How to Manage a Hectic Schedule
Being a small business owner can be a crazy journey. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, from a tech start-up to a vegan food site, it often all falls on you to do everything and your schedule can become crowded to say the least. Al those time-consuming tasks, chores and admin that you may have never imagined.
So how do you manage a schedule that seems only inclined to become more hectic? Well here are a few tips:
1. Have a plan (& experiment with planning)
As a risk averse, pessimistic entrepreneur (yep it is possible) I like to plan. Over time the way I do it has changed. I have gone through periods of writing a journal, creating a weekly schedule (see below), making short to do lists, making long to do lists and much more. There is no right and wrong and I think it is natural that you do what works for you and if that means changing it from time to time so be it. The important thing is that you are planning and prioritising what needs doing.
And remember, if possible, do the hard sh*t first! Also take into consideration when you work most effectively on different types of tasks. I never used to think about this and it kind of happened by accident that I realised I am more creative at certain times. I also change my planning depending on the time of year. When our daughter is at school I like to do a short panning session at 6:30 am, so I can go on the school run already thinking I have accomplished something and with a clear(wish) picture of what I need to do during the day.
2. Create time blocks
Once you have plan sticking to it is much easier if you work in time blocks.
It is not new but on of the first times I saw this was from Dan Meredith and I implemented his time blocking strategy. It is not easy. It takes discipline to stick to a fixed schedule and to prevent distractions (emails, calls, shiny things…) from stealing your attention. In fact I have “evolved” a bit away from it. The bottom line is, if you start to implement time blocks in almost any way you will reap the benefits of increased productivity, through increased focus.
Unscheduled communication can not only be time-sapping but also energy-sapping so you have to be disciplined for time blocks to work.
In my experience it doesn’t have to be too prescriptive, although you might want to start with a clear schedule for a whole week and then find a balance. For example I used the same time blocks every day for email, planning, creative tasks, business A sales, business B admin and so on. However, I now use a more fluid system and block certain times during the day to do certain things on my to do list.
3. Work in Sprints
Again this is directly related to the above point but what I am trying to focus on here is the necessity to go full speed on something and then to step away and take a break. The work day should not be a marathon but instead a series of sprints to ensure you focus fully and also recover to go again.
It can be hard to maintain energy levels throughout the working day especially when switching from one type of work to another so stepping away for a moment can be very valuable in managing a hectic schedule. I would encourage you to step away completely, not simply switch to some other work-related thing for 5 minutes. Checking mails on your phone is not stepping away.
Personally I like to get away from technology for a few minutes between time blocks, so this could be as simple as running an errand or taking a short walk.
4. Use the right tools to streamline your operations
Hey, guess what… this kind of linked to the above too! Limiting work in progress has long been a major key to increasing productivity. And it doesn’t just work for Japanese assembly lines it works for you and your business.
You can find any number of tools to help you plan, prioritise and keep track of what you are doing and manage communications at the same time. Here are some we use:
If you have a database of clients, using a CRM tool like Hubspot can help you to streamline your processes, segment them and manage communications in one platform.
Online scheduling software also can automate appointment setting and avoid a time-wasting back and forth of emails.
You know you can’t do everything, right? Boot-strapping is cool and all that but in order for your business to grow you are going to have to pass on your knowledge and let go.
You will need to spend more time working ON your business and less time IN your business.
Delegation can be daunting for business owners so start slowly by all means.
Learn how to delegate and take the first step. Perhaps outsource one or two tasks or elements of your work to begin with - test the waters with a few hours of outsourcing a month.
I recently read an article from 2016 in which business owners expressed what they would like to be working on within their business and it is safe to say that Sales, Planning and Product Development were very high on the list. And yet so much time is spent on a myriad of other aspects from support to admin. Maintaining a coherent social media presence for example is a huge drain on time and yet it, along with much more of the day-to-day, can easily be delegated.
6. Don’t forget about yourself
This is an area I am particularly keen on highlighting and although it is last in this list, it is by no means the least important.
You need to schedule time for yourself in all this mad business merry-go-round. Your mental (and physical) well-being trumps anything else and in order to maintain the energy levels to build a successful business looking after number one is… uhm number one.
Take time away from work, switch off, recharge. Here is a video I made on Self Care Tips.