Oh the joys of owning your own business! There are so many.... Setting your own hours, working from any where, being your own boss, getting to do what you love (AND GET PAID FOR IT). And these are just a few of the amazing things you get as a creative entrepreneur.
But there are also challenges. It's easy to get distracted by family, cleaning, TV. There's no one to hold you accountable. You end up working all of the time because your home is your office.
I am here to give you seven tips that I have employed in my own business to address these challenges and more!
#1 Set office hours
By setting office hours, you create boundaries to ensure you make time for your business and your personal life, as a mom, wife, friend, house manager, etc. And that my friends is what truly creates balance in your life, by limiting the amount of time you have to spend working each day!
I love this because the limited time I have forces me to be more focused and use the time wisely. I can't get distracted with activities that keep me from doing the tasks that truly deliver my services to my clients or move my business forward. Office hours also establish the times I am available to my clients. I set up my meeting scheduling tool, Acuity, to reflect these times. And you can too.... click here to get it!
Just to note: my official office hours are 9:30am to 3:30pm Monday to Friday. I also open a few Wednesday evenings up each month from 6pm to 9pm for clients that can't meeting during the day.
#2 Have a workspace that works for me
Oh sure, you can work from any where these days with a lap top and a dream....the couch or bed, the table at the park, a coffee shop. But I guarantee there is one place that works the best for you to get the most done. For me, it's my home office.
My office is away from the kitchen, the TV, the laundry room. When I am at my desk, it's like I am in a bubble! And I have a mouse, a higher quality webcam, good lighting, a printer, and lots of office supplies right at my finger tips. My desk is large enough for me to spread out....with my lap top, a planner, a notebook, and any other papers I need to use. My desk chair is comfortable and supportive. My land line, cell phone, and chargers are all within reach. I know this sounds basic, but I get more done when I work at my desk....I don't have to get up as much, or move around to adjust for aches, or tell myself a million times to focus on the work not a TV show or cooking or cleaning.
#3 Know what I am focusing on that week
Stop trying to do 20 things at once....and stop overloading your to do list with activities you know you won't have time to get to! It will take you so much longer to accomplish your goals this way....and you will feel bad because you never get everything crossed off! So to fix this problem, first you have to know what to focus on each week, then you can create daily to-do lists, which I talk about in the next tip.
Here's how I focus on what matters....
- I create goals once or twice a year depending on how quickly I get the accomplished.
- Then I have action plans (i.e. steps to get the goals accomplished). I store these goals and actions plans on a board in Asana.
- Each week I look at what I need to do to deliver services to my clients and what tasks I would like to do in my action plans.
- I assign 3 priorities to each day,
- and schedule the tasks for those priorities into blocks of time.
I do this in a paper planner that is setup with a weekly view. I keep it open next to me as I work., so when I get distracted I am reminded that what I should be doing.
Click here to download a digital version of my weekly planner page to keep you focused on the things that matter:
#4 Create daily to-do lists... and keep them short
Getting things done during your work day shouldn’t mean doing in as much as possible... and working all day and night, 7 days a week. Do you really need those 50 tasks on your to-do list? or are you putting things on there because you don't have good processes and systems?
I take a less-is-more approach to my to-do list. Each day I look at the 3 priorities as my to do list.
I don't write down that I need to respond to emails or post on Instagram and Facebook, because I have time built into my work day for those things. I also have defined workflows for them that I follow every time, along with pre-written email responses that I can apply to more than 85% of the emails I receive. My client work is defined in my Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system....I use Dubsado (and you can too for 20% off the first month). And the plans with dates are in a Project Management (PM) System....I use Asana and Trello, depending on the client's preference. My project work for my own business is also defined in a PM System....I like Asana. Here's a link to my Asana for Business Management service where I set-up over 15 Asana boards and lists directly to your workspace, and train you on how to use them!
So my to do list is a short list of 3 focus areas, for example today my three were:
- Update my blog layout on my website
- Write the content for at least one blog post (NOTE: this week is my blog batching week...yesterday I created the outlines for the 4 blog posts I plan to release this month)
- Define the scope of work for a new client
But I also managed my inbox, posted and interacted on social media, reviewed the status of another client project to determine next steps, put a few ideas that popped into my head on a parking lot card I keep in Asana, and took time to have lunch and a quick chat with my husband before he left on a work trip.
... And I did all of this from 9:30am to 4pm today.
#5 Eat and rest
The ache in your brain, and your legs and behind, after several long hours of work should be your cue to take a break to get up, walk around, grab some food... to reset your mind. You’ll come back with more energy and ready to get more done.
I schedule regular breaks during the day while I am working. Before 9am i have a morning ritual that includes vitamins, tea, and breakfast. I always stop for a 30-60 minute lunch and mind reset. And I walk around in between the time blocks. It's so important to stay strong both mentally and physically while working. Your brain needs time to recharge to be able to focus on the next thing. And don't get me started on what I'm like when I don't eat.... hangry, tired, and miserable ... and certainly not productive!
#6 Compartmentalize time sucking tasks
For most people 20 percent of what you do each day will produce 80 percent of your results! So you MUST eliminate the things that don’t matter or can be standardized during your work day. You know those things that are distracting and have a minimal effect on your overall productivity.
I mentioned in another tip above that I don't allow myself access to email and social media all day long. I schedule block these activities into three 15-30 minute time blocks:
- Just before I start my office hours,
- Around lunch time,
- And at the end, and sometimes after office hours.
I spend a good bit of time in the gym waiting for my oldest to complete her volleyball practices. That's such a great time to catch up on things that are easily done on my phone, like emails, social media, listening to podcasts, and watching trainings and webinar replays.
#7 Gamify my business
You know you like to compete and win! And what do winners get? PRIZES!!!
I treat myself for completing major tasks like finishing a client project or attaining a goal in my own business with things like a nice dinner out, a new top, or a fun day off doing things I love.
I also treat myself with smaller things for getting things done quicker than I planned, like taking the dog out back to play for 10 minutes, getting out in the nice Florida weather for a walk around the block for 20 minutes, and grabbing an extra 15-30 minutes to watch a show I like on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime at the end of the day when I finish all of my work before 3:30pm.
FULL DISCLOSURE: This blog post contains a few affiliate links. Just know, I would never list a product or service unless I truly use it myself.