Being a small business owner is an incredible feat. You’ve pursued your passion and made it into a reality. It is certainly exciting to be at the helm of a business, but it can also be overwhelming. You’re responsible for everything, and properly attending to every factor of your business takes time. You may have noticed that your day can easily be derailed by sales call or troubleshooting an unexpected and urgent issue. These kinds of interruptions are part of being a small business owner, but in order to maximize your time and not work 24/7, try setting a schedule. We have five recommendations for setting a schedule that works for you and helps you stay on track for reaching your business goals.
Go with your gut
A major perk of running your own business is setting your own business hours. If you’re a natural early bird, start your day in line with when you’re most productive. Fancy yourself a night owl? Start your day later and be available during your peak performance hours. You may even find that working conventional hours such as 8AM to 5PM suits your personality, but that you need a midday break. Give yourself that freedom so that you can optimize your productivity. No one is forcing you to be there, so do what feels right for you.
Designate your days
As mentioned before, your days can easily run amuck when you’re managing a business. To increase productivity and set expectations for your day, designate each day by labeling it with a strategic area of focus for your business. The Strategic Coach, a support program for entrepreneurs, suggests categorizing your days into one of three buckets: focus, buffer, and free days. For example, make Monday, Wednesday and Thursday your focus days where you spend time on business development and other sales related activities, while Tuesday and Friday are buffer days, where your time is spent on paperwork, administrative tasks, and strategic planning.
You should aim to give yourself at least one free day per week where you are completely devoid of job responsibilities and can tap into the other areas of your life. Map out how many focus and buffer days you need per week and contrast that with what are your realistic business expectations. Add these labels to your calendar and color code them so you have a visual reminder of what your priorities are for the day. This kind of system puts you back in control and allows you to plan and prepare for the day instead of reacting to it.
Before you say this is impossible, these are just guidelines. Of course things will come up that are time sensitive and need immediate attention, but having a game plan for each day helps set the tone of your work and identify your daily priorities.
For some, scheduling every minute of their day provides the structure needed to stay on task. However, as we’ve mentioned, problems arise and unforeseen things, either positive or negative, pop up. By leaving some free space in your schedule, it gives you the flexibility to deal with the unexpected. Knowing you can move a project back a few hours to deal with a crisis gives you the clarity and peace of mind to tackle the emergency without feeling like you’re jeopardizing your other priorities. Some entrepreneurs leave full days open on their calendar so they can catch up and do whatever is needed. Others prefer to build in blocks of time to their day, so there is a designated period for them to take a break or react to a business need.
As a 21st century entrepreneur, professional apps are your best friend! They make juggling all of your responsibilities simpler by reducing time spent on certain tasks or completely automating other processes. Consider investing in a few apps to get the help you need for a fraction of the cost of an employee.
Clear is a phenomenal organization app. It allows you to create and manage multiple lists and set reminders for tasks. It’s essentially the modern day equivalent of a your trusted checklist and daily planner, and we love it. It’s easy to use and keeps everything you need to know and track in one place.
Kanban Flow is a project management system intended for individuals or small teams. It helps you visualize your work, collaborate in real-time, time track your projects, and helps you focus on working on few projects simultaneously in service of greater productivity. It’s a one-stop shop for boosting productivity and setting priorities for your business.
Dropbox is a personal cloud storage service that allows for file sharing and real time collaboration. You can share files with a click of a button and increase your storage space for a nominal cost. Setting up your account takes only a few minutes and then you’re ready for business. It provides you the ability to work from any location and have all of your business files at your fingertips.
An essential part of any business is keeping your mindset forward-focused. Once your business is running smoothly and you have a routine in place, it’s easy to forget about long-term goals or back up plans. It’s important to make time for annual planning as well as a five-year plan. Where do you hope to be in six months, one year, and five years from now? Take the time to write out your vision and earmark dates to revisit certain topics or initiatives.
Of equal importance is to plan for unexpected market changes. While you can’t predict the future, consider a few worse case scenarios that would jeopardize your business. How would you handle them? Make a plan of action should any of these events come to fruition. Future planning does not need to be a daily or weekly task, but it is something to keep in the back of your mind and revisit quarterly so you can track how you’re doing against long-term goals and refresh any plans for unfortunate events.
Are you ready to take on the day? Let us know how your schedule your time as a small business owner in the comments below.
About the Author: Julie Chomiak is the Content Marketing Specialist for Webs and Pagemodo. When she’s not scouring the web for small business trends, Julie loves traveling, interior design, and animals of all kinds. Get more from Julie on the Webs Blog and the Pagemodo blog.