Balancing as a Student Entrepreneur
If you’ve followed me anywhere, you could probably tell that I’m spread pretty thin. I’m a full time student at Indiana University in Bloomington while still being an active co-founder of two startups (and still haven’t quit my day job at a third).
This is a tough thing to handle but I’m definitely not the first to go through it. Along the way, I’ve kept up by developing some strategies and adapting from what I’ve learned from other entrepreneurs. This has allowed me to maintain my overall success and put my time as effectively in as many places as I can.
Project Mapping and Resource Planning
As an entrepreneur, you’ve obviously you’ve got a vision for your future and there’s a path to follow in order to get there. Whether this vision is the next world-altering innovation or something far simpler, the most crucial thing to do is set out a roadmap.
The way that I’ve been most successful is by literally plotting a reverse roadmap on paper. In well defined and moderately far-reaching terms, describe in a few sentences/bullets where you see your venture, your life and your role in it 5 years from now.
Now we’ll dig a little deep using this 5-year goal as an ending basis. Consider the milestones you’d have to hit at each of the year intervals leading up to this 5 year end goal. Plot these major achievements/workstreams in a similar way to how you’ve done with the end goal.
With this rough new framework as a roadmap, let’s now focus in greater depth on the year ahead. In much more specific terms, create similar milestones and goals for each month of the next year. Now plot out in even greater depth the tasks you’d have to complete over the next 4 weeks in order to achieve the next monthly milestone you’ve set. Ensure that you’re using SMART Goals as this is absolutely crucial to making sure work work is attainable. Check out my quick post about SMART goal setting here!
Moving forward, for every week you encounter, map out explicit goals and tasks that must be complete in order to reach your milestones. This isn’t to say that your roadmap can’t change! By all means, if your vision adjusts, you’re ahead of schedule, or some tasks take longer than you’ve allotted, be sure to have your roadmap reflect this so that you’ve got a clear vision as you continue to push farther.
This roadmap also allows you a crucial lens through which you can view the application of your skillsets, expertise and where you’ll need to recruit some help and guidance.
Collaboration and Mentors
Struggling with the workload is undoubtedly the most taxing part of being a student entrepreneur. The first and most blatant solution is to use collaboration to your advantage. As I’ve said many times, entrepreneurship is a process that is entirely collaborative. This is even more self-evident when you’ve got a commitment as significant as being a full time student.
With my roadmap handy, I try to identify where I am best suited to dedicate time to goals and milestones by defining my strengths and weaknesses as objectively and candidly as possible. A neat trick for doing this is to use something called a SWOT analysis. This is a tool originally created (and very useful) for identifying business opportunities in a specific marketplace but also as a way of self-auditing. Using your insights from this, identify skillsets or areas of expertise that would compliment and supplement yours. You should be attempting to identify friends, acquaintances mentors and any other resource that can be used to attack your goal. Partner with these newly defined people and map them to these goals.
In addition to easing your load and providing expertise, it’s also important to have a team of collaborators that keeps you accountable for your work and ensures that you are sticking to a schedule and best practices.
Personally, I find the things that keep me motivated stem greatly from the aforementioned. I have put great care into building and constantly adjusting the teams that I work with. Because of this, I associate and work with those that constantly inspire me and that I can learn from. As previously said, this should also be a group that will keep you accountable and push you to do more.
As I said when opening, you’ve got a vision for your future and there’s a path to follow in order to get there. Having this vision of your life, your venture and your value should be the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before you go to sleep.
Consider the inverse. What would you be doing if not focusing on your passion? How much information, experience and opportunity would you have lost otherwise? How would you instead be demonstrating your life purpose?
In this clip from the Joe Rogan Experience podcast (language warning), Dr. Jordan Peterson uses the analogy of defining one’s personal heaven and hell in order to use motivation and fear to create a push/pull that are constantly propelling you forward. (Beginning at 1:01 in video) he makes some excellent points that perfectly explain my perspective and have personally helped me to stay motivated and allow me to find my path when I loose it.
Scheduling and Workload
Obviously, the most difficult facet of the whole situation is balancing the workload. To make the adjustment to being a full time student and an entrepreneur, I ended up with some difficult decisions to make.
I’ve become a master of squeezing every spare moment of time that’s presented to me and capitalizing off of it while not jeopardizing the importance of my school work. Unfortunately, there’s no good secret to this, you’re going to have to find your own balance and learn how to do this on your own.
For me, it came from intensely contemplating my motivation (using the aforementioned strategy) and creating a discipline based off of this motivation. After this, the key is to adapt to a highly organized, intensely scheduled lifestyle.
I often joke my whole life actually exists in a Google Calendar as all of my appointments, roadmap milestones, and other important deadlines are safely there. Creating calendars that can be shared with collaborators and used to track milestones is also crucial.
One of the tricks that’s been crucial in helping me is taking advantage of Yaw Aning’s technique of planning your perfect week as outlined in this great article.
Additionally, I was fascinated with Santiago Jaramillo’s story of student entrepreneurship and his use of a spreadsheet to keep track of all of his work. Eventually throughout the use of different apps and other productivity tools (and even a shot at the spreadsheet myself), I’ve found a way that I’ve best been able to effectively list all my work in order of importance and be inspired to knock it out.
Thanks for reading!
I’m honestly curious as to your thoughts and hearing about how you manage being a student entrepreneur. Let me know at email@example.com
If you’d like to find out how real life innovation and entrepreneurship can become part of your school’s curriculum, check out what StartEdUp has to offer at startedupinnovation.com
The latest Tweets from Hunter Stone (@HunterStone1446). Helping others to live the #startup life, Empowering students…twitter.com
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