Being your own boss sounds like the dream, and even if your family and friends thought you were crazy, you took the leap. You had something to share with the world that no job or paycheck could fulfill. And that’s beautiful and amazing and so worthy of the struggle.
But the day-to-day of being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle nothing could prepare you for until you find yourself smack in the middle of it, trying to figure out how you’re going to meet next month’s cashflow projections or deal with late accounts receivable payments or send back a defective order, and trying to remember if you’ve showered that day.
Below are some tips for how to make the most of your boss time, and how to stay on track in your business and personal lives so neither suffers while you’re changing the world.
Waking up whenever you feel like it
When I first started working for myself, I remember feeling like I could do anything I wanted. Party on a Monday night? No problem! I could roll out of bed at 11am on a Tuesday and didn’t have to answer to anyone. It was great! Until it wasn’t. Waking up at a different time every day meant going to bed at a different time. Soon, my schedule became so erratic, I had no idea what actually needed to get done and no idea where the time went.
How to get back on track: Give yourself a time window that you will wake up. For instance, I plan to get up between 7am and 9am every day, no matter what day it is. You will get a sense of both structure and flexibility, which is what I crave as an entrepreneur.
After a few weeks or a month of getting used to this window, see if you can make the window smaller until you are waking up comfortably at an earlier time. Next month, I plan to wake up between 7am and 8:30am.
Accidentally mixing personal and business tasks
If you work out of your home (which many of us tend to do when we first start out), it can be tempting to run errands at the same time. What I didn’t realize was that throwing in a load of laundry meant stopping to fold clothes and calling a credit card company was never a short conversation. What’s worse, I felt like I was working 12-14 hours a day, but my to-do list just kept growing and I had no idea why.
How to get back on track: The first step to changing a habit is awareness. The business coach I work with recommended that I track my time for a week. “Track my what now?” I said. He had me write down what I spent each our hour doing, no matter what it was.
At the end of the week, you should categorize the hours in different buckets. Choose 3-4 different categories to put each hour in. My categories were business development (marketing, research, projects, business structure, etc.), client work, and other (mostly personal stuff).
Even though I felt like I was working a lot, tracking told a different story. I was spending about 30-40% of my time during the day on personal stuff – taking 2 hours for lunch to make an elaborate meal, or calling the cable company for “five minutes” that ended up being 45 minutes.
After you’ve taken stock of how you’re spending your time, you can make more conscientious decisions on how to spend it going forward. For instance, if I want to get a few personal tasks done throughout the week, I’ll add them to my main task list so I have a clear idea of what my workload actually looks like. Then I can prioritize accordingly.
Neglect to schedule time to work on your business
Once I had some clients and started getting into the swing of meetings, emails, and phone calls, I found myself buried in my business. When I wasn’t working with clients, I was working on getting them, and that meant going to networking events, sorting out social media, sending out a newsletter, writing blog posts, joining forums – the list goes on. Some weeks, I would be all over promotion and marketing, others I’d disappear into client work. One day, I took a step back and realized I’d just created another job for myself.
How to get back on track: Pick one day a week where you organize and prune your task list, clean out your email inbox, review your financials, and, most importantly, have chunks of time where you can build out your next project. Whether it’s an updated marketing campaign, a whole new product line or service, new processes, or planning for the long term, having a day to work on growing the business and planning for the next stage is critical for your company (as well as your personal sanity). I’ve blocked out Mondays for this big-picture thinking, and only occasionally check emails and take client calls.
Push personal care to the wayside
Right before I quit my job, I was in the best shape of my life. I was training for a half marathon, working out every day, seeing a personal trainer, and meal prepping like a maniac. Once I quit, I was sure I’d have time to do even more.
What I didn’t realize was the structure I had at my job gave me structure in my personal life too. I had to be at work between 9am and 6pm, so I had a small window in the morning and on the weekends to plan for workouts and meals, along with trying to run Brunch & Budget on the side. My personal care quietly disappeared until one day, I looked up and realized I felt terrible.
How to get back on track: Commit to two weeks straight of working out 5 days a week. I know it’s much easier said than done. I know it’s going to feel like you could be spending these 1-2 hours working on your business. But I promise by week 3, you’ll feel completely different.
Do what you need to do to get motivated. Experiment with fitness trackers, explore different workout environments, and work out what’s right for you. But just get moving. And surprisingly, the healthy eating will likely follow.
Personal care always feels like it’s the first thing that can go, but you can’t do your best work unless your overall health is top notch. I learned that the hard way.
Pamela Capalad is a Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of Brunch & Budget, a financial planning service that makes talking about your money less scary and more delicious. She loves helping freelancers and entrepreneurs organize their financial lives so they can focus on growing their businesses. She is the proud owner of a waffle maker.
Need more entrepreneurial energy in your day? Sign up here to pick up the most useful hacks and habits: