Entrepreneurs who have made their mark often tell takes of resilience, perseverance and a never say die attitude. Yet success is built on ordinary, everyday activities – activities which may even be considered mundane. D:CODE speaks to Janine Teo, the CEO of Solve Education! and Voyce Chan Ren Hui, the founder of Voycestas Plus for an insight into the ordinary things they do each day that have led to their extraordinary success.
Ensure optimum productivity and decision making capability
1. Wake up at the best time for your body
Do you snap out of bed daily before sunrise? Or do you sleep in till late morning after working late into the night? Follow your body clock by waking and sleeping in accordance to a regular sleep schedule, as far as possible. Working at a time which clashes with the body’s need to rest will lower productivity for the day. Hence, both women believe that waking up at the right time – the time that is best for the individual – will allow for optimum productivity.
Voyce, for instance, is not an early riser. “I believe everyone has their own most productive timing,” she says. “As for me, I can work longer hours if I start at 11am compared to starting work at 9am. Should I start early, I can’t work as long and I end up wasting the first hour.”
Janine, however, prefers an early start. “I set alarms the night before so as not to waste time. I wake up and jump straight to my desk,” she explains.
Following one’s body clock allows a great start and optimum productivity.
2. Eat breakfast or not, it’s up to you
While many consider breakfast an important start to the day, the decision to eat so early should be entirely up to you. Having breakfast sets the tone for her day. She uses the time to “prepare myself and brainstorm the work I have to do for the day”, she explains. “I listen to sermon audio or read posts to stay positive for the day.”
Breakfast isn’t always important for Janine, as it could get in the way of what she considers more important: Intermittent fasting. “I practice intermittent fasting – for 16 hours a day. If I have a dinner appointment, I don’t eat breakfast,” she explains. So instead of breakfast, she would wake up and drink a litre of tea or water. “It’s a habit I got into,” she adds.
So, breakfast, or no? Know what works best for you and decide.
3. Avoid or delegate routine decision making to reduce decision fatigue
Reserve your energies for the important decisions. Waste less time on routine things such as what to wear and what to eat. That’s how Janine saves energy. “I do not make routine decisions,” she says. She chooses the most convenient methods, such as grabbing the clothes at the top. Her team at work can make their own routine decisions as well.
It’s similar for Voyce. She says: “We usually have automated replies to get customers who contacted us through our Facebook page to contact us via WhatsApp as WhatsApp is more promptly checked by the admin. My admin also holds a certain level of decision making between the customer and ourselves, such as discounts and charges for alteration, etc.”
Delegating routine decisions, or even avoiding routine decisions, allows you to channel your focus into making important or key decisions for the business.
4. Complete the most dreaded task of the day at what you feel is the best time
Instead of dealing with the more dreaded or essential tasks first, Janine prefers to have as many conference calls and talks to people in the morning to “jumpstart the brain”. She says: “I do dreaded tasks towards the night to tackle it with a clear mind. If it is a task I have to do with high focus, I prefer to do it in the evening.”
As for Voyce, enquiries are more urgent than sales. She says: “We always handle enquiries before we touch on sales. As we are more clear minded when we start work and it’s very important to handle enquiries to maintain a higher level of customer service. Enquiries tend to pile up and it’s very important to get these settled.”
So tackle that dreaded task when you feel you’re at your best.
Make sure mental and physical needs are not neglected.
5. Engage in physical activity
Physical activity reduces stress levels, encourages the release of endorphins which supports happiness, optimism and an easier night’s sleep. It also promotes physical fitness and better health. For both women, finding time for physical activity is a challenge. Voyce says: “I used to exercise much more regularly and it really gives me more energy to start my day but as we get busier, we tend to exercise less.”
Janine says: “I try to have a workout once a week but want to increase [the frequency].”
6. Give your brain a break
A temporary change in topics can break down mental blocks and stimulate out-of-the-box thinking. Voyce says: “Some people read motivational books but I start off my day with positive posts and sermons by Pastor Joseph Prince (of New Creation Church). It is like a promise that all things will be good and indirectly, it gives me peace in conducting my business and making decisions.”
Janine plays audio books while on the treadmill. She also watches documentaries on topics such as investigative journalism and history. While the activities stimulate the mind and give the brain a break, they also generates mental wellness and encourage positivity.
7. Focus on your emotional, mental and physical needs to avoid burnout
Janine has a habit of starting the day together with her husband by telling each other what they will do, and end the day by telling each other what they had achieved and felt. That forms part of a loop for emotional communication and acknowledgement. “I wind down by listening to audio books and documentaries,” she adds, “For physical needs, I eat meat once or twice a week. If I have the chance to, I eat more veggies and cod.”
