In this series, I will walk you through various aspects of time management, regardless of the stage of your small business. No tool, planner, task manager, CRM, doohickey, coach or guru will magically create productivity, or more importantly, bring fulfillment to your work. While working with clients from different industries, backgrounds, and experience, I see a motif emerge. The busy professional who is excited, who is ON FIRE, but trapped by their schedule. It seems so full; how do they make the time to achieve the freedom they desire? Does this sound familiar? Many of today’s new entrepreneurs are not able to make the transition into pursuing their own business full-time; some of us start out being our own boss part-time. The side hustle lights our fire; but the J.O.B keeps food on the table – in the beginning. This process works for everyone. Time management for small business owners is nothing new; how to make our time work for us as individuals is critical. My approach is different. Here we go!
Making time work for you has a learning curve for most people who have not worked for themselves, and based on my experience as a small business consultant, many people who do work for themselves still struggle with it. And that’s OK!
Make Your Time Work For You and Feel Good
I have an MBA in Project Management. I was a high volume Proposal Manager and still consult in this arena. These are trades which revolve around the concept: time is money. But really; it should be: time is valuable and value is not only monetary. Every resource has value, as does every minute. Defining the value of the resource, helps to align them with the right time and the correct tasks to maximize value.
For you, as your own boss, you are a resource, and you have the power to define your time. Start by recording your day as you go through. Every single minute. Don’t script it or change it more than you normally would. “Cheating” will give you the same accuracy of results as when a nutritionist asks you for a food log and you eat the healthiest you ever have in your life for 24 hours.
Be Yourself. It will help you to define the value of your time.
At this stage, you aren’t looking to get quicker or more efficient at anything you are doing; you are just defining your time and making it start working for you.
This process works for the side-hustle business noob, and for the full-time entrepreneur.
Now, as you look at your day, you need to first highlight the aspects of your day that make you feel great; fulfilled, happy – whatever is your personal IDEAL way to feel. Put stars by those bits of time. This is the most important!
Next, put upward arrows to the parts of your day required to fulfill basic human needs. Food, shelter, etc. If you got bills to pay, and you have a job paying them today and it isn’t your self employment venture, don’t quit your day job! I have worked with A LOT of business owners. Unless you have 6 months minimum of savings to pay all of your bills plus a 10% windfall, don’t quit your job to pursue another venture. Instead, plan to replace valuable time as your income from your new venture increases or as you are able to reduce your expenses.
Time is valuable, and sometimes that value is the money to meet your basic needs.
I also make the challenge that if you are already working full time in a single business venture, analyze your work time to determine how much time is being allocated toward the basic needs (keeping the lights on and food on the table), and how much time is spent getting to the next level, whether it be growth, personal fulfillment, or emotional wellness in your work environment.
Now, we are going to put smiley faces next to our static obligations. Static obligations are things which don’t necessary fit into the first two categories, but you are responsible for them, and today, you need to do them. These things often contribute to the first two categories.
For example, picking kids up from school would be a static obligation. Is carline fulfilling? No. Does it help me pay required bills? Nope. Does picking up my children mean they don’t have to take a bus, get home earlier, and ultimately I get to spend more quality time with them (a Fulfillment for me), YES. Static obligations might also be things like chores.
This is one area where you are going to define it with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 8 hours. If you are sleeping more than 9 hours, you need to determine why – nothing wrong with a little lie-in one or two days a week, but studies show there is a such thing as too much sleep. So, based on your own personal needs pick a spot on the scale (6-8) and schedule it in your day. Shade it in. If it overlaps with other time slots, write those items off to the side, but only if they fall into one of the above categories (Binge watching Netflix til 2 am might disappear).
Tip: My friend works remote. He works scheduled hours and is a night owl. He gets his 8 hours a day (that’s his sleep need) by sleeping 7 hours at night, and using his lunch for a 1-hour nap. I vary my sleep from 6 hours 4 nights a week, 7 hours 2 night a week, and an 8-hour lie-in on Sundays. Do what works for you within your needs.
