Ask any business owner why they chose to own their own business and chances are that one of the top reasons is flexibility. Working when we want, where we want, and deciding how we spend our time is a dream for most entrepreneurs. When reality hits, though, it can feel like we’re still working for “the man” and in this case, “the man” is our own business.
The first time I worked for myself from home I was elated with my new found “freedom”. I learned the hard way, though, that just because I could run an errand, do a household chore, or do something fun, it didn’t mean that I should. The same was true for work: if I had a great idea at 10 PM, it wasn’t necessary for me to work on it for the next two hours. I could have safely stored the idea so I wouldn’t forget it, and develop the idea during “regular” work hours. I had the flexibility I had dreamed of, but I needed to put some boundaries around that new found “freedom” because it was killing my dream.
The lesson I learned is apparent still on my desk today. Posted where I can easily see it is a weekday schedule showing how I spend my days. Here are the steps I followed and how you can create a time management system that works for you:
- Consider your personal work patterns. What time of the day are you the most focused? Concentrate project and key business work here. Do you have a hard time staying on task in the late afternoons? Schedule administrative work that requires short periods of focus here.
- Integrate your personal life. Personal training is so important to me that I schedule my work to allow for it when it works best for me.
- Give yourself two weeks to try it out. Tweak where needed.
- Look for pockets of time to use more effectively. As soon as I drop my daughter off at practice, I go directly to the library where I have two hours of uninterrupted writing time. Sure, I could sit and chat with other parents, but I have plenty of time for that, as well. Look for these time windows and you will find them everywhere; between appointments, waiting for the school bus, even standing in lines.
- Post your schedule and stick to it, as if you were given this schedule from a boss. Your livelihood is more important than any boss! If you’re supposed to be at your desk on Thursdays by 8:15, make sure that happens. No excuses.
- Flexibility should be an element of owning your own business, so make sure you allow for that. If you are a service based business, consider giving yourself either Monday or Friday with no appointments. For product or more intensive service businesses, set a budget to give you coverage while you get the freedom (and much needed time off) you desire.
Flexibility can be a double edged sword if you’re a business owner. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. With some well-thought out boundaries, that flexibility translates into freedom and ease for you and for your business. As for me, my schedule tells me it’s time to work on new client development.