When I was in high school, our football coach told us about the three F’s of life: “Faith, family, and football — and not necessarily in that order.” In those days, it was just a funny phrase that was good for a laugh, but today, it serves as a reminder of how phrases stick with you.
While telling a few friends about my old coach, I came up with an updated version of the three F’s for the startup world: “Focus, fire, and fortitude — and not necessarily in that order.” We laughed, but just like in high school, the phrase stuck.
Today, that off-the-cuff parody not only serves as my personal mantra, but it also helps me organize my daily workflow in a chaotic startup world.
1. Focus in the Morning.
Focus has two components. First, you have to be aware of what’s happening around you, both in the immediate sense (in your office) and in the general sense (in your industry or market).
Second, you have to be able to identify priorities quickly to get the most out of your working hours. If you don’t start your day focused, you’ll find it difficult to stay on track as the day wears on.
I spend the beginning of my day reading as much as I can, scouring LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, newsletters, and anything else I think will tell me something I didn’t know before. To be successful, you have to crave information. Teach yourself to learn something new every day, and think about how what you read relates to your business. Catch up with the thoughts of other successful people in the morning to help bring the world into focus.
2. Fire in the Afternoon.
Fire is passion, plain and simple. Do what you love. The less passion you have for your dream, the easier it is to extinguish.
During the second phase of my day, I work on my passion: building a great product. I talk to my CTO to get updates on our development team, spend time planning new features, consider tweaks to our user experience design, and talk to marketing about objectives and progress.
During this part of the day, I can tap into my creative side — the impatient part of me that can’t stand the thought of sitting idle when there are so many ideas to pursue.
3. Fortitude in the Evening.
If you didn’t know already, startups are hard. You will have days when you fall asleep worrying about what you didn’t get done today and what you need to do tomorrow. You will work late and feel guilty about taking time to relax. There will be days when you have to fight off feelings of self-doubt, loneliness, and exhaustion. Cultivate fortitude to get yourself through the rough times.
If you find yourself struggling, however, you don’t have to do it alone. Don’t mistake misplaced pride for toughness, and don’t be afraid to take on a co-founder if you need to. Understand your limits and bring in people with skills that complement your own if your business needs something you can’t provide.
During the third part of my day, I take care of the things that need my attention but don’t inspire the same passion my creative work does. I catch up on accounting, schedule meetings, read partnership agreements, and answer emails. The fire of motivation can’t get me through this part of the day; for these tasks, I need discipline and fortitude to make sure I do it right.
Using the three F’s to keep your mind sharp and plan your day helps you keep yourself and your business headed in the right direction. Sometimes, though, the day doesn’t shake out like you planned; in a startup, the unexpected happens every day. That’s OK.
Keep your focus, pursue your fire, and build your fortitude — and you’ll be able to handle whatever life throws at you.