3 Ways I’ve Ensured Small Victories As A Business Owner

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Entrepreneurs and small business owners: when was the last time you formally acknowledged your progress on building your business?

If your response is “rarely” or “never,” I understand. I’ve been there, too.

In the earliest days of my company, Marketcircle, my team and I were laser-focused on growth. Like many of us, I was programmed to believe that only big achievements (new product/service launches, big rounds of VC funding, mentions in a major media outlet) are worth the noise and celebrations.

In many ways, the entrepreneurial journey has become synonymous with “BHAG’s” (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Many of us channel the entirety of our focus on pushing harder towards achieving the biggest of outcomes. Of course, I believe in goal setting and purposeful growth. In my industry (software as a service/technology), “more” has long been an unofficial mantra.

Yet before long, the continuous grind and the hustle towards big achievements becomes draining, making it challenging to stay motivated, impacting our lives.

It may have taken me a while (two decades as a small business owner), but I’ve learned that there is so much power in acknowledging the little wins along the way. It’s not just impactful from a positive psychology perspective; celebrating milestones can have a tangible, game-changing effect on your business.

Related: 5 Things Not to Do When You’re Running a Small Business

1. Small goals for the win

While it is great to have big goals and dreams, the path to getting there is to start small.

I started to break down my goals into smaller, achievable tasks, which helped me manage my energy and stay happy along the way. For instance, instead of aiming to finish a programming project in one go, I used to break it down into a few lines of code daily, and when I finished those things, I celebrated internally.

Incremental goals are broken down into a series of repeatable, meaningful micro tasks that suddenly become more motivating. Procrastination is reduced as a large project’s “daunting” element is reduced. Aside from becoming more realistic and manageable, an incrementalist approach allowed me more flexibility: if something went wrong, I could pivot and adjust in real time without feeling overwhelmed. I could identify bottlenecks earlier in a project rather than at the end, allowing me to address the issues quickly.

Having a victory every day and going to bed feeling accomplished is a powerful motivation to begin work the next day.

1. Battling burnout

75% of entrepreneurs experience occasional or frequent burnout. Entrepreneurial burnout can have dangerous compounding effects on all facets of our health and lives. Our bodies suffer, our executive functions shut down, and our relationships take a hit. The risk of burnout is real – and celebrating small victories can help.

During my early years as an entrepreneur, I was permanently in “nose-to-the-grindstone” mode, managing every aspect of the business and juggling numerous tasks, contexts, and responsibilities simultaneously. Switching “hats” or identities (leader, manager, salesperson, programmer) was a complex process that took a toll. I was singularly focused on achieving the more significant milestones. In the process, I was burning out.

It was initially uncomfortable, almost as if our minds need to be rewired to think about celebration and iterative progress. Yet, in time, I began to reflect on and celebrate progress over outcomes. The impact was noticeable on my health, my productivity, and the business’ growth.

Celebration and acknowledgment positively impact our physiology, and this doesn’t have to be expressed outwardly; you can keep this internal if you are so inclined. The reward circuitry in the brain gets activated. Chemicals responsible for feelings of excitement, gratitude and pride flood our brains, giving us motivation and optimism for the next achievement, no matter how small.

Related: Time Management Hacks That Very Successful People Practice Daily

2. Habits and consistency

It’s no secret that habits are complex to break but even more challenging to form, yet once a habit is part of a daily routine, it has to stick power.

I’m a technologist, so I turned to digital tools to cement the habit of small wins into my life. None existed then, so I used my product, Daylite, an award-winning CRM, sales management, and project management tool for Mac. Daylite’s task management feature helped me list tasks for each day and enjoy the experience of crossing them off the list when they were completed. I took a moment to acknowledge the win, with each act of “crossing off” signaling that I had made progress.

I also set short recurring meetings with myself at the end of each week – to review my progress from the week that was wrapping up. Having the reflection in my calendar as a tactical priority that went untouched by other meetings served as a forcing function to build the habit of acknowledging small growth.

Alternatively, you can use pen & paper and cross off items on your list. It feels great!

Journaling, 15 minutes of mindful reflection, a weekly call with a mentor to review progress – whatever practice you choose, make it consistent. Before long, it’ll become a habit ingrained in your daily life, and the practice of celebration will become simply part of who you are as an entrepreneur. Personal and professional growth will come, and those around you will feel it.

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