Voyce has her own method of avoiding mental burnout. “Before finding out that I was pregnant, I always take my Monday off as a day for my mental rest and escape. I will usually go for a staycation just to get out from all the work and my children. It’s very important for me to have me-time so I can continue to journey through the week.”
So taking a break – mentally and emotionally – helps you to stay mentally healthy.
8. Disengage to ensure ideal sleep
Not being able to disengage from work might disrupt a good night’s sleep. For people who get good ideas just as they are about to sleep or end up thinking about problems until they fall asleep, lying in bed without taking any action would be impossible. After nights of sleeplessness, creating mental positivity would be impossible. Janine says: “I write down a to-do list and check it off to disengage. I watch political satire with my husband to end the day on a good note.”
Voyce admits: “It is very important but it’s the hardest thing to do. I am learning how, till now, as my brain is overstimulated and falling asleep is very hard.”
It’s a challenge, but disengaging is important for ideal sleep and rest.
Optimise time for family activities and socialising; dress well and refocus.
9. Refocus and invite calmness
Janine has a strategy when things get hectic. “Focusing on breathing is what I do. And remember the goal, to refocus,” she explains. “Reprioritise on what will get you closer to the goal.”
Voyce says: “I pray, meditate or sometimes I just watch mukbang (a Korean programme in which a host engages with audiences while eating huge amounts of food) to destress.” For difficult tasks, she says: “Sometimes, by thinking about it, it might prevent you from seeing from other views. Taking a break and continue the next day with a clearer mind will be better.”
10. Schedule time to deal with family, children and the business
Janine’s time slots are planned in advance. “So that I’m more efficient and not spend time on mundane things like clothes,” she explains. She also plans for a certain percentage of time in a week or a month to be spent on her priorities, one of which is her team. She says: “I usually have hard limits (on time spent on tasks) but I let go on weekends.” She puts aside time outside of working hours for her family, too.
Voyce, meanwhile, prioritises her time on randomly checking on replies to customers to ensure a personal touch and the desired level of customer service. She does not set hard time limits for non-urgent and easy tasks but does so for the difficult ones. The time she spends with her family might clash with new launches for her business but she always finds a way. “My hubby and I are working together. We definitely have enough time together. We spend quality time together every Monday, which is our day-off. As for my kids, my office is very close to my place. I usually leave the office (on weeks where there are no new launches) and be home at 5.30 to have dinner and play time with my kids. We pre-plan weekend activities for my boys, and if I have to work (when we have a new launch), my hubby plays a bigger role in taking care of them over the weekend.” Voyce also makes sure she gives her children as much quality time as she can.
11. Dress for self-confidence and best impressions
Voyce, who is in the fashion business, believes that how you dress will affect your work. “Yes, totally. What you see is what you get. You look into the mirror and if you look sloppy, you tend to feel lazy and you will do your work sloppily. Dressing up gives me the energy to work and the confidence to tackle my work issues. It reminds me to maintain an image for my customers and stay professional. Makeup is also as important,” she explains.
Janine, on the other hand, chooses comfort over looks. She suggests picking what’s more comfortable. She prefers professional and comfortable clothing with plain colours, since she says, “matching is easier”. It’s more important that “you feel good about what you wear”, she says. As for makeup, she admits she does not use foundation though she makes it a point to look after her skin. “I do prioritise skin care but I don’t prioritise makeup because makeup is not permanent,” she explains, adding that she uses basic moisturiser and sunblock. “I do that on a daily basis as well as cleanser on a daily basis,” she says.
Hence, while presenting yourself well is important, it should not be at the expense of personal comfort.
12. Socialise with teammates
Socialising with teammates can result in ideas bouncing off colleagues from various backgrounds and experiences. It would also form stronger interpersonal bonds, create camaraderie and form the social glue for a successful business. Janine prioritises her time with her team such that it includes recreational activities.“If I can, go hiking, or karaoke,” Janine says.
Voyce, too, spends a considerable amount of time with her team. “I am very active and am always present in office. This allows me to have interaction time with my staff. We frequently do steamboat and eat our meals together to stay bonded,” she says.
Indeed, the bonds between your team members are essential to the success of a business.
Janine Teo’s Solve Education is a not-for-profit with the mission of delivering quality education to everyone and focusing on reducing the socioeconomic gap, by introducing technology which allows all students access to quality education. This is done through games on smartphones.
Voyce Chan Ren Hui’s Voycestas Plus is a clothing brand that aims to empower plus-sized women to regain their confidence through fashion. Through the viewpoints of both women, let’s look at the everyday actions for productivity, self care and time and image management that shape their success.