This article was previously published on Medium.com.
How to best utilize your time as an entrepreneur can be a daily struggle for small business operators, bringing on added levels of stress, distraction and brain clutter. While the perceived freedom of being an entrepreneur, or solopreneur, is enticing, the reality is that it can seem near impossible to leave “the job” when you exit the office.
According to Atlassian, we spend two hours per day recovering from distractions. For entrepreneurs, it’s especially important to curb that statistic so that you can accomplish more during working hours and enjoy life outside of the office.
Much like runners condition themselves for speed and endurance, entrepreneurs can alter their habits to improve time management, work faster and increase productivity.
I knew when I started my business in 2007 that I wanted to have boundaries so that I could be fully present for life — now as a wife and mom — outside of my job. I always strive to be more efficient and productive, getting more done in less time without sacrificing quality. By sticking to these time management hacks, I’m able to work about 40 hours per week — because I’m not willing to work much more than that — while still accomplishing a great deal and constantly growing my business. Here’s how:
- Prioritize — This may seem a little obvious, but it’s very important. We’re trying to build a sustainable business that we can profit and grow our lives from. But there are so many things to do as an entrepreneur. Look at what absolutely has to get done today. Then, what can you chip away at; what can you do today to get closer to a long-term goal? For example, if you’re planning to offer an online course, write the outline for it today instead of feeling overwhelmed that the entire project isn’t completed. By doing the most important priorities first, what I’ve found is that it builds momentum and gives you more energy to handle future tasks.
- Awareness of “Time Sucks” — It can be TV, Facebook or any seemingly small distraction, and suddenly you’ve wasted the past 30 minutes mindlessly surfing, which drains your day and energy. Acknowledge it when it happens and take immediate action to get off the couch, get a drink of water or go outside for just a few seconds. This way you’re taking advantage of more time in the day instead of wasting minutes and hours on things that make you tired and don’t do anything for you.
- Practice a “Brain Dump” — Our minds are maxed out with noise, information and things we want to remember. So how can you possibly expect to get your best work done if you’re full of clutter? What I have found is that when I have a lot going on in my mind, I can’t get anything done well. I encourage you to have checkpoints throughout the day and “brain dump.” You can do that on a to-do list where you write down everything you want to remember — I like short- and long-term lists. Write it all down, whether it’s a small task or major goal, so you can revisit Step 1 and prioritize. This is a great strategy to practice at the end of the day so you feel more comfortable walking out of the office without taking (too much) work along.
- Be Aware of Your Most Productive Times — For me, I’m most productive and fresh from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.. That’s when I focus on my priorities and schedule important calls so that I’m fully present and engaged. Pinpoint your best times throughout the day and maximize your use of that time, whether it’s crossing off as much as you can from your to do list or tackling your most difficult tasks.
- Exercise — I have found that many people do not have a regular exercise routine and they wonder why they’re stressed or constantly procrastinating. Get moving to improve blood flow and you’ll see that you can more quickly respond to the tasks at hand. This helps you manage your time better because you’re engaged. When your blood is flowing you’ll maximize your productivity; test it out — you’ll find you get much more done in a half an hour than you would otherwise.
- Make a schedule — It doesn’t have to be fancy. Google “weekly calendar” and find a printable calendar. Block out time to work on a project each week, consistently. By creating a schedule you’re going to maximize your efficiency.
- Get It Done Immediately! — My best strategy, and this has seriously changed people’s lives, is to get it done immediately. For small things, like a quick email question, I respond immediately and then I’m done with it rather than procrastinating and letting it clutter my mind for a longer period of time. You have to have these procedures and systems. If I check email throughout the day as opposed to at a set time once or twice a day, then I’m not swamped with an overloaded inbox. Also, when somebody sends me an email asking a quick question, I can reply right then and there so I don’t have to think about it anymore. What’s also awesome about this is clients are thrilled with my response time! If you wait to complete these small things, it builds up in your mind, and you feel like you’re not making enough progress. If you’re getting things done throughout the day, you’re going to feel like Superman!
Get it done immediately and free up your brain space.
Start implementing these strategies into your daily work routine and condition yourself to work smarter so you can reap the benefits and freedom of being an entrepreneur.