When you reach the end, what you have left will vary significantly based on your personal lifestyle. But this is where you find your time, whether it is the side-hustle, or you have moved to a point where all of your work falls under this category.
This time often includes things like “Internet,” “TV,” XYZ activity you do from some external influence, even though it doesn’t fulfill you, meet a need, and isn’t required. What you do here is personal. I am not saying to get rid of all of your TV or Internet Rabbit holes.
When you establish what is most valuable, and you schedule your time for your website(s), that time holds precedent value. After you schedule your business venture time, (I put a leaf next to them to signify growth), then you put The Rest back in where it fits.
A Newbie Schedule
This is a summary of a piece of a methodology I use personally and in practice. I know it works, and I hope it will help you. Now, I am a WA newbie too. So I will share with you a sample Wednesday and Saturday. I’ve marked activities as (F – Fulfillment, BN – Basic Needs, SO – Static Obligation, S – Sleep, R – The Rest, NB- New Business Venture)
Pursuing a new business means pursuing the life you want, and should be focused from the onset on fulfillment, feeling good! Sacrificing what makes you feel whole at the end of the day can never lead to true success.
- Wednesday: (Please note: Anytime I am driving, I am listening to Audiobooks – usually fiction, I “read” nonfiction history, I schedule client calls during carline if I need computer or often while driving if just statuses. I often work on my laptop in carline).
- S – Awake: 545 (Goal for 1145 to bed the night before)
- SO – Inbox Clearing: 545-600
- SO- Put in Laundry, Put away dishes from dishwasher, Shower/Get Dressed: 600-630 (I don’t wear makeup or do my hair unless I am client facing or going on a date)
- F – Help Kids Ready for School, Eat Breakfast, Get Out the Door, Engage with Kids: 630-730
- SO – Kids DropOff (4 kids at 3 schools) and back home: 730-850
- F – Read: 850-930 (that’s right, reading for fun before I work; If I have an urgent project, I skip this or save for later)
- BN – Client Work: 930-1230
- BN/R/WA – Lunch Break/Internet (NB): 1230-115
- SO – Pick Up Kids: 115-245
- F – Homework/Afternoon Chores/Time with Kids: 245-415
- SO – Take Kids to Dads/Go To Partners House: 430-600
- R/NB – Dinner/Blog Research: 600-700
- F – TV/Games with Partner: 700-930
- BN – Client Projects (if needed): 930-1030
- NB – NB/Website: 1030-100 or 130
- S – Sleep: 130
- S- Awake: 730
- BN/NB – Client Work or New Business (as needed; work through breakfast/lunch) 730 – 230
- F – Fencing with partner/shower: 300-430
- R/BN – Make Dinner/Eat: 445-545 (I often start or prep dinner in advance)
- F – Flex-Time: 600 – 1030
- NB – New Business Activities – 1030-1100
- F – Reading/Crafting – 1100-1200
There are seasons when the client work really ramps up, and my weekend schedule will take on these extra hours. I will usually get in 6-8 hours of work on each weekend day, starting when I get up.
So, am I spending 40 hours a week working on my new websites? No. I do work at least 30-40 hours a week for clients. And this is really focused working hours. 30 hours working as a consultant from home, is much different from in a corporate landscape, but that’s a topic for another day, maybe. 🙂
You may be chortling I don’t know nuttin’ because I don’t work a 9-5… but, I’ve done it. I started my consulting practice while employed full time; and built my clients while I shifted away from the corporate job.
I’ve lived the advice, and feel your frustration. I chose two random days here, and these are guidelines for my days; my days fluctuate based on need-to-dos. The guideline keeps my life in perspective, and enables me to adjust to make room for growth, new opportunities for fulfillment, and new ventures.
Time is a Valuable Resource and So Are YOU!!
In the next part of the series, Time Management for Small Business Owners: Value-Focused Scheduling, we will analyze those working hours, weather they be fulfilling basic needs, or working towards your new business goals, and build out a schedule focused on how you want to feel and what your individual goals are. If you a small business with a team, this is a great exercise for your employees to do as well.
Let me know in the comments how this exercise worked for you, if you found more time for your new venture, and how it made you feel to define your time based on its value to you.