Every day in the life of a small business owner is not created equal. Some days, you may have a breakthrough, land a new client, uncover a very effective marketing technique for your business, or complete a major goal. Those days are are memorable and motivating.

Some days fall on the other end of the spectrum. You may be rebounding from a setback, facing a problem, or struggling to get your footing. Maybe you lost business, made a mistake or a bad decision, or missed out on an opportunity. These days are the days that I like to call “lesson days” because they are often packed with lessons to be learned (if we can get past the initial pain).

The Middle of the Road

Then, there are the days that fall in the middle. These days are usually not categorized as good or bad, although some are tinted with negative. For example, you probably have many different hats for your many different small business responsibilities. You probably go through several hats every day, some you don’t like wearing very much. On these days, it’s hard to get motivated. It’s hard to get focused. It’s hard to push yourself to do what you know needs to be done when you really don’t want to do it.

Sometimes, these days are a clear sign that it’s time for a break. You may be overextending yourself and setting yourself up for a messy case of burnout. Heed these warnings and give yourself permission to take a break, sleep late or get a change of scenery. But if impending burnout isn’t the problem, having a clear baseline may get you though these days, and even make them successful.

The Power of Baselines

A baseline is a minimum, or a starting point. Scientists use baseline measurements in experiments to track progress and change. And there are baselines in sports, like tennis. Keeping the ball within the baselines is good; out is bad.

Baselines are important in goal setting because they measure where you are right now, and help you identify how far you need to go to reach your goal. Baselines are also powerful in other ways. Having a baseline for your business can help you stay on track, meet expectations, know what you need to do and when, avoid feelings of overwhelm, and build forward-moving momentum.

Baselines in Action

For example, you might have a task list that you manage on a rolling basis. You might sort your list in priority order every day. A baseline may be three tasks — you set a baseline that you will complete the top three priorities every day. If you can push through and knock off those three tasks, even on the days you feel like throwing in the towel, you are staying on track and staying productive. You have made it a successful day.

I use baselines in my workouts. My exercise goal is doing five workouts a week, but some days my legs just feel like rubber, and I’m not motivated to put them to the test. My baseline is 45 minutes. If I can get myself active and moving for 45 minutes, whether it’s running, strength training or even walking, I have been successful. I have met my quota for the day.

The point is life happens, and we’re not superhuman. Even if you love your business, there are times when you will struggle to get going, struggle to make progress. Knowing what you need to do — the minimum you need to do — in order to call it a successful day can often be the difference between progress and complacency.

Do you use baselines you to stay motivated and productive?

Image credit: Mr_Ristoo