Early in my career as a designer, I had the opportunity to work at a studio where the owner had a unique approach to leadership. While he started the day with our team, he primarily spent the majority of his time outside the office.
He’d be at events, going on retreats, taking meetings.
As a young employee deeply entrenched in the day-to-day operations of the business, this approach used to perplex and frustrate me SO much.
“What could possibly be more important than serving our clients?!”, I thought.
But looking back, I now realize the work he was doing was just as, if not more, vital than the client-facing work the rest of us were doing.
As a business owner, it’s not just about showing up; you’ve got to be the leader and the visionary too.
So here’s the crucial question:
Are you working on your business or simply getting lost in the daily grind of working in it?
It’s time for some honest self-reflection, or maybe even an audit, to assess how you’re spending your most valuable, non-renewable resource—
If you’re nodding your head, feeling that you’re always knee-deep in fulfilling orders, providing services, managing projects, and wrangling administrative tasks, you’re not alone.
Most days, you probably feel more like a professional firefighter than a creative entrepreneur because you’re constantly putting out fires and reacting to problems and client requests.
This is a classic sign that you’re spending most of your time working “in” your business.
While it’s a common trap that many entrepreneurs fall into, it’s crucial to recognize where you stand if you want to take your business to the next level.
When you’re working “in” your business, your focus is primarily on the here and now—the immediate tasks at hand.
You might find yourself micromanaging every aspect of your business operations and delivering your offers (like your current client projects or products) which eats up your time, energy, and productivity.
Your main concerns typically revolve around checking tasks off your to-do list, short-term goals, and immediate revenue generation (hello, “feast or famine” cycle), often leaving little to no room for higher-level, strategic thinking and long-term business development.
Picture being able to do all that while reaching (or exceeding) your revenue and profit goals, continuing to have your hands in the creative work you love, and creating happy customers who become raving fans.
In a nutshell, transitioning from being all tangled up “in” your business to thriving because you’re able to also focus “on” your business is like shifting gears. It’s about moving from the daily grind to gaining a big-picture view of your business’s potential. You have to be able to go back and forth between both.
By finding the sweet spot between hands-on work and strategic thinking, you can propel your business forward and experience lasting success.
The good news is, NOW is the absolute BEST time to step back and assess your business’s overall health, its alignment with your vision, and the progress you’ve made so far.
In this week’s blog, we’ll delve deeper into how you can make this shift happen in your creative business. I’ll offer actionable steps and insights to help you strike that balance and pave the way for sustainable, intentional growth.
When it comes to growing your business, you’ve got to know when to switch from being knee-deep in the day-to-day grind to wearing that CEO hat. And it all starts with carving out some dedicated time.
In our crazy busy lives, we tend to forget about two super important things:
Ourselves and our businesses.
Just as it can be HARD to carve out time for yourself, it can be equally as difficult to carve out time to work on your business.
But while you’re loving on your clients and customers, it’s important to remember you and your business deserve some love too!
You need to be your first, most important client! Don’t sacrifice your business for the sake of your clients.
I know this can seem counterintuitive (like putting on your oxygen mask before others on a plane) but really, your business needs a solid foundation, effective systems, and trustworthy strategies so you can do your best work.
So, what’s this CEO Time all about?
Well, it’s an invitation to step away from the hustle and embrace your inner visionary.
The best part is, CEO Time doesn’t have to be set in stone; it’s flexible. You can mold it to fit your business’s ever-changing needs, no matter what season you’re in.
For some business owners CEO Time becomes a weekly rhythm, while for others it may be something they do over a few days once a year (like your own mini retreat)!
No matter how you structure your CEO Time, it’s an opportunity for you to zoom out and look at the big picture. You can fine-tune your business strategy, plan way ahead into the future, and remember why you started this whole creative journey in the first place.
By taking a breather from the daily grind, you’re making sure that every little thing you do in your business actually moves the needle toward those big, bold goals and dreams you’ve set.
So many entrepreneurs shy away from CEO Time!
Well, it’s not because they don’t want to do it or that they don’t see the value.
So, what’s the real reason why so many creative entrepreneurs tend to avoid CEO Time?
Good old-fashioned fear!
