Two entrepreneurs walk into a meeting and ask, "How was your weekend?"
No, this isn't the start of a bad joke -- it's something I encounter on a regular basis as an entrepreneur working with fellow business owners who work around the clock and rarely have a weekend off. The truth is, when the seeds of our labour start to bear fruit, we're hit with a new challenge -- time (or lack thereof). This is especially trying for those of us in a heart-centered profession where we want to give generously of our time.
Fear not, my fellow entrepreneurs! All is not lost. There's so much we can do to create space in our lives and ensure we have time to enjoy our success. Here are three steps to help you achieve work-life balance as you run your thriving practice.
Establish boundaries with your time
There are so many demands on our time, so much information coming at us from all angles, and we receive requests, all day every day. It's easy to churn out the old "prioritize your tasks and manage your time" nugget of wisdom, but implementing this can prove much more challenging. Here's what works for me. I schedule my day by blocking out time in the morning for client sessions and my most important tasks. Once the critical items are complete, I have my secondary tasks for the day -- things that make my life easier if I complete them before they are due. I schedule regular social media and email breaks to ensure I'm responding in a timely manner while at the same time minimizing my distractions (admittedly, I'm still working on this. What can I say, I enjoy a good cat meme).
Why this works
With this daily structure in place, there are some things that simply don't fit into my day and I've had to make tough calls with some requests. For example, let's take an incoming request for coffee with someone who's not a prospect or a potential collaborator or relevant to my line of work. Sure, it's nice to meet new people, and who knows where that professional contact could lead, but when you consider the time invested into a one hour coffee meet-up plus driving to and from the city and finding parking, is dedicating two hours to this task really the highest and best use of my time? I would rather use that space in my schedule to FaceTime my family in England, if I'm honest (note -- schedule personal time too! Call your mom!).
Hire help (before you need it)
Outsourcing time-consuming tasks seems like a no-brainer, but here's the deal -- you need to hire help (or at least figure out who you're hiring) before you need it. The reality is, when you're up to your eyeballs in alligators and you're scrambling to find a virtual assistant, you'll be making an urgent decision out of necessity rather than taking the time to truly find the right person. This may cause you to choose a contractor who creates headaches for you in the long run.
Bottom line? Shop around and decide who you would hire as your future assistant, web designer or photographer. That way, you're prepared when your business expands and your needs change.
Automation, automation, automation
You always want to respond sincerely and prevent yourself from sounding like a robot (Twitter auto DM people, I'm talking to you) but, where possible and practical, set up your business so that labour-intensive and memory-sapping tasks are automated. This could be as simple as setting up reminders for contract renewals and other items otherwise cluttering up your to-do list. Schedule all your social media content and set up lead generation workflows via your email provider. And for the love of all things holy, start using an online calendar system -- I can't tell you how much time I used to waste with "How's Tuesday at 9 a.m. Pacific?" "I have a meeting -- how's 3 p.m. Wednesday?" "Your time zone or mine? If yours, then that won't work, but..."
Enough. Use an online calendar system (I have my favourite, but there are numerous out there) and schedule your day. People can book a session where there's an available time slot. In addition to saving you time and energy, this also carries the advantage of upholding those boundaries around your time -- for example, your free sessions fit into the available time slots on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Just watch those requests for a Sunday morning session fall away, my friend!
With these simple tips, you'll empower yourself to be in control of your business rather than your business controlling you.
To your success!
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BILLS: Every month, input your billing dates into your calender or smartphone to help you pay bills on time, suggest Professional Organizers in Canada (POC).
LETTERS: Use a tray, box or dedicate one drawer to organize your mail. You can label your tray or box with 'must be paid', 'incoming mail', or 'junk' — this is an easy way to keep your mail (which, as we all know, is usually bills) organized.
MESSY ROOMS: Which room is the messiest? Which room is in dire need of a vacuum? Before you start to organize any room in your home, ask yourself which room is the priority. Make an action plan — write down the problem you have with each room and what you would like to see changed.
THINK SMALL: Not every cleaning task needs to be a room. POC say you shouldn't just start in a small place, but instead, start with smaller tasks. For example, if your laundry room is the problem, start by organizing or washing all the laundry hanging around your home.
FAMILY NIGHTS: Maybe Monday nights are game nights and Fridays are pizza nights. Whatever your family is into, make a routine out of it, says POC.
MAKE THOSE CALLS: We all have relatives and friends we haven't touched based with in a while. This year, POC recommends starting fresh and spending a few minutes every week either emailing, texting or calling someone important in your life.
DOWN TIME: Maybe you both love rock climbing, cooking or even sitting on the couch catching up with your favourite shows. Whatever it may be, this year, improve your relationship by finding common goals and scheduling a day to actually do them, according to AskMen.com.
BE UNPREDICTABLE: Take a look at your partner's calender (and no, not by snooping in their personal email) and figure out what he or she has coming up in their schedule. Maybe it's a baseball game or movie night — YourTango.com recommends making an unexpected surprise like a meal or snack to help them get their day started right.
EMAILS: Most of you are probably getting tons of emails during the day (the average employee gets around 50, according to ABC News). This year, spend one part of your week (even a few minutes a day) clearing our your inbox and replying to emails. Tip: this past week we tested out an email organizational tool called The Swizzle.
THE DESK: Certified organizer coach Ellen Faye says being more productive starts with your work space. Clean out your drawers, throw away those old files and magazines, and start over with a clean desk.
Follow Cheryl Muir on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cheryljmuir