“I should really spend more time doing xx”

“I know xx is important, but there’s no time in my schedule to fit it in”

“I wish I could figure out how to make xx more of a priority”

Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?  You can fill in the “xx” with whatever you please.

It could be personal, like exercising, eating healthy, getting together with friends, reading, or others.

Or it could also be professional, like keeping financials updated, setting strategic goals, documenting key activities that only one person does in-house, or delegating work so you can take an extended vacation.

No time in my schedule 

The problem is that we are all busy – presumably all of the time.  Every minute is accounted for, no time to get anything else done.  I hear it from the business owners in my peer group.  And I say it to my accountability group.  It is everyone’s automatic answer these days.

“Hey there, it’s good to see you!  How are you doing?”

“I’m busy”

Anything other than busy makes it seem like we are slackers.  Who says “Oh, you know, just lazing around without much to do to run my business.”

But the fact of the matter is, that we should be aiming for more down time and less “busy” time.

Do you even know how you spend your time?  Have you ever done a time audit to truly track your day?  If you did, do you think that you will conclude that not a minute of that time was wasted?

According to one study, about half of working professionals have “never conducted a time audit to see an analyze how they spend their time.”  And over eighty percent do not have a dedicated time management system.  That means that many of us just let the day control us rather than the opposite.  We react rather that act to manage the day.

What are the top three time-wasters for small business owners?

  • Email
  • Administrative tasks, like billing and accounting
  • Interpersonal conflicts

How does that match up with your top time-wasting activities?

Side note – those survey results were pre-pandemic and don’t include fun, new time-wasters like TikTok or filling out PPP paperwork.

Getting Started 

So, let’s be honest here.  Even though I am sure you are a busy business owner, surely you can find some time in your schedule to take on some good habits.  Now some of those habits might be more personal, helping you avoid burnout by adding in meditation or exercise or social time.

Other habits are more business focused.  The top three activities business owners would like to add to their schedule are

  • Strategic planning
  • Marketing/Sales/PR
  • Product or Service development

Where can you find the time for these vital activities?  There are a few actions you can take, including trying to limit distractions, setting clear tasks and deadlines for yourself and your employees, putting together a more formal strategic plan, and seeking out accountability to hold you to your goals.

It really starts with a better awareness of how you are spending your time and how you would like to be spending your time.  Working too many hours?  No break in the evenings or weekends?  Start by monitoring what exactly it is you’re doing during those evenings and weekends.  Is it vital? Could it wait? Try to be more intentional about taking that time off.

How do you spend a typical workday?

How many times a day do you check email? How does that compare to the average?  Which is, by the way, fifty times a day!

And the average manager or business owners spends three hours per day on unforeseen interruptions.

One study stated that if business owners spend “10-12 minutes planning their day in the beginning, they’ll save up to two hours of time that would have otherwise been wasted.”

Being Intentional 

It’s time to get rid of bad habits and replace them with good ones.  No more excuses.  How do you get started?  It helps if you understand how to create a habit so that it sticks.  James Clear’s book Atomic Habits is a great start for that.

According to Atomic Habits, there are four steps involved in creating a habit:

  • Cue – makes you want to start doing something in anticipation of an award
  • Craving – your motivation or desire for the change the habit delivers
  • Response – the actual habit – whether a thought or an action
  • Reward – the end goal that helps drive your motivation

Now let’s think about some potential habits you’d like to form (or drop!).  For example, let’s say you want to make it a habit to spend 15 minutes every Friday planning your key tasks for the following week.  How can you get to the point that it just feels natural to do that every Friday?

  • Become intentional: Make a statement: “I will write out my top 3 priorities for next week every Friday by 4pm” and track your success on the calendar.
  • Pair your goal action with an existing one: Take something that you already do on a Friday that you enjoy – say taking an afternoon break to take a walk outside.  Now connect that activity with your 15 minutes of planning, so that you require yourself to complete the planning right before you go for your walk.

Start with the cue (I do this at 4pm), remind yourself of your craving (feel organized on Monday), take the time to do that activity (response) and then reward yourself with a walk.

Accountability

Don’t trust yourself?  Take things up a notch by finding an accountability partner.

Find another business owner who will agree to take on the same 15-minute planning activity.  Plan to text each other at the same time every Friday to report back as to whether you completed your task or not.  It’s a lot harder to skip your goal if you have to tell someone directly that you’ve skipped it.  That becomes part of your motivation.

It can also help to find a group of people who have a goal similar to yours – perhaps a running club if that is your goal, or a book club if you want to read more.  Consider the value of being around others that share the same goal and will inspire you and hold you accountable.  According to Clear, it helps to join a group where “your desired behavior is the normal behavior”.

In the beginning of this year, I set a goal to do 30 minutes of yoga twice a week.  Of course, I’d had that goal for a long time, but never accomplished it.  What got me going?  I partnered with a friend, and we set time on our calendars two morning a week.  We would each do yoga separately at home for 30 minutes, and then we were ‘rewarded’ with a 30-minute call together to catch up before getting into work mode.

Does it work every week?  No, sometimes life gets in the way.  Have I gotten more into the habit of doing yoga?  Absolutely yes!

Think about a goal you’d like to accomplish – and how you can turn it into a regular habit with some of these tips.  Then share them with me; I’d love to hear them!

 

 

My passion is to help growth-minded entrepreneurs like you find ways to plan for your version of a successful future.  I do this through courses, consulting, and a community of like-minded people.  Reach out for a free ½ hour conversation if you’re curious to learn more!

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