If you’re running any type of home-based business, you probably spend lots of time running around like a chicken without a head. It can be hard in the beginning, but it’s supposed get easier over time. If not, you might have to make some changes. Here are some tips to help you manage your time.
1. Separate Your Life into Key Areas
Instead of getting bogged down with minute tasks, narrow down the most important areas of your life and organize around those. They should be broad categories that cover major aspects of your life that define who you are and who you aspire to be. Examples of this might include personal development, entertainment, family, and work. If you want to break them down differently, that’s fine. They’re just examples.
For example, depending on what you like to read and why, it could fall under entertainment or personal development. The same goes for your social life, which you could include under either entertainment or family, if most of your socializing involves family. The idea is to create a more personalized way of organizing the activities in your life without having to struggle with such a long list.
2. Determine Which Areas Need the Most Attention
Since you’re reading this article, it’s fair to say that you feel at least one of these areas is being neglected. For many, work has a way of coming first, with their family and social lives taking a back seat. If you’re not very family-oriented or social, or maybe you’re just more interested in your goals, this might not resonate with you. But if you have kids or a relationship you’re trying to nurture, you’ll have to find a way to make time for these things without neglecting your career obligations.
Note that this is easier for some than others. It may be more difficult for those who have a home-based business or have to take their work home with them, since it can lead to resentment from partners or family members. You’ll have to get creative about budgeting your time if this applies to you.
If you work at home, you might consider using a timer to schedule regular breaks. If it helps, don’t think of it so much as a schedule keeper, but rather a reminder of when to put your work down and do something else. Let’s face it, when you’re busy, it’s easy to get carried away and lose track of time. Before you know it, it’s late and you either never got in that workout or you lost the chance to spend time with a loved one and ask them about their day.
You can use a timer to help with all sorts of things. Is there a hobby you’d like to start or a book you’d like to finish reading? Wouldn’t 15 or 30 minutes of dedicated time be better than nothing? It won’t take up too much of one particular day, but over time, you’ll notice that it adds up when done on a regular basis. After a couple days, you’ll have a better idea whether you’ve allotted enough time for these activities or not. The point is that you have to start somewhere.
3. Set Goals
Just as you have goals for your business, you should also have goals for other areas of your life. If it seems silly to set goals that are not related to business, you might want to rethink how important it is, because anything worth pursuing should be worth attaching a target to and tracking your progress.
Suppose you’d like to write your first book, but you’ve been so busy you’re unable to make any progress. As these things go, people tend to focus more when there’s a timetable attached to the goal. This gives it a sense of urgency and helps you to break it down into manageable blocks of time.
Also, make sure those goals are realistic and attainable. If you work 80 hours per week, you probably shouldn’t expect to finish that book in less than 6 months. If writing is new territory for you, you might want to give yourself a due date of one year. Then break it down into regular blocks of time that fit into your schedule.
Remember that the busier you are, the smaller these time blocks might be. Don’t be surprised if all you can afford is a half-hour for each of the things you’re trying to squeeze in. Believe it or not, there are lots of busy people out there who learn to play instruments by taking just two or three half-hour lessons each week. That’s the reality of a busy person’s schedule and it’s the reason you have to make each minute count.
Once you know what your goals are in each area, it’s important to tackle them in the order of their importance. The best way to accomplish this is to start with the most critical ones at the start of the day, as in the morning. Depending on what sort of tasks you’re dealing with, you may have to strike a balance between the ones that require the most work and the ones that are most important, since they won’t always be the same.
Generally, it’s best to get the important tasks out of the way first, so as to ensure that they get done, even if nothing else does. If these tasks tend to cause you a great deal of stress, you’re likely to feel some relief by getting them out of the way.
It’s also important to note that your energy levels will likely be at their highest in the morning, as well. For this reason, it’s just as important to consider the tasks that may not necessarily be the most important, but will require lots of work on your part. It’s up to you to decide how you’re going to prioritize these tasks, but the point is to not waste your time tackling less-important or easy tasks while your energy and willpower are at their highest levels.
