How Can You Stay Inspired and Maintain Workflow?
I want you to succeed.
I want you to spend your life doing things that fill you with power, energy and passion. I want you to annihilate your targets and show the haters the true “you”. And, yes, I want you to make money – lots of it.
Quite often, the best way to help my listeners is to let them interview entrepreneurs who are already succeeding in their fields. For the 150th episode of The Disruptive Entrepreneur podcast, I offered listeners, fans and colleagues the chance to celebrate the show with me, and to ask me and my guest the questions they were hungry to have answered.
To make sure that there was as much value to their question and answers as possible, I also invited my friend, entrepreneur and VERY special guest Joe Valente to the interview. Joe won The Apprentice 2015 and recently took the reins of ImpraGas, the gas boiler replacement company he started in partnership with Lord Sugar and now leads on his own.
The questions we were asked were wide-ranging and varied, but in this blog, which is part 1 of 2, let’s focus on how Joe and I have learned from other entrepreneurs, and how their experiences and our own help us maintain a consistent workflow and battle past any obstacles in our way.
Learning from The Apprentice and Lord Sugar
Both Joe and I have met, and been thoroughly impressed by, Lord Alan Sugar. Our audience was particularly interested to know what we had learned from this entrepreneur-of-all-entrepreneurs, and how being on The Apprentice had affected Joe’s life and mindset.
Joe said that his experience on The Apprentice had solidified his certainty that he can do just about anything he sets his mind to. He explained how self-belief and self-confidence have become self-fulfilling prophecies, and spurred him on to recognise his own talents even more than he had in the past.
Discussing the lessons he learned from his dealings with Lord Sugar, Joe said: “The Number 1 takeaway for me was to get my opinion across very quickly, without waffling, in a boardroom situation. People in Lord Sugar’s position don’t have the time, they have a short attention span, so you don’t waffle and you get your point across.
“Next was to understand your numbers and your margins, and to not take every opportunity in the business environment, just because it looks attractive.
“And the next biggest thing that he taught me, indirectly, was how to handle myself in a business environment. When you sit in front of that billionaire, when he’s as brutal and as real and as hard as he is, and you learn to handle yourself in that environment, that gave me confidence to walk into any room, with no fear.”
My personal experiences with Lord Sugar were similar, in many ways. The first time I met him, it was with my business partner Mark Homer, and Lord Sugar was, as you’d expect, short, sharp and to the point. If you weren’t asking great questions, if you didn’t engage him, and if you weren’t interesting, he didn’t give a shit. I admire that in him, because while I’m a bit softer, sometimes you just need to give people honest, candid feedback.
He also has a knack for asking insightful, penetrating questions that immediately get to the point, cutting through the fluff and getting down to the important stuff.
Being around successful entrepreneurs can seem a little intimidating, but there really is no better guide to finding your own success than by witnessing the way that a billionaire speaks and handles themselves.
Maintaining a consistent workflow
One problem that every entrepreneur has faced is how erratic productivity can feel. One day, you can be nailing your tasks lightning-quick and not letting anything hold you back. On another day, you can find yourself stuck in a rut and failing to make any progress at all.
So how do entrepreneurs running their own companies make sure that we stay on top of our task list, and avoid getting too distracted by funny cat videos, the football, or that brilliant book we’re reading?
Joe commented: “Some days you’re a machine, while on some days you do nothing. My most effective method of achieving the things I want in the day is just to write them down and tick them off as they are done. It’s very simple, but very, very effective. I find that if I don’t do that, you can go into the office and you can just walk around. You can just open your laptop and answer a few emails, take a call, ring somebody.
“Having time against these things, and having a good solid list of activities is probably the most simple and effective way I make myself productive.”
I agree that if simply having a checklist works for you, then you should stick to what you know and what works for you. However, if you struggle to be consistently hardworking and it’s becoming a problem, my advice is to compartmentalise your diary so that you know the times of the day when you’re productive and when you’re not. Put in some testing and some “self-hacking” by monitoring those moments when you are working at your best and those when you feel sluggish, and once a pattern emerges, you can match your best times with your most important tasks.
The most important part to focus on is letting your diary manage you, rather than your emotions dictating what you do.
Inspiration when you’re feeling uninspired
We all have dark days, so if I’m getting to the end of the day I always remind myself this: I’m going to wake up tomorrow, I’m going to be heading straight to Costa Coffee and it’s all going to be alright.
Even billionaires like Lord Sugar have crappy days and what matters is how you deal with them. One thing I find is that being grateful for everything in my life really helps. On one of those down days, I tell myself that if you have anything good in your life –healthy kids, healthy parents, money, someone who loves you, a great team or simply general good health – and that’s when those dark days tend to lighten up.
Another way to get yourself to feel inspired is to check out a great podcast or a great audiobook.
Joe said: “I’m reading The Art of War [by Sun Tzu] at the moment, and it’s very, very good. I’m really getting to understand how to take on your enemy, which I find quite exciting, how to dominate the competition, and how to win.”
Like me, Joe reads books that he finds inspiring, but for me it’s almost always got to be a biography or an autobiography – and how can you beat Total Recall by one of my top inspirations, Arnold Schwarzenegger? There’s also Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson, which is truly epic, and then there’s the books by Gordon Ramsay and Chris Evans.
As for podcasts, I like the James Altucher Show, which is probably the podcast I’ve enjoyed for the longest time. I dip in and out of Tim Ferriss’ one, as it’s a really big business podcast that has inspired a lot of people and deserves a lot of credit to that. For short, sharp bursts, I like the Robin Sharma Mastery Sessions, and the Tai Lopez one.
You can find inspiration in the words of other entrepreneurs, the insights they can offer, and the lives they lead. Whether you are listening to Lord Sugar, Richard Branson, Joe Valente, or even humble ol’ me(!), there is always something to be gained from hearing what another entrepreneur has to say.
In the part 2 of 2, I’ll be looking at what Joe Valente had to say about how to ask the most penetrating questions, how property has changed my life, and much more.
If you would like to read more about getting more done in less time, you can find my book Life Leverage here
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