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Putting Out Fires: The Worst Days of an Entrepreneur

People who take that dreaded leap and start their own business are in for a bumpy ride, that’s common knowledge. What some people don’t know is that far from stressing about money, about finding customers and whatnot, the worst days you have and the most difficult dark nights of the soul that you’ll experience are on days when you don’t get to work because you’re so busy putting out fires.

“Putting Out Fires” - What Do We Mean?

When we say putting out fires, we’re referring to those days when all you seem to be doing is solving petty problems and crises within the business. Those tasks then monopolize your time and prevent you from moving on to do more productive and meaningful things: promoting the business, building your client base, strengthening existing client relationships and such.

The real “Catch 22” of these fires is that they cannot be avoided. Petty and time-consuming as they are, they cannot be avoided. Therefore, as entrepreneurs we do have to take the rough with the smooth and just keep moving, putting one foot in front of the other until we get through the tough times.

Picture the scene, you told yourself that today you would work out in the early morning, brainstorm marketing ideas before lunch, take the team out to a nice lunch before doing some emails and promotional written content for your brand in the afternoon. That was the plan, at least. The reality? You spend the entire day fixing petty problems: Internet goes down, electricity cuts out, problem in the recent tax forms, online domain registration renewal has a problem, bank security breach leaves you in line at the local branch trying to get it resolved…

Regain Control; Rebuild Your Schedule

One of the reasons people get so overwhelmed by putting out fires is that they have made no room for them in their original schedule. As entrepreneurs, we have to expect that things will go wrong from time to time. Therefore, the best policy is to leave a window of, say, 60 minutes during the morning, and perhaps 90-120 minutes in the afternoon that you can dedicate to solving these kinds of issues. Just mark it as “free” or “extra.”

You should put these times during business hours because very often it involves seeking help or assistance from banks, government, service providers, etc. and they’re closed in the evenings. If you work fire fighting and damage control into your schedule, you’ll always be ready and feel less flustered. What’s more, on days there are no problems, you gain bonus time to do other things.

Keep Calm and Carry On --- but Don’t Ignore the Fire

As you restore equilibrium to your schedule, you should find yourself able to better integrate putting out fires into your normal working time, and you won’t feel as flustered by them. The key thing is that you have to accept that putting out fires is a normal part of an entrepreneur’s working life, and there’s no way around that. If you ignore the fires, they only spread and get worse, doing more damage and making your life harder and more stressful.

So, when you feel the heat rising, don’t lose faith. Keep moving forward, deal with the fires quickly, and learn to appreciate and maximize your time doing the things that really matter in your business.

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