through trials and errors, I’ve found a hack that changed the way I view myself and eventually, the trajectory of my life.
Your life is a business. Your Business.
I don’t know about you, but I spent much time in my youth thinking. I was overthinking. Eventually, overthinking led me to remuneration and anxiety, which, in turn, prevented me from doing. I was too busy listening to my anxiety to realise I was living in my head. The success I desperately wanted was in the time I needed to spending on doing.
At this point, I stumbled into this new piece of wisdom. But it soon became evident that that wasn’t enough. There’s still no success. My mind was still a mess, and my life turned into a heap of empty beer bottles.
While wrestling with my internal demons, I was also working 9–5, learning about my craft and how people run successful businesses. I am grateful to be “talented” enough to get good jobs and to learn from some of the best in my field. Having a job kept me grounded.
One day, a thought dawned on me. “What if I run my life the way my Managing Director runs the business?”. My life is my responsibility, my business. Like a business, I need to pay attention to how much money comes in and out. And like a good business, I need to understand the people around me to ensure everything is going as smoothly as possible.
Looking at my life this way has helped me step back and have a rational view of how I was operating in my life, especially when I’m in a rut. I didn’t feel as anxious when I sorted my personal finances; it became numbers and not my abilities to earn a living. I didn’t feel terrified when trying to make friends because I thought “Hey, this is just like the time you chatted with a new co-worker.” When my life feels out of balance, I sit down and plan how I can get better instead.
Steps to transform your life.
I must first tell you, this process takes work, like anything worthwhile in the world. It’ll be extremely hard at times, but if you just keep going, you’ll find yourself making extraordinary growth not long after. You don’t have to make big steps. You just need to keep going. Failing forward, as they say.
Step 1. Find your mission.
Find your “why”. Ask yourself, what do you want out of life? What is your highest priority? If you don’t have an answer, that’s okay. Then you have to go out and find it. Experiment. Enjoy life for what it can offer you. Explore. Read. Try different things even though some of them don’t become anything. You’ll get more explicit about what you want to do and what you need to do for your life. In business lingo, this is called Mission. Your “why” is your business’ mission. Unlike the business world, though, you don’t lose anything doing these things, only gain more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience.
Step 2. Be a planner.
Schedule things you want to do, become a planner if you’re not one. First, outline how you’ll achieve your “why”. And then plan your next quarter in a way that you WILL execute your plan. This is called Strategy.
Then, plan your days so the schedule works for you, not the other way around. Life is complicated, and when you lay it out in front you, it looks less overwhelming. Your brain is not infinite, don’t be a fool thinking that it is. Start with organising your appointments like you would meetings at work. If you’re one of those lucky ones, who doesn’t have to schedule meetings yourself, learn how to do it at home.
Step 3. Leave room for experimentation.
Like any successful business, your business also needs to take chances. Continue to educate yourself on a wide variety of fields, which you already started when you look for your “why”. Then make smart bets, in your financial ventures and in the way you run your life.
If it doesn’t work, learn from the lessons and move on. Like any business, you only indeed fail if you dwell on your failures for too long and stop trying. Avoid short-term gratifications at all costs.
Step 4. Have planned breaks.
You might be thinking “What about my Netflix shows? And my buddies? Do I have to sacrifice everything?”. Ah, yes. I had these thoughts, too. I’m not going to tell you to stop having fun activities but plan for them instead. As professionals, we set time aside for work, such as 9–5. Why don’t you expand this concept to your own business, create a schedule that takes into account your past-times? You’ll quickly realise how much time you spend doing… nothing.
Besides big holidays, plan what you want to do next weekend. And then plan breaks during your workdays. Now you can enjoy your shows after you finish that project you’ve been holding off for three months, guilt-free! Even companies plan retreats. You should also plan your resting time productively. And don’t forget to schedule some time for your friends and family, too.
Step 5. Progress tracking.
Every company requires a tracking system to see how much inputs generate the expected outputs, and then adjust the strategy accordingly. Your business is no different. If you can’t track your progress, how would you know where to improve and when to let go? Set out a timeframe that works for you, and then track your progress. Sit down and review your life after this timeframe to see where you’ve improved and what you would like to change.
It doesn’t have to be formal. You just need to reflect every month or every quarter, pick a period depending on what you’re doing right now. This can be applied to anything in your life. You don’t always need to see the numbers, but you need to see how much you progress over some time. Think about what you can do better and repeat the process until you see results.
Step 6. Prioritise. Prioritise. Prioritise. And then prioritise some more.
Be relentless with your prioritisation, especially if you have many projects going. Be extremely disciplined, because not prioritising efforts is the number one reason why businesses fail.
Prioritisation doesn’t mean that you only work on one thing at the time, however. If you plan well (see step 2), you can get the ball rolling on one project before starting a new one. In other words, you need to build healthy habits for your life, one at a time.
Step 7. Change your mindset on money.
Not every one of us was taught how to deal with money. The result is many adults view money as something evil, or scary. Others worship money like a religion. The truth is that money is a resource, like your height, your appearance, your family’s influence, your talent, your intelligence, and so on. These resources give you privileges making your life slightly more comfortable.
Treat money accordingly. Ask yourself what your favourite (hopefully ethical) businesses are doing with their money. Where do they diversify? Do you want to grow wealth in real estate, or are savings more your style? How much money do you want to give to charity? And more importantly, how do you want to invest in yourself?
Step 8. Don’t be afraid to spend money on yourself.
Speaking of investment, spending money on tools and other materialistic things can help improve your life. For example, I pay for Netflix because it keeps me and my family entertained after a long week of working. Or I spend money on tools such as Notion to keep my life in order (I just love Notion, no affiliate money here). The values I get from these tools exceeds the costs. It’s an effective Return of my Investment (ROI).
As you treating your life and your work rationally and with disciplines, things will eventually turn around. The best recipe for success, in life and business, is patience and hard work, and whenever you can, a sprinkle of love.
Now go out there, and kick some asses ;).