I’m the co-host of a nationally syndicated podcast called The Shrimp Tank. We interview CEOs and entrepreneurs from the Puget Sound area. Last month, one of our guests was Poulsbo-based Aljolynn Sperber, CEO of Lady Box, Inc.

She founded a startup subscription-based business after 10 years as a marketing executive in the Los Angeles area. We asked her what one of her early revelations has been. Her answer was gold. She said she called her former CEO and said she finally understood the difference between hard work and hustle. She told her, “I worked hard for you every day, but you hustled.”

Aljolynn explained that employees who “work hard” invest the energy while at work and can then go home and unwind. Entrepreneurs that “hustle” are constantly thinking about ways to improve, grow, and build their business.

I thought this was brilliant and would like to expand on the concept.

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This is not a message that besmirches the concept of “hard work.” In fact, it’s a compliment to any employee who invests maximum effort into what they do. Organizations are dependent on it.

Research shows that “hard work” is not as prevalent as it used to be. “Presentism” has become a norm in many businesses, especially those that are office oriented.

According to a 2018 study by Udemy, more than 70% of workers report feeling distracted on the job, with 16% saying they almost always feel unfocused. The average worker checks their email 36 times an hour and takes 16 minutes to refocus after handling a new email. Social media, now available easily by personal mobile devices, is constantly accessed during a business day. According to the study, all this lost “hard work” is costing American businesses upward of $650 billion per year!

If you as an employer get consistent hard work from your employees, you are not only fortunate, but also incredibly more profitable. If you are an employer that feels might be a contributing part of this research data, then your job is to find ways to influence a change.

My focus for the rest of this column however is on those who “hustle.” Aljolynn’s assessment of the difference is compelling because it provides all of us who are CEOs and entrepreneurs a road map to harnessing that hustle, so it not only is more lucrative, but also that it doesn’t burn us out. To that end, allow me to share three ways to maximize the hustle and protect your life balance.

First: Create metrics of success. All hustle without a goal results in becoming that crazy hamster running on the wheel. You will exert a ton of mental and emotional energy, with little to show for it.

Your daily activities should have some metric for success. Examples include: How much time will you be investing in marketing activities? How many people will you be meeting with that will directly lead to new business? Are you focused on tasks someone else can do or on priority projects that only you can do?

Setting up your daily activities focused on your strengths and what you bring to your company is critical to maximizing your time and effort. If you are the business as just yourself or less than five employees, this focus is even more imperative for profitable investment of your resources.

Second: Learn to say no. This is a hard one for many entrepreneurs. However, you must understand the resource of time is finite. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.

By identifying my “5 Priorities for Profitability,” you will be able to not only maximize your time, but also create more discretionary time for yourself. The “5 Priorities for Profitability” are:

1. Prioritize your time on what you most contribute to the company (e.g. sales, relationship development, strategy).

2. Prioritize your time on acquiring new business.

3. Prioritize your time on managing and controlling cash flow.

4. Prioritize your time on developing relationships that produce positive results.

5. Prioritize your time on people that bring you delight rather than drama.

Third: Stay in the moment…always. Easier said than done, and the one I personally work hardest on as a daily discipline.

It’s easy to do two things, bemoan past failures and be anxious about future uncertainties. As those who must hustle to create lifestyles for ourselves and loved ones, it’s easy to fall into both traps. We all make mistakes. While we learn and move on, sometimes are minds don’t really let go. We can get caught becoming despondent over mistakes and blaming ourselves. If you recognize this in yourself, two words for you: stop it!

If you’ve ever woken up at 2:30 in the morning drenched in anxiety and stress, welcome to the club. It’s not just money; this includes your reputation, your brand, your employees, and a million other things. If this is you, go back to sleep!

It’s hard. It happens to all of us. The solution is to become ultra-focused on the moment. While you can learn from the past and strategize for the future (and you should do both), where you are today must be focused on who you’re with and what you’re accomplishing right now.

We all have an expiration date that’s invisible until it’s upon us. We might as well love what we are doing, enjoy who we are with, work with people we like, and focus on what’s right in front of us.

Bottom line: Hard work and hustle aren’t synonymous. If you work hard as an employee for someone else, good for you. Your boss will thank you. I hope you appreciate the hustle they have to go through to create job opportunities for others. If you’re the business owner, you live the “hustle.” Make sure that the process is exhilarating and the results truly gratifying.

P.S. Subscribe to The Shrimp Tank Podcast (Seattle) on iHeart Radio, iTunes, or Google Podcasts!

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