It’s almost back to school time. I can tell because the aisles at Target have transitioned from pool floaties to spiral notebooks in the blink of an eye (at least there aren’t too many Halloween decorations just yet)!
Each year I take a photo of my kids to commemorate another new school year. I often fail to realize how much they’ve grown until I hold these photos up side by side.
I’m sharing this as a reminder that time is precious. When I created my business, I was mindful in setting it up so that I could savor each of these moments with my kids. I set out to create a business around my life, not the other way around.
I have a feeling you feel the same way.
You are building a business that will let you pursue your passions, have time for loved ones, and create a life you are excited to wake up to every day.
But too often you find yourself consumed by your business, spending less and less time with the people you love and more time absorbed in one more phone call or one last email. I’ve been there too!
It’s an easy cycle to fall into. The key is to pause, be intentional, and create a feasible plan.
Fall is an opportunity for a fresh start. While your fresh start may not involve buying new backpacks or fresh pencils, it can include new routines that help you leverage each precious hour of the day.
Reclaim your time so you can step into this next season working smarter, not harder.
In this blog, I’ll share six ways to get your time back this fall so you can run your business rather than let your business run you. These strategies will help you take action as you reclaim your time, your business, and your life.
As much as I would love to be able to hand you Hermione’s time-turner and call it a day, we quite simply cannot create more time. So, we need to be strategic about the time we do have. These six strategies will help you identify where you can save time, be more efficient, and be mindful about where you are putting your energy.
It may sound backward, but here’s my suggestion. Take time OUT of your business to save time IN your business.
Hear me out…
If you are constantly spinning on the hamster wheel of life, you will ALWAYS be busy. If you aren’t careful about how you spend your time, tasks, chores, and “busy-ness” will inevitably show up to fill in the unscheduled space.
I believe it is so essential to take time away from your day-to-day business tasks. I call this “CEO Time.”
CEO Time is a block of time that you carve out to focus on the big picture of your business. You put aside the regular daily tasks and embody the role of Chief Executive Officer. Many business owners do this seasonally throughout the year, but it can also be used as-needed to help you regroup and get back on track in your business.
CEO time can give you time to…
You can take CEO time any time. If you are feeling like the days are getting shorter and your to-do list is getting longer, it may be time to press pause and take that CEO time sooner rather than later.
I get it… it can feel a bit terrifying to step away from the day-to-day of your business for CEO Time.
Owning a business can be a bit like having a baby. I remember the first time I left my daughter with a babysitter (AKA my mother). It was so hard to let go. But I knew my husband and I needed a night to ourselves. It was more than just a night out for dinner. It was time to reflect, process, and reconnect to ourselves and one another. We needed a moment to breathe in-between the dirty diapers and sweet baby giggles. It’s very similar to your business!
Think of CEO Time as an investment. You are working on your business, not in your business. It is a time-investment now that will pay off in the long run.
CEO Time can look however you choose. It can be as simple as one day or even as long as a week. If you’d like to learn more about what CEO Time is and how to set yourself up for some successful, unplugged time away from your business, check out this blog post about taking time off in your business.
You can use CEO time for a whole variety of reasons. If you feel strapped for time, use CEO Time to specifically assess how you are using the hours in your workday. You will create the space needed to put time management strategies in place that will SAVE you time in the long run.
How does this save you time? Step off the “hamster wheel” so you can assess the big picture time-eaters in your business. Pressing pause will let you develop a realistic plan without the interruptions and distractions of your daily routine. Be proactive instead of reactive.
You will have the opportunity to reflect on…
All of these pieces will allow you to leverage your CEO Time to reclaim the minutes, hours, and days in your business and propel you toward your big vision goals.
Reclaiming your time begins with a mental shift.
We learn from a young age to trade time for money. I remember calculating how many $7.50/hour shifts I’d have to take-on to buy my first car as a teenager. Goes without saying… It was a LOT.
This model of earning money can feel comfortable and familiar. But, it’s unsustainable if you are looking to scale or even maintain growth in your business.
While time for money exchanges have their place (there are unique situations when I will offer an hourly rate), sustainable businesses don’t rely on this model.
I encourage you to shift away from trading your time for money. Instead, consider priced packages based on deliverables or transformations. When you choose to charge per project the possibilities are endless. You will have more control over your time, energy, and effort. This will let you continue to provide your clients with top-notch service while enabling your business to flourish and grow.
How does this save you time? Feel empowered to get high-quality work done on your terms and within your timeline. Let’s be honest… your clients don’t care if it takes you 10 hours or 10 minutes to complete their project. All they care about is the incredible result! This approach will save you time and make it easier to land your next sale because your pricing and expectations are transparent.
Have you ever looked up at the clock and wondered where the day went? Sometimes you realize hours have gone by and you’ve accomplished next to nothing.
