As a small business owner you know the struggle is real! Where do you spend your time? How do you manage to get it all done? Stop wasting your time and start spending time investing in yourself and your business. But what does that look like exactly?
Over the last several years, I have watched many businesses succeed and many fail. When I decided to jump in headfirst and run my business full time in April, I knew there was going to be some ups and downs. Along the way I have learned from many who have made mistakes before me and I have learned many more for myself.
Less of This
Spend less time here and reallocate this time to what you really ought to focus on.
Stop telling people you are always available. Pick a couple days a week you will take appointments and keep those consistent. When someone asks “what time should we meet?” Don’t just say I am available whenever, throw out 2-4 times that are ideal for you. Schedule your time with others during what would normally be your less productive time anyway. Perhaps, you are a power woman in the morning. Never schedule yourself away when you could be getting more done during that time anyway.
You have 50 tabs open and your desktop is a mess. Yes, both the physical one sitting in front of you and your computer screen. Take 5 minutes and pick it up. Even if it means dumping your 100 things on your desktop into a folder called “Organize Later”. Breathe. And then (re)focus. Do one thing at a time. Do it until you are completely finished or at a stopping point before tempting yourself with a new task. Here is another one of my tricks to getting it all done.
Time on Your Email
There is no reason it needs to be open all day. And you definitely don’t need alerts on your phone, iPad, computer desktop and actual email. Every time my phone used to ding my heart rate would go up. It was flat out stressing me out. Now, I have throttled back on my email. I check it when I am ready to actually spend time on it. I decided to not look at or answer emails outside of "my" business hours and stopped reading them while laying in bed. This not only trains my clients to know I am only limited in availability, but I have a much greater peace of mind about what I'm doing. It can always wait. Also, here is how I use Inbox by Gmail to stay organized.
Attached To Your Computer or Mobile Device
Do not spend 8, 10, 12+ hours a day strapped to a monitor. Get out of your home office. Take a walk. Go for coffee (by yourself, with a friend or even a client). In a normal work environment you would have natural distractions like water cooler talk, meetings and lunches out. When you work from home you tend to lose track of days. Get out of your house at least once a day. Get off your computer at least once an hour, even if it is for just a minute. Sometimes I have to beg my husband who works the corporate job and just wants to relax at home in the evening to go out on a work night.
If work is stressing you out, you need to stop and reassess. You are running your own business. There is no reason you shouldn’t be loving what you are doing 90% of the time, if not more. If there is something eating at you, how can you make it less stressful? How could you make that not a part of your daily routine?
Neglect Your Health
Please don’t do this. I personally ignored the signs and have now forced myself into a self-inflicted shoulder injury from working on the computer too much without proper posture. Simple things like sitting too much or with the wrong chair height in the wrong position can cause pain. This shoulder injury that I ignored for 6-weeks has landed me in a months worth of physical therapy. Take care of yourself. You only have one you.
Are you constantly telling people sorry, when really you didn’t do anything wrong? We have a tendency to apologize for work taking longer than expected, not replying instantaneously to emails and letting life happen to us. There is no need to apologize all the time. If you legitimately did something wrong, fine, but I am guessing 9 out of 10 times you say sorry there is no fault to be had.
Are you forcing yourself to be in your “office” when you can’t really focus or you aren’t really motivated? Don’t just sit there and do “work” just to work. (Re)energize and be ready to work before you force yourself to sit down to do it. You are wasting precious time otherwise.
When other parts of life or business weigh us down, we tend to put out a negative energy. People don’t really care to spend time with people who are sad, negative or constantly feeling sorry for themselves. The more we put ourself out there as confident, savvy and creative, the more opportunities naturally come our way. You quite possibly are the only thing standing in your way from success. Here are some options to help you feel like you are running a more legitimate business.
Saying Yes (to the wrong things)
The opposite can be true; perhaps opportunities knock on our door every day. Quit saying yes to everything. You might be coming across as “easy” or “always willing.” Only commit to opportunities that truly are mutually beneficial.
- Help you advance your career
- Give you different leadership skills or experiences
- Educate you on a new topic (that will actually be useful later)
- Fill up your soul
If you didn’t answer yes to those questions. Really ask yourself “why am I doing this?” If you don’t have a good enough answer – just say “no thank you.” And move on.
