Revealed: Real-life Habits of Successful Small Business Owners

Woman Looking Over Work

Whether it’s a podcaster championing 4am gym sessions, or a self-made millionaire promoting the need for 18-hour days, we’ve seen a big rise in successful entrepreneurs sharing their daily lives on social media. While our recent survey has revealed that two-fifths (41%) of business owners have been inspired to create a daily routine because of what they’ve seen online, almost the same number of people (39%) find these schedules unrealistic. So, what constitutes an achievable agenda? 

To find out, our survey delved a little deeper, asking 250 UK-based small business owners to reveal the daily habits they believe have actually contributed to their success. The research also looks at some of the biggest sacrifices entrepreneurs have made in order to achieve their goals, and our experts have provided some top tips on how to maintain a good work-life balance.

Mapped: The ‘ultimate’ daily routine of successful small business owners 

Our research found that over two-fifths (41%) of small business owners believe their daily routine has helped them achieve success, and a further 41% say they are most motivated when following a schedule.

While it’s important to remember that everyone’s day-to-day will look slightly different, we’ve mapped out the ‘ultimate’ daily routine for successful business owners based on the top 10 most common daily habits from the survey, and the most popular time for completing these activities. 

6am to 9am

1. Get out of bed and shower 

Despite social media telling us that we all need to start our day as early as 4:30am to have any chance of being productive, our study has revealed that over half (57%) of successful business owners actually get out of bed between 6am and 9am. 

Over one third (37%) of those surveyed are also showering in this window, though a few people (20%) also like to shower in the evening, between 6pm and 9pm. 

2. Eat breakfast and have a coffee

It’s often said to be the most important meal of the day, and 95% of business owners make sure to eat breakfast on a daily basis. Nearly two-thirds (59%) say they do so between 6am and 9am, and a further 44% also grab a coffee at this time.  

3. Read the news 

91% of entrepreneurs we surveyed make sure to catch up on the news throughout the day, with 35% choosing to do so before 9am. 

9am to 12pm

1. Engage with customers and employee management 

Checking in with customers is included in the daily routine of 93% of those surveyed, and nearly two-fifths (38%) say they do so in the morning. 

90% of entrepreneurs also say they undertake employee management on a daily basis, with one third (31%) doing so between 9am and 12pm. While it’s important not to micro-manage, the morning can be a good chance to check-in with your team and make sure your priorities are aligned. 

2. Organise workspace

You know what they say – “tidy desk, tidy mind” – and in fact, nearly two-fifths (38%) of those surveyed say that having a tidy workspace helps them feel focused and motivated. 

Of the 90% of business owners who make sure they have a neat area to work in, a third (33%) take this window to organise their workspace, whether that be sorting files or tidying their desk. 

12pm to 3pm

1. Review taxes or accounts and monitor finances 

A lot of business owners view lunchtime as a chance to gain some visibility over their finances. 94% of those surveyed say that they sort their taxes and accounts as part of their daily routine, with a quarter (24%) doing so in this window. 

92% also monitor their finances on a daily basis, and 21% think lunch is the best time to do this. 

2. Eat healthy and go on a walk outside

Lunchtime is also seen as a good chance to incorporate physical well-being into a daily routine. 93% of those surveyed include healthy eating as one of their daily habits, and one in three (32%) view lunch as the best time to eat well – although 18% try to eat healthily at dinnertime too. 

92% also make sure to get outside on a walk during a typical day. This 12pm to 3pm window is the most popular time to do so, with 21% of those surveyed choosing to head out for some fresh air then. However, after work between 6pm and 9pm is also a popular time for a walk, with 20% saying this is when they try to get some steps in.

3pm to 6pm

The afternoon can be a good chance to get stuck into a to-do list that has been created throughout the morning and prioritise any urgent tasks. In addition to this, according to our study, one in five of the business owners who are journaling do so within this time period. 

6pm to 9pm

1. Listen to music 

Music is known to increase focus and boost productivity, and 38% of those surveyed say that listening to music helps to inspire and motivate them. Whether they’re partial to a spot of soothing classical, or a bit of upbeat pop, 93% of business owners say listening to music is part of their daily routine. One-fifth (20%) like to listen to music after 6pm, but this is also a popular activity at any time of day. Music can be a great way to switch off, or to help move yourself from work mode to a more chilled headspace. 