Going into your day aimless is a recipe for disaster. You will most likely find yourself caught up in busy work and never really getting anything meaningful done. Productivity typically requires structure and accountability.
While you will absolutely have those inspired days where everything feels smooth and easy, there will be just as many — if not more — uninspired days where the work is hard and tedious.
Time blocking can help you stay the course and be consistent.
I like to think of Time Blocking as appointments you set with yourself for your top priority tasks. If you treat your daily tasks and responsibilities the same way you treat your commitments to clients or team members, you are going to get SO much more done!
You wouldn’t blow off a client check-in once it’s set on the calendar. You also shouldn’t blow off settling your finances each month… but for some reason these pieces get postponed, ignored, or forgotten more often than you’d like to admit!
Time blocking helps you shift your mindset and prioritize tasks by adding them to your calendar. Optimize all of the white space on your calendar during your work hours.
Having a Time Blocking system in place will help you avoid distractions from the MILLION and TEN things vying for your attention throughout the day.
Time Block apps like Plan or ClickUp will even sync with your current calendar system so you don’t have to start from scratch!
How does this save you time? No matter what kind of time blocking system you choose, blocking holds that space. It’s like a reservation at a fancy restaurant. You COULD blow it off, but it’s a lot harder when you’ve made the reservation and committed your time for friends.
Plus when you block your time, you’re way less likely to get distracted by laundry, phone calls, or yet another trip to the fridge for a snack if you’ve carved out time for each project on your to-do list. Consider time blocking as your ultimate “accountability buddy.”
COO Tip: Carve out time for YOU too! Time blocking can— and should— offer time for you to relax, be with friends, or get ahead on personal tasks outside of your work hours. You can create balance in your time personally and professionally, and for ONCE feel like there actually ARE enough hours in each day!
We talk about boundaries a lot in the online business space. And while that’s a good start, it quite simply, isn’t enough.
If we all KNOW how important boundaries are for our time and sanity, why is it so hard to hold the line? I think it’s because we focus too much on thinking about what our boundaries are and not enough time putting them into practice and taking aligned action.
Establishing boundaries is important, but I would argue that reinforcing and refining your boundaries is more important.
Using these three steps will help you to go beyond setting boundaries to ensure that you are living up to the boundaries you need while allowing your boundaries to grow, change, and adapt to fit your current lifestyle.
You need to name the problem before you can solve it. The first step to setting a healthy boundary is to understand that something unhealthy is happening. What is healthy for one business owner, may be harmful to another. Boundaries are not one-size-fits-all. Take some time to notice where you feel your own boundaries have been crossed, specifically focusing on your time.
For example, if you actually enjoy working on Saturdays, getting a 10 am call from your client may not be an issue. However, if you find that this one client is constantly keeping you from your family or fun events and eating up your weekends, you may start to feel resentful. Noticing this dis-ease will help you take action and improve your work-life balance.
Once you’ve identified the issue and have allowed yourself to notice these feelings, it’s time to brainstorm some healthy boundaries. Think of solutions and guidelines you could set to avoid this issue in the future without taking away from your client experience. In this specific situation, you might choose to set a healthy, realistic boundary that you are only available for client needs, Monday-Friday 9 am-4 pm.
Your clients cannot adapt to your needs if you don’t verbalize them early and often. They aren’t mind readers afterall! When introducing boundaries to current or long-time clients an honest conversation around boundaries is always best. Be sure to have an open, and firm talk before updating contracts or sending emails about your policies.
As you take on new clients, be sure to include expectations and boundaries during your kickoff calls as well as in your welcome packets, emails, or even in your contracts. Be as clear and consistent as possible.
Setting and sharing your boundary is a great first step, but it simply isn’t enough. While clients and team members have good intentions, they may not keep your boundaries top of mind. Only you can protect your time and what works for you.
Letting it go when someone crosses a boundary you have established can be a slippery slope. Once you set a boundary, be firm. At first this may feel uncomfortable. You may even feel “mean” or “inflexible.” However, when you allow others to push back on your boundaries, you are actually being unkind to yourself.
A simple way to enforce time boundaries include setting an OOO (Out of Office) email auto-response. This reminds people that you are unavailable and re-establishes your time boundaries.
COO Tip: Don’t be afraid to introduce new boundaries with longtime clients. This is a concern that many of my clients come to me with. Your needs as a business owner are going to shift as your business grows and changes. This is a natural and normal part of the process. What worked for you and your client when you first started your business may not work for you anymore. While this is true you will ALSO want to do this sparingly. Changing policies and boundaries too often can make it feel like you and your company are unstable or untrustworthy. When updating policies and boundaries, try to be comprehensive so that you can re-establish new expectations all at once, ideally once per year.
Your clients will respect you for voicing what you need so that you can continue to offer them the very best service or product.