Work You Hate
Much like work that stresses you out, you shouldn’t be spending your time on work you “hate.” If you dread the project, it either needs to go or you need to delegate it to a responsible person with follow through who enjoys doing that type of work. Maybe this is your opportunity to find a trustworthy contractor.
You have to take breaks. Perhaps even more frequently than when you were in the 9-5. Your mind is going 24/7 whether you are at your desk or not. Don’t make excuses. Plan a trip. Plan a stay-cation. Even if all it means is you are away from email and a computer for 2 extra days!
Focus on the Numbers
Quit focusing on the numbers. Sure growth is a major factor, but the particular number of followers, email subscribers or even the price of your products or services don’t really matter. They don’t define you. They don’t say how much you are worth. Followers ain’t nothing but a number. My good friend Emylee even wrote a recent post about how pricing has nothing to do with numbers.
More of That
Spend more time here on what is truly important.
Eat Cake for Breakfast
Ok, I don’t mean literal cake. Not that I haven’t actually done this before. What I mean is spend more time splurging on you. Spend more time doing what you love. Be spontaneous. Go against the grain. Be you inside and out. Just because “everyone else does it” doesn’t mean you have to. Just because “no one else does it” doesn’t mean you can’t.
Just because “no one else does it” doesn’t mean you can’t. - Tweet That!
Don’t network build true relationships with people. The kind of people you could call at midnight, Skype at 2p.m. and have over for dinner with the family. Create quality relationships both within your industry and with just friends. This support system is vital to your well-being and your business.
Write more. Write way more. Perhaps this means blogging. Or journaling. Or just take notes. The physical act of writing your thoughts and forming them into something tangible makes everything more doable. Write down your goals. Write down your business plan. Write as a way to reach your potential audience. I am excited to be writing my 100th blog post on Thursday! Which is easily the equivalent to a 350+ page novel in the last 4.5 months.
Educate yourself and educate others. Give back to your audience by writing insightful blog posts, or social media posts. Perhaps speak at an event or conference. Share your expertise. You do have something uniquely valuable to offer and you should share that!
Don’t try to hide behind a black curtain. Let people into your business and into your life. Transparency is the lifeblood of business in today's market. The more secretive, the more people tend to fall away or be hesitant.
Get more sleep. Not some “nap” at 4-5 hours. Some good solid sleep. I spent too many nights up until crazy hours before I realized not only was this hurting me, but hurting my business. Here are some healthy ways to increase your hustle, while still taking care of Y-O-U!
Invest in Yourself
You are worth more than any other “asset” in your business. Not your building, not your products, not your services. Much like you would maintain your home, you have to maintain yourself and put some investments back in. Attend a conference. Sign up for an online course. Go to a fun cultural event. Take a day off to visit a museum or get a massage. You are worth it!
Learn to listen to your business. When things aren’t working, or a product or service isn’t selling that doesn’t always mean you should abandon ship. Learn to pivot. Give a survey or other client feedback and see what changes could be made first. As my friend Emylee would say “Tweak and Repeat.”
As much as taking care of YOU is important, investing back into the community is as well. Get involved with an organization that fits your passions and aligns with your values. Give your time, talent or treasure to move that organization forward. It could be 2 hours a month of 10 hours a week. Find a fit that is right for you, your life and your business. Volunteering can change your life and your career, hear a true confession!
Just because you own your own business doesn’t mean you have to do absolutely everything. Delegate or outsource tasks that either don’t fit your skill set or your time could be better used elsewhere. I personally delegate much of the financial aspect of my business and that saves my mind to spend elsewhere.
Send more #HappyMail
Tell people how awesome they are! Tell people you care about them. Thank people for helping you move your business forward. But don’t just call, text or email them. Write them a little note. We aren’t talking a full-fledged novel. And MAIL it to them the old fashioned way. Hand written mail goes much further and means more to people than it ever has before, so embrace it and get writing!
Spend Time with Friends and Family
As important as your business is you need to learn to get away. Spend time with your friends and family. Learn to do this every single day. It can be so tempting to be working sun up to sun down, but our family and friends will start to resent all the hard work and long hours. Not only will they appreciate the time more, but it will give you the chance to recharge your need to work that much harder when you get back to the “office.” And it might even give you the opportunity to ask questions and brainstorm new amazing blog content.
Where are you misusing your time and how can you (re)allocate it? Where is your time being spent that is boosting your business?