How to Manage Your Time and To-Do List To Get Your Business Up and Running
December 2, 2020
If you’ve read the blogs around your initial to-do list for your business, you may be figuring out how to get it all accomplished! I see managing your time as a life long practice. For some tasks or project, you will be able to move from day to day accomplishing what you need in both your business and personal life. Yet, other times it seems like no matter what you do something is always there in your way, whether it be procrastination, family matters, technology issues or waiting for permitting. Learning different skills to manage your time allows you to have the structure and flexibility to continue to move your business forward.
Time blocking allows you to segment your days, weeks, and beyond. You’ve probably already been blocking your time and may not even realize it. You may block Monday thru Friday as “workdays.” Saturday and Sunday may be blocked out as “nonwork day.” Within your workday, you can block off your start and end times, your lunch break, or any meetings. Another way to use time blocking is within your workweek, you can block off time in the day for specific tasks. For instance, block email into segmented times like 8:00 am-8:30 am, 1 pm-1:30 pm, and a final check at 5:30 pm. This allows you to block off time around email for other parts of your business or personal life. Another example is blocking of time where you are working IN your business doing things such as communicating with clients or fulfilling orders. And when you are working ON the business doing things such as creating a new product or service, marketing or administrative duties. When you time block your schedule, it helps keep you organized so you can continue to move forward with your tasks knowing you’ve created time for everything you need to do.
Over time, tracking how long it takes you to do different parts of your business provides valuable information. Perhaps you are a graphic designer and charge by the hour. The more tracked time you have, the better and better your project proposal timelines will be. Or, let’s say you are ready to hire a virtual assistant to manage your inbox. If you’ve been tracking your time, you already have a general idea of how many hours a week you will need them for. Another great bit of information is seeing how long you spend on certain tasks. Maybe you post a weekly blog or video. You estimated one blog a week to take two hours to complete. But as you tracked your time, you realized it takes closer to three. Or how long does it take to process an order for your product? From the time you get the notification to shipping? By having this information, you can explore your processes to see if you can change something to make it more efficient. And a final example, tracking your time allows you to see if you are working more or less than you’ve agreed to with yourself or others.
Setting Realistic Goals
Let’s list some goals you may have as you are just starting your business:
Goal: Date of Officially “Opening” You Business
Goal: Creating a Content Calendar for Social Media
Goal: Hitting a monetary amount by a certain date.
Goal: Having so many clients or customers by a certain date.
Let’s list these goals in a more realistic way:
Goal: The Quarter you want your business to be open.
Goal: Increase profit each month, even if it’s only $5 more
Goal: Consistently post once a week to social media
Goal: Increase clients or customers from month to month.
The big difference is the second set of goal offer room for growth while the first is very specific. Yes, I am choosing to not follow the SMART method because I find it can sometimes set you up for failure. As you are working on getting your business up and running, you’re learning so many new things. Realistic for this stage of your business, is to have a lot of grace, patience, and flexibility. What may be an awesome goal, may not fit in the current stage of your business. By being flexible, you keep the health of your business (and your personal health) in focus so it doesn’t get derailed by a goal that isn’t serving. Tara McMullin of Explore What Works has an amazing blog post about picking Commitments instead of Goals.
Personal Time vs Business Time
If we refer back to when we talked about time blocking, I used the example of weekday and weekend days as well known ways to block time. Another example is when you start your workday or stop your workday. We are all familiar with the 8-hour workday and 40-hour workweek. But you work for yourself now. And the line between personal time and business time can get fuzzy. This is where time blocking can work wonders. Perhaps you work on your business from 8 am-2 pm, then break to pick up your kids, or meet your partner for an afternoon walk, or a dentist appointment. Then you have a second block of work from 8 pm- 10 pm that evening. What’s important is to honor the commitments to yourself and to others in your life.
I’m going to use a sometimes triggering word, balance. But let me explain. I am using the term balance with a definition similar to homeostasis. If you search Google, the definition of homeostasis is “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.” Achieving balance in personal time and business time is a series of adjustments and negotiations. The schedule you had yesterday to keep the time balance, may not work today. The schedule you had for the day may need to be changed to keep the proper balance of time. To stay in balance is to stay aware of how your decisions and actions affect your current situation and future situations. The commitment is a relatively stable balance of time.
Reach out to your support system
Starting a business can be isolating. You have this idea in your head and heart that you are working hard to turn into a reality. The moments of challenges and roadblocks and frustration will happen. You may be derailed from the promise you made to yourself and start to either work longer and harder to push through or loosen your deadlines to the point of not moving forward. Building an external support system allows you to step outside of the immediate needs of the business so you can access if you are putting your energy in the right direction. Friends and family are always a good place to start. However, starting a business is risky and hard and even those with the best intentions may not understand that you need a pep talk and not their projected fears or worries about your decisions. Finding and building a community of other business owners will help give you the support, guidance, and comradery needed to push through when times are tough. A few places to look to are
SCORE- SCORE is a part of the Small Business Administration. It is a free resource provided by the government. You are connected with a business coach who helps guides you in areas you are having a hard time with concerning your business.
Being Boss Community- Being Boss is an active community of creative entrepreneurs who are committed to making money doing the work they love.
Chamber of Commerce- Most cities have a Chamber of Commerce. The main purpose is to build a thriving economy through networking, support and guidance for the local businesses. Here you can often find a wide range of business experiences to draw upon.
This blog post is a series on time management throughout the month of December 2020. If you’re interested in learning more about time management, new blog posts are up every Wednesday! I hope this list offers you a solid jumping-off point to exam how you manage your time and some tools to be as thoughtful and efficient as you can.
Erin Detka is the owner of DTK Studios, a website and marketing agency. DTK Studios works with small and micro “do-it-yourself” business owners to create customer-focused websites designed quickly and within a small business budget. What was supposed to be an easy task, setting up a business, can turn into a huge list of tasks that some small business owners don't have the knowledge or skills to do in the amount of time they thought it would take. By investing in a website designer instead of trudging up the learning curve, they can jump-start their business and start selling sooner. Learn more at dtkstudios.com