We are inundated with responsibilities—to our family, friends, and jobs. Our society is fast-paced, and in order to keep up, it helps to stay organized and learn to prioritize and delegate.
Time management is an art. If used wisely, it will maximize your earning potential as an entrepreneur, while minimizing your working hours.
Use lists to your full advantage, prioritizing what needs to be done and featuring due dates. This is how I wind down on Sunday evening, preparing for the upcoming week. I rank my list in order of importance and due date so that I can be sure to accomplish what my clients need, in plenty of time to meet their deadlines.
Be honest and delegate
Honesty is huge when it comes to time management. We all want to put on a front to the people around us that we are Superman/ Wonder Woman and can take on everything at once, but the reality is that none of us are, and we all have our limit. You need to know exactly where that boiling point is, so that you can avoid burnout. If you can afford to hire an assistant, wonderful, have at it! If you’re not quite there yet, try to figure out what you can afford to delegate, and to whom—your partner/ kids helping around the house, letting grandparents step in to give you a break (and your kids a fun day), bartering your services in trade for something that will help ease your load, giving a teenager their first babysitting gig, hiring a reasonably priced meal planning company… there are ways to be able to lighten your own load that won’t break the bank.
Know Yourself and Examine Your Hours to Consider an Alternative Schedule
Are you like me, and find that you work better at night? Maybe you are at your best first thing in the morning, before your family wakes up and the morning rush ensues. Are you more efficient as a Project Marathoner, or do you do your best work while Project Sprinting—doing a couple of things and then taking a break, or moving on to other obligations before returning to your project list? Find your sweet spot, but also remain willing to change it up if something else suits you better. I save many of my projects for evenings, and weekends, when I can power through and work until 3 or 4 am…but this only works because at the beginning of every week, I prioritize my tasks as far as when they are due. Not every project can wait. Try to organize the bulk of your work for the time that you will be most efficient and ready to focus. That’s a perk to working for yourself— as long as you meet deadlines, you can plan your schedule on your own terms, but that can also be the thing that shoots you in the foot as an entrepreneur if you do not do the next thing…
This is something that I constantly have to work at, but disorganization is also one of my greatest pet peeves, so I am happy to try to improve. We all have the days where every file and paper is right where it needs to be, tasks are completed early, and flow seamlessly into the next. Then there are the days where you can’t find anything and unexpected issues continually fly out of left field. Make a list (yes, another one! I love lists!) of your greatest strengths and weaknesses when it comes to your organization habits, as well as your procedure when you are under fire. This can be eye opening and allows for growth and positive change to the way you operate.
“Meet” with yourself once a month, to check in on your productivity as well as your overall happiness. Are your methods working for you? Is there anything that you could improve on or do differently to increase your efficiency? Are you ready to expand your client list, or do you need to take a step back? Working out the kinks as they come up, is a lot easier than deciding, months down the road, that you need a complete overhaul, or worse yet, growing miserable and hating what you do.
Be realistic with your self-expectations/ workload/ and the amount of commitments you can handle
It’s wonderful to have lofty goals, but don’t allow your goals to blind you to your actual workload and the speed with which you complete projects. Pay attention to how long it takes you to finish each project, and compare it in different settings and timeframes that you have experienced, so that you have an ideas of best case and worst case lead times for future projects of a similar nature. Even though it might be tempting, do not bite off more than you can chew if there is an actual danger of choking, because nothing looks worse to a client than missing a deadline. I mean, life happens… If an occasion arises where you think you might run late or miss a deadline, let your client know as soon as possible, and express how you plan on rectifying the situation
Don’t be afraid to say no
There have been occasions where clients have approached me with potential projects, and I knew that I either couldn’t deliver due to inexperience or an already heavy workload/ personal reasons. I have never had this received poorly. Clients are people too, and they appreciate honesty, and tend to find you more reliable for having spoken up. It’s not always a complete no, either. Sometimes it’s just a “not right now,” and it becomes a project to take on at a later date. I don’t ever want to give less than 110% to the people who pay me for my services!
Take Care of You
I saved the best for last. How are you supposed to run a successful business, if you run yourself into the ground? You need to be well0rested, happy, and content with life in general, in order to grow your business in a healthy manner. Make sure you schedule in time to reboot, doing something that brings your soul happiness. This will spill over into your work life, and pave the way for success to flow in.