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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