2. Make time for hobbies 

Of the 89% who make time for hobbies in their daily schedule, one-third (32%) like to do so between 6pm and 9pm. It’s interesting to note, however, that as many as one-third (31%) say they have had to sacrifice their hobbies and interests to keep up with their work. 

Making time for the things you love is vital for your well-being, so make sure to factor this into a daily agenda. 

3. Exercise  

87% of business owners also include exercise in their daily routine, and 28% of those surveyed do so after work. While social media often tells us that successful entrepreneurs are hitting the gym before sunrise to maximise their day, our study shows us this is really not the case, with a mere 7% choosing to exercise before 6am. 

9pm to 12am

1. Review and reflect on the day 

As the evening draws to a close, now is the chance to review and reflect on the day. 91% of successful business owners say they incorporate some form of contemplation into their routine, and one-third (28%) do so during this window. 

This might mean physically writing down your thoughts on the day, discussing it with a partner, friends or housemate, or a quiet inward reflection just for yourself. No matter what form of contemplation they take, 40% of those surveyed say that reflecting back on their day contributes to their overall success. 

The most common sacrifices business owners have had to make 

Running your own company can be incredibly time-consuming, and there are certain sacrifices that a lot of business owners have had to make. With this in mind, our survey has revealed some of the most common things that people have had to give up in order to spend time on their work. 

1. Missed events with friends or family

Coming in as the number one sacrifice is having to miss events with friends or family, with 36% of business owners saying they’ve had to skip important moments because of work commitments. 34% also say they spend less time with their family than they would like as a result of running their business. 

2. Work-life balance

Over a third (35%) of those surveyed agree that they work long and unsociable hours, and a further 34% say their work-life balance has suffered due to the time they spend on their business.

3. Mental health

Unfortunately, long-term stress can have a big impact on our mental health, and more than a third (34%) of small business owners say that their mental health has suffered because of the time and energy spent on running their company.  

Importance of including self-care in your daily routine

While it might seem hard to find time in a busy schedule, it’s very important to take time for self-care, for both your physical and mental wellbeing. Two-fifths (39%) of successful business owners think it’s important to make time for self-care each day, and 89% include some sort of wellness in their daily routine. 

Some popular types of self-care for small business owners include skincare (85%), reading a book (66%), and listening to a podcast (66%). 

Top tips for a good work-life balance 

David Luck, CEO at Capital on Tap says, “It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of running a small business, but no matter how busy life gets, you need to make sure you take care of yourself and factor in time for the things you love. Thankfully, there are a few simple steps you can take to help maintain a good work-life balance:

1. Set expectations for yourself 

It’s okay that you’re not superhuman. We only have a certain amount of hours in the day, and it’s easy to get caught up in thinking we can get more done than is physically possible. 

Having a daily routine to stick to should help you manage your time though. Try to factor in starting and finishing at a normal time, make sure you take a lunch break, allow for a little flexibility, and then set out what you think you can actually accomplish in a day. Also, remember that you can’t plan for every eventuality, sometimes things might pop up that need your immediate attention, and the to-do list might need to wait until tomorrow - and that’s okay!

2. Delegate where possible 

Being a small business owner often means wearing a lot of different hats, but don’t fall into the trap of doing everything yourself. If you are able to delegate certain tasks, whether that be within your company or through outsourcing, this will free up some time to focus on other aspects of your life. 

Automating some of your processes can also be a good way to save some time. For instance, applying for a business credit card can help you streamline some of your financial processes and take the stress out of your accounting tasks. 

3. Protect your free time

It can be hard to disconnect from work, especially when your laptop and phone are always nearby. Set clear boundaries for yourself, and make sure to protect your evenings and weekends where possible. The first step is often switching off the devices for a little while, and giving yourself that time to recharge.

4. Don’t give in to social media pressures 

Don’t get too caught up in comparing yourself to others. Social media is full of people celebrating wins and successes, and while this is great, what you don’t tend to see are the trials and tribulations that this company has faced along the way. 

5. Keep the focus on you

Although there will be plenty of other distractions, try to focus on your own business and your own goals, and remember that success will look different for everyone. Although it might not be a regular part of your daily routine, a quarter (24%) of business owners think that manifestation got them where they are today, so having a clear vision for what you want and where you want to go is also really important.

Sources & Methodology

Capital on Tap surveyed 250 small business owners over the age of 18 in the UK. The survey was conducted in September 2023. 

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