The Simple Nightly Routine That Can Make You A Better Entrepreneur
It was Aristotle who once remarked that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
As humans, it’s true that we’re creatures of habit. Our faults and virtues are simply reflections of the actions we take over and over again.
As entrepreneurs, we’re more susceptible than most to the danger of bad habits. After all, we find ourselves in a constant fight for survival, living minute by minute in many cases.
With so much going on, it’s easy to neglect the things that can make us happier and successful in the long run, such as exercise and the practice of daily gratitude.
Still, I’ve found that one simple nightly routine stands above all others. If mastered, it serves as the launch pad for other practices that lead to self-improvement. I’m talking of course about the day in review.
In fact, developing a practice of reflecting on the past day can make you a better entrepreneur, leader, and person.
Plans for the future descend from the past
Each night when preparing to review the day I just completed, I think back to a quote from Seneca’s Moral Letters.
“I will keep constant watch over myself and - most usefully - will put each day up for review. For this is what makes us evil - that none of us looks back upon our own lives. We reflect upon only that which we are about to do. And yet our plans for the future descend from the past.”
This insight reminds me that we cannot expect to move forward if we don’t take time to reflect on the past. However, it’s important to have a framework in place for proper reflection, lest you descend into unnecessary worry and second-guessing.
To that end, I’ve found that there are four central questions that you must ask yourself each night to absorb all of the lessons the day had to offer.
What bad habit did I curb today?
As entrepreneurs, we are often our own worst enemy. Our insecurities, fears, and coping mechanisms work to derail us and lead us down a dangerous path to depression. That’s why we must work to actively curb our bad habits and negative behaviors each day.
Every day we have on this earth is an opportunity for self-improvement. While we may fail time and time again, the important thing is that we keep trying.
I have a few vices that I struggle to overcome every day. I overeat when I’m stressed, take my frustrations out on those around me, and allow myself to dwell on negatives.
During my nightly meditations, I reflect on the specific steps I took to combat these vices. They may be incremental, but forward movement of any kind is enough to keep me going.
How am I better?
Motivation is born from success, not the other way around. To stay motivated and continue on a path toward self-improvement, you have to be able to recognize the progress you’ve made and celebrate your victories.
Each night, I ask myself the following questions as part of this meditation. What creative idea did I come up with today? What did I do to make a difference in a team member’s life? How did I make the most of my talents on the given day?
This meditation comes down to giving yourself credit for the progress you’ve made. Doing so gives you the confidence boost and swagger that you need to survive as an entrepreneur.
Were my actions just?
How we choose to conduct ourselves throughout the day is more important than what we accomplish. In this meditation, I think about whether or not my actions were honest and just.
This honesty extends beyond my interactions with others to include whether or not I was intellectually honest with myself. It’s all-too-easy to buy into the lies we tell ourselves, and reflecting on your intellectual honesty is essential.
I also think about the example I’m setting for my team, friends, and family as part of this exercise.
The quality of your moral life and our legacy as entrepreneurs is not determined by the big decisions we make, but rather by the sum of all the little choices we face throughout the day.
We all make mistakes, some big and some small. The important thing is that we do our best every day to recognize our failings and strive to be just in all things.
How can I improve?
Last but certainly not least, I meditate on how I can improve going forward. The odds are that the day you just completed was a mixed bag. There were a few victories, a few disappointments, and a few failures.
In my experience, you have to teach yourself to be grateful for the victories and honest about the failures. Only then can you find a way to improve and push forward.
In this meditation, I try to focus on concrete plans for improvement. If I were short with someone on my team, I'd focus on how I can moderate my reactions better tomorrow. If I weren’t entirely honest with myself, I'd make sure I set aside time for further reflection in the day to come.
This is what being an entrepreneur is all about: iteration and improvement without end. The forward motion you see on any given day may seem insignificant, but remember that small movement over time can lead to incredible transformations.
The key is to take the time to reflect every night and push yourself forward no matter what the day held.