How does this save you time? Boundaries help you protect your time by making it clear when you are willing to work and how you engage with your business. When you do not name and claim your time, it is easy for others to unintentionally suck up your time (and energy). Not only will you have more time when you set these boundaries, but you will also improve the quality of the time you reclaim both in and out of your business.
It is important to notice and work with the rhythms in your business to help keep everything humming along smoothly. A rhythm is any recurring task or workflow that comes up often in your business. When you pay attention to these rhythms you’ll be able to stay current and build on your momentum rather than heavy lifting each and every time.
This can help you avoid disruptions to the flow of your work daily, weekly, and even annually!
I compare it to an elliptical at the gym. Once you get going, the machine keeps your momentum flowing. But, the second your Airpods fall on the floor and you need to stop the machine, you’ve lost your rhythm.
Have you ever noticed how much harder it is (and how much more time it takes) to START the elliptical again once you’ve stopped? The energy needed to get going is significantly higher than the energy needed to keep yourself in motion. This is exactly how the rhythms of your business work.
Let’s jump into how you can support the rhythm and ease of your business (and save yourself a ton of time) with systems, processes, and automation.
Before you can make changes, you need to know where your time is going. Allow yourself to carve out a week or two and observe where your time is spent. Are you mostly working on client-facing tasks, administrative work, marketing, or getting sucked into social media? Identify what is and is not working. Once you’ve targeted where your time is most valued and where it is most wasted, you can consider solutions that will move the needle forward in your business.
You’ve identified some of the ways you are being inefficient with your time. So…now what?
Often entrepreneurs will have a knee-jerk reaction to outsource. While this MIGHT be the right solution, I don’t recommend it as your first option. Sometimes it’s about working smarter, not harder on tasks YOURSELF.
Take a look at the rhythms in your business and notice any systems you have in place that can be improved. You may realize you don’t yet have a formalized system for recurring tasks like onboarding new clients or updating your financial records. Now is that time to put some systems in place and save time later.
If you are looking for guidance, I created a freebie specifically to help entrepreneurs establish the right systems to support their business goals. You can grab, ‘The 3 Systems You Need To Run Your Freelance Business Efficiently’ here.
Creating systems and clear processes in your business for repeatable actions and tasks will help to ensure you don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time!
How does this save you time? If you are typing the same email to new clients again, and again, and again, you are wasting time. You can enhance your onboarding system with a new process. Have a pre-written email saved or automated. If you don’t have email automation yet, simply copy and paste your text, update to be specific to the individual client, and send it along! You save time when you know what you need to do next. Investing time upfront will ensure that you have the processes in place to save time later, eliminate errors, and minimize oversights!
I am a firm believer that you should automate anything and everything you can!
We live in an age where there is an app, software, or website for just about ANYTHING in your business! Leverage tech to really get your time back!
When you’re doing it all yourself, tiny tasks add up QUICK!
We don’t always realize how much time it takes to switch from one task to another.
compound into way more time lost that we could imagine!
The more we can automate, the more time we can free up and claim.
Leverage your time by automating as many systems as possible such as email, scheduling, and capturing client inquiries.
How does this save you time? Set it and forget it. When things are pre-scheduled and can work autonomously behind the scenes you save mental space! Your brain is precious real estate! The time that those tedious, repetitive tasks used to take up, can now be focused on high-priority responsibilities that require the human touch and will be most impactful in your business.
So, I JUST told you not to jump to outsourcing as a solution for getting time back in your business. While outsourcing shouldn’t be your first, impulsive reaction, it can be an excellent way to be more efficient with your time and move you closer to those big business goals you have in mind.
I actually just hired my first team member (you can read all about that process here)! While hiring a team member can be amazing for your business, I highly suggest you do this after optimizing your own time and systems.
How does this save you time? It will come to a point where you have truly optimized your time as best you can. You’ve automated, streamlined, and realigned but you’re STILL pressed for time. It’s time to delegate. At this point, hiring a team member will allow you to hand over projects and tasks to an expert (they may even be able to do the job better than you!).
COO Tip: Keep in mind that while outsourcing does save you time, it doesn’t eliminate time spent on those tasks completely. You will need to spend time upfront to save time long term. When outsourcing you will spend more time initially on the interview and hiring process, onboarding your new team member, giving them feedback and overseeing the project from your CEO vantage point.
Before you can get your time back in your business you need to…
CEO Time will give you the space and clarity you need to assess where your time is going so that you can strategically solve the problem. You’ll be able to carve out time to…
Now that you are equipped with not only the tips but also the strategies to put them into action, you can reclaim your time and get back to running a business that supports all parts of YOU including your business, and your personal life.
I work with my 1:1 clients to help them assess their time needs and where they are wasting time. We go through a detailed process that helps shine light on where they can work more efficiently and develop a streamlined plan to get them back on track.
If you feel like you could benefit from some individualized business coaching, I offer FREE 30-minute Strategy Calls. I can steer you in the right direction and get you started as you reclaim your time.
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