Most entrepreneurs and small business owners can make their own schedules—indeed, this is one of the best perks of working for yourself. But it can also be easy to take on too much, get distracted by different projects, and otherwise over-book yourself. Here are a few ways to manage yourself while you’re managing it all:
1) Add Structure To Your Day
A common problem for entrepreneurs can be lack of structure. If your head is spinning because you have too many tasks to complete, too many projects to work on, and too many obligations you can’t get out of, change your routine. Start by getting all of your commitments out of your head and onto lists—on paper, on your phone, or on your computer, whatever works for you. Then complete your tasks by focusing on one at a time. If you’re trying to do everything at once, you may never reach your end goals. Give each project your full attention, and you’ll be more likely to finish them on time and do them well.
When I fall behind with work, it usually happens on a day when I don’t adhere to a schedule. I either get distracted with things that aren’t urgent, or I work on too many things at once and don’t see any of them to completion. My more productive days are ones where I’ve triaged my responsibilities and adhered strictly to my schedule.
2) Don’t Eliminate Breaks
When work gets overwhelming, it can be tempting to skip the gym or cut down on time with friends and family. Sometimes it’s necessary, but beware—if you’re constantly putting your non-work activities on the back-burner, they’ll no longer provide the stress relief you desperately need. This can also become a slippery slope—the more you cut out these activities, the more you’re likely to keep doing it.
When my schedule gets packed, it always makes sense to skip a work-out or dinner with friends. But I know how this ends… skipping one engagement can lead to a month without me seeing the outside of my office. Sure, I’m getting more work done, but now I’m working without breaks and the quality of my work suffers. If you properly manage your time, you can fit it all in, and the commitment you make to your social life will help to keep you sane in the long run.
3) Minimize Distractions To Stay On Schedule
Distractions will manifest physically in your work space—chatty co-workers, a messy desk, instant messaging, and noise can all conspire against you to decrease your productivity. There are obvious ways to manage these—clean up your work station, close chat windows, and turn off the TV. Some distractions, however, are inevitable. There will always be urgent matters, or not-so-urgent ones, that can derail your otherwise perfect schedule. Since you can’t always change your environment, schedule a “distractions hour” for the miscellaneous things that can and will interrupt your productivity. This time can be used for anything you choose—answering email, catching up on old projects or brainstorming new ideas, or social media. Bonus: If nothing ends up interrupting your day, you’ve now got time to relax.
Adding a “social media hour” to my schedule has helped me to keep up with the posts that promote my business, while decreasing the amount of time I spend aimlessly surfing the web. Your “distraction time” can be added to your schedule on a daily or weekly basis, depending on what you need.
If your work/life balance is constantly tipping in the direction of more work, that’s hardly balance. Better time management, plus a commitment to the things you enjoy outside of work, will help to keep you calm, refreshed, and on-schedule.
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