They’re scared that once they step away (whether for an hour, a day, or a week), their business will crumble like a house of cards.
But here’s the deal: CEO Time is like a compass for your business. It gives you space to reflect, strategize, and pivot. So when you jump back into your daily routine, you’re crystal clear about where you’re headed.
Ultimately, it will give you peace of mind, knowing that your business is moving in the right direction.
So, how do you actually make sure that CEO Time is honored? And once you have it blocked off on your calendar, how can you make the most of this CEO Time?
Great questions, let’s dig into some solutions!
(and not drop the ball in your business)
Now you understand that CEO Time is a game-changer. But, so many of us struggle to carve it out consistently without letting all the day-in, day-out business tasks fall to the wayside, even when we know it’s vital for our business’s health and growth.
That’s why I’ve compiled 3 of my best tips to help you establish CEO Time as a rhythm and stick to it consistently so you can follow through with ease and steer your business toward the sustainable success you’ve always envisioned.
We’re often taught that prioritizing ourselves is selfish, but it truly isn’t!
There will always be someone or something clamoring for your attention. But, if you get into the habit of putting everyone else’s needs before your own, you’ll never have time for yourself or your business.
This quote by Brendon Burchard puts things in perspective:
“Beware of your inbox; it’s nothing but a convenient organizing system for other people’s agendas.”
So, in addition to avoiding your inbox, Slack channels, social media, and muting notifications when you need some quality CEO Time, it’s crucial to organize your tasks based on your goals, not just deadlines.
It’s a delicate balance, but here’s the key: don’t consistently push those big-picture, longer-term tasks to the bottom of your to-do list when little fires, emergencies, and requests pop up. Remember, someone else’s timeline isn’t yours!
What absolutely needs to get done?
What would be nice to complete?
What can wait, and what can I delegate or skip?
Whenever I find it challenging to maintain my boundaries and feel tempted to prioritize other people’s needs over my own, I remind myself of this common but oh-so-true quote,
“A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”
I hope it helps you prioritize yourself and your business more often too!
In both your personal life and in business, don’t hesitate to delegate or outsource tasks outside your zone of genius!
Delegating responsibilities to those with the expertise can lead to quicker, more efficient results. This not only lightens your workload but also allows you to concentrate on your strengths and the creative work you love!
This transition from carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders to leaning on support may take some initial effort and will require a significant mindset shift.
And yes, setting up automation, training a team member, writing an SOP (standard operating procedure), or establishing a new system may take more time upfront.
But, ultimately this initial lift is a wise investment (talk about good ROI). It sets the stage for increased efficiency, streamlined operations, and time savings down the road.
Whether you realize it or not, you have total and absolute control over your calendar. Nothing lands on it unless you’ve given it the green light.
For that reason, you must be ruthless about your “Nos” and intentional about your “Yeses.”
Full transparency, I didn’t believe this when I first heard it. But, when I really thought about it and took a long hard look at my calendar, I realized it was absolutely true.
So if you’re calling BS on this statement at first, I challenge you to open up that calendar and really think about each and every thing on there!
Make “calendaring” an active verb in your life. Time block, batch tasks, schedule, and optimize your daily flow. Use your ideal day and time audit as a pulse check any time you add something new to your calendar.
Actively working with your calendar is the best way to understand where you’re spending your time so you can assess if those efforts are really impactful (or just busy work).
So many business owners spend time on tasks that don’t align with or further their goals, often because it’s what they think they’re supposed to be doing or because it’s the way things have always been done. By actively engaging in your schedule, you can use those essential critical thinking skills to ensure that your daily actions are purposeful and not superficial.
In addition to making sure tasks are in line with your goals, also take time to align your calendar with your natural energy, inspiration, and productivity cycles. We all experience moments in the day when our focus sharpens, energy soars, and creativity flows effortlessly — but each person is different!
Pay attention to yours and then learn to embrace these peaks so you can lean into them.
I highly recommend that you reserve your CEO Time for your peak hours (it’s also a great time for creative work) and avoid scheduling demanding tasks during your inevitable energy slumps (for me it’s 3 p.m. each day when I desperately need some caffeine).