Trust me, you won’t feel the same all day long and you will eventually regret not using the time wisely. If that’s what you’ve been doing, keep in mind that by starting your day with such easy tasks, you’re creating an expectation of continued ease for the rest of the day. That’s when you start creating excuses for why you don’t have enough time or energy for those important things you’ve actually been avoiding.
5. Delegate and/or Outsource
Where it concerns your business, remember is that it’s impossible to do everything yourself and continue to grow. There are certain things you can do better than others, but that doesn’t mean you can do everything better. Keep in mind that time and energy are limited resources and you need to be more careful how and where you apply them.
At some point, it makes sense to hire someone to do the simpler things that are likely to tie you up. This would free you up to focus more intently on the most important and complicated tasks. Your job should be to apply whatever talents or skills you have to the areas that provide the greatest impact and leave the rest to someone else.
For example, if the greatest impact you can make in your business is through blogging, then that’s where your energies should be focused. It would be better to spend your time coming up with content for your website than chasing down clients who haven’t updated their payment information. You can always hire someone to take care of those matters, while devoting your time to creating good content.
Keep in mind that you might be able to do this without adding anyone to your payroll. In today’s world, there are apps and programs designed to help automate many of the tasks that slow you down. So if the best you can do in the beginning is to incorporate programs that function as virtual assistants, that’s still better than spending hours struggling with it.
If you prefer a human touch, you can always find contractors and freelancers who are willing to do this sort of work from a distance. The obvious advantage is that this costs much less than you would have to pay an employee. This approach allows you to decide when you need their services, as opposed to having an employee that will show up every day and expect to get paid, whether you need them that day or not. Contractors and freelancers work on an as-needed basis and are paid accordingly.
6. Tweak Your Schedule
Chances are, you’ve probably noticed that your energy comes and goes at certain times of the day. Some people start out with more energy in the morning, while others take a bit longer to get it together. There are also those who are at their best in the evening. It’s in your best interest to take as much advantage of these patterns as you can.
The reason new entrepreneurs tend to overlook this probably has something to do with coming from an employee background. It’s no secret that most bosses couldn’t care less when you have the most energy. You’re expected to show up at 8 a.m., whether it works with your circadian rhythms or not.
The reason this is so is because you’re not the only employee there and it’s unlikely that the company would be able to cater to everyone’s rhythms. Obviously, if left to decide for themselves, a large number of people would rather sleep in. When you’re not the boss, it’s not up to you to hold everything up for your own convenience.
However, if you are the boss or are working in some type of freelance capacity, where you have more control of your schedule, it makes sense to do the most difficult work when you have the most energy for it. If you start most days off with a bang, then those tasks should probably be handled right away. If you’re more of a late starter, it might be a good idea to “warm up” with something simpler, until your energy and alertness reach their peak.
For example, I tend to write better late at night. There are other things I do better in the mornings, including budgeting. Even though it involves numbers, it’s easier than finding the right words to convey what I’m trying to say and convert that into interesting content. No matter how quiet the room is, I’m just not very good at deep thinking in the morning. Fortunately, I’m in a position where I can decide when to do certain tasks and I’ve learned to take full advantage of that, because there’s no sense in making anything harder than it has to be.
7. Avoid Overanalysis
Remember not to drive yourself crazy over-analyzing things. No matter what you’re dealing with or working on, the best results require an uncluttered mind. If you’re truly focused on the task at hand, solutions will come to you. At that point, your job is to pick the best one and allow it to play itself out, rather than obsessing over whether you made the right decision or not.
Try as you might, you’ll never achieve perfection. I’m not saying you shouldn’t aim high, because you certainly should. But rather that you shouldn’t allow the pursuit of perfection to blind you to the extent that you miss good opportunities or develop a negative attitude that will hurt you in the long run.
The best tools in your arsenal are a strong sense of commitment to the task and a positive attitude. Certain things are under your control, whereas others are not. If in the midst of the chaos, things begin to fall apart, keep your eyes open for any lessons to be learned. Keep in mind that the only true failures occur when we choose to beat ourselves up, rather than learning from our mistakes.
Remember that time is your most valuable asset, both as an entrepreneur and as a human being. It allows you to make money, manage your life, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. So if you’re going to apply that much effort into accomplishing these things, you should probably find the smartest way to do it.