One of the biggest challenges in entrepreneurship is taking control of your day. Too often, new entrepreneurs face struggles of overwhelm and burnout from trying to accomplish too many tasks in one day. Then as the end of the day nears, they wonder anxiously where all the time has gone. Kleneice and I lived many days like this in the beginning, but we’ve compiled 7 strategies to beat overwhelm and give you control over your work days!
Be clear about the facets of your business
What is the meat and potatoes of your business? What are the parts of the engine that keep it running? Entrepreneurs wear many hats in business, especially in the beginning. As a result, it can be confusing how to manage your time if you aren’t clear about what makes up the core of your business. Identifying the facets of your business is your first step towards better time management because you will know where you must divide your time. For example, the facets of Humble and Whole include the blog, our newsletter, our social media accounts (instagram and pinterest), offline marketing and promotion, our business finances, etc.
Because we know all of this makes up the engine of our business, we can devote time to each of these areas. When you can devote attention to each aspect of your business, you are putting yourself in a position to continue to move forward.
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Write all your tasks down
Now that you have identified the engine of your business, it’s time to break it down further. You need to write down what is involved in each component of your engine. For example, if you have a blog, you know that you have to write blog posts, edit them, develop an editorial calendar, design blog graphics, respond to comments, study your analytics, and promote your posts. As you can see, just one component of your business could have several tasks. Writing all the tasks involved in one area of business helps you identify exactly what you need to be doing to keep your engine running smoothly. It also prevents you from overlooking critical steps that could hinder your progress.
Kleneice and I like to begin each month by writing down all the tasks we want to get done along with our goals. Usually the tasks and goals cover almost an entire page and it can be intimidating, but this helps us keep our goals for the month in perspective. When you have everything written down on a single page, you can easily get a sense of what’s at stake if you procrastinate.
Having all your tasks and goals for the month written down in a central place is also critical for prioritization. Some tasks are going to demand more time, effort, and energy than others. Some tasks not only demand more attention, but their completion affects your ability to complete other tasks. For example, your creation of a mailing list affects your ability to start making opt-ins to gain subscribers. These larger items should take precedence over the smaller tasks so that you get the best return on your time. Not only do you feel great after accomplishing a mighty task, but it just makes sense to attack those bigger feats at the beginning of the month while the motivation and energy is fresh!
Make a schedule that works for you
Chances are you have other commitments outside of your business. Church, school, family, and friends all have a place in your heart and in your schedule. Your business is no different. Your business tasks belong on a schedule in your planner or on your phone. Of course, now that you’ve identified the engine of your business, the tasks involved, and you’ve prioritized those tasks, you know exactly what belongs on your schedule.
Kleneice and I have experimented with two different scheduling techniques, both of which were effective for us. The first technique we tried was time blocking. When we were fresh out of college, we were used to having our days divided into time blocks, so we would make our schedule look something like this:
10am-12pm: social media management
1pm-3pm: write blog posts
4pm-6pm: design web graphics
8-9pm: study business principles
This was so effective for us because we were accustomed to working on one task for a short period of time. Knowing that I only had 2 hours to write a blog post really made me settle down and focus.
Later on I read how many successful entrepreneurs used themes for their days to boost their productivity. Now, instead of tackling multiple areas in one day, Kleneice and I developed themes. For example, Monday is blogging day. I’m not as strict about time blocking anymore, but I know that the core focus of Monday is to outline, draft, and edit blog posts. This helps me narrow my focus and implement the batching method (producing multiple kinds of the same content) more effectively. To make sure we keep this schedule at the forefront of our minds, we have color coded it with our Google calendar, as you can see below!
No matter which method you choose, you must find a way to eliminate distractions when you are working. Distractions are the enemy of productivity. All of us have something that distracts us the most. For me, it's looking at social media on my phone. Sometimes even playing music hinders me because I spend so much time searching for the next song to play, going back and forth between Apple music and Youtube and singing instead of focusing. Because my phone is such a huge distraction, I’ll flip it over so that I can’t see the screen, or I’ll leave it in a room apart from the one I’m working in, so I can’t grab it. Whatever your main distraction is, brainstorm ways to eliminate it, so you aren’t losing precious time to countless interruptions.
Organization is another important pillar of time management and productivity. If you are not organized, you are going to lose precious time searching for something if you don’t know where it is. One of the lessons Kleneice and I learned from our first blog was to keep everything we needed in a centralized place. We had a binder and notebook for our blog notes as we learned tips from other blogs, social media accounts, and podcasts. Now, everything for our business lives on our Google drive. Google drive really does have everything we need at the moment to be organized. If you are looking for a centralized place to store all your business content, definitely give Google drive a try! Whatever organizational method works best for you, stick with it!
One of the best things you can do to make sure you are managing your time effectively is to practice consistent assessment. Take an honest look at how your days are going. At the end of the day, ask yourself if the work you did pushed you closer or farther away from your goals. You should not only assess your work at the end of each day, but also at the end of each week. How effective was the week as a whole? Then take a step back and assess the overall progression of your month. What made your month successful or what hindered you? Why is constant assessment important? It gives you a chance to identify what patterns, habits, or systems are working for you. When you identify a system that is consistently producing the results you want, then you know to stick with it. You won’t be as tempted to abandon your methods when the latest bandwagon rolls around.
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