Instead, allocate these slower periods for less taxing, automatic tasks, like administrative work.
They’re an essential ingredient for success. Whether it’s a coffee break, lunch, a stretch, a walk, a yoga class, mindless errands, some downtime with a good book, or something else you need these intervals woven into your day.
Prioritize them, and they’ll fuel your productivity and well-being. WHATEVER it looks like to you, make sure you have breaks built in!
COO Tip: Your work environment, such as your home office or studio, can also play a significant role in how consistent you are about working on your business and not just in it. If you’re looking for tips to optimize your workspace, check out this previous blog post.
Armed with these strategies to safeguard and maximize your CEO Time, you’re free to explore how to make the most of this valuable time block in your creative business.
Whether you use it for strategic planning, developing stronger connections with your audience, or sparking new creative ideas, this time is your blank canvas. Only you know what you need most! Use it to sculpt growth, productivity, and advancement in your creative journey.
Let’s explore 4 of my favorite ways to make the most of your CEO Time and consistently work on your business!
CEO Time offers space for you to nurture your personal and professional growth. A key ingredient to success is the commitment to continuous learning. The world is brimming with knowledge, and you never know where your next breakthrough idea or spark of inspiration will come from (often it comes from stepping outside of your comfort zone)!
By dedicating your time and energy to your ongoing development, you can keep curiosity, engagement, and innovation alive in your niche or industry as well as your life and business!
So, during your CEO Time, feed your mind, hone your skills, and remain at the forefront of your field.
While the saying “Your network is your net worth” might sound a bit cliché, there’s a grain of truth to it. Networking isn’t just about financial gains; it’s about building connections, engaging in meaningful conversations, and opening the door to new opportunities.
After all, people can’t support you or your creative work if they don’t know what you’re up to.
This doesn’t just apply to your peers, it applies to your audience too!
These interactions can provide you with some invaluable insights about how you can better align your messaging with your audience’s needs, serve them more effectively, and create products or offers that truly resonate with them.
Much like continuous learning, your next big idea or inspiration can come from the people you connect with. So, during your CEO Time, don’t underestimate the power of relationship building.
As an outsourced COO (Chief Operations Officer), I get it– ops aren’t sexy.
When it comes to your business, think about it like a well-oiled machine. You’ve got your systems, processes, client experience, financials, and the people who keep the engine running, including your team, contractors, and vendors.
You’re in it for the long haul, so it’s crucial to keep this well-oiled machine in top shape. This means not just maintaining your current operations but also preparing for future growth.
Make sure you’re up to speed with legal and financial requirements to keep your business legit and compliant. These efforts reinforce the foundation that holds up your creative business, ready to support your current goals and future dreams.
Use your CEO Time wisely to take a closer look at the operational side of things. It’s the backbone that keeps your creative business standing strong!
COO Tip: Client Experience often influences several of your ops systems. I encourage my clients to reflect on client experience. It’s a crucial element for a sustainable business. Be intentional, evaluate its impact on your business and internal processes, and find ways to make it easier, more effective, and enjoyable for you and your clients
CEO Time is a perfect time to create, update, or expand your business plan!
I know business plans may sound intimidating, but they really don’t have to!
Here are my best tips for creating a simple but effective, no-fluff business plan as a creative entrepreneur:
You now have the tools and know-how to shift from drowning in daily tasks to prioritizing CEO Time in your creative business. As you look ahead and start to implement these strategies, don’t worry; it’s not about making big moves right away.
Start small, but start with purpose.
Create a CEO Time schedule or choose one task that’s been lingering on your to-do list and dedicate some CEO Time to it. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering; it just has to be a start.
Take that small step today, and you’ll be one step closer to turning your creative dreams into reality.
You’ve just unlocked the power of CEO Time, and you’re probably wondering, “What’s next?”
Well, I’m so glad you asked.
“Business Building for Creatives” is my new self-paced course. I created it to help creatives like you pave your path to your dream business, step by step.
No more guesswork or starting from square one.
Instead, harness my proven strategies to craft a tailored business plan that’s uniquely yours.
It’s time to make your creative dream a reality, YOUR way.
Are you ready to take that leap?
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