As a small business owner, finding downtime that allows us to disconnect from our business can feel impossible. We set intentions that once the clock hits a certain hour or the calendar page turns, that we’re going to take time off.
We make promises to ourselves and to our families that we are going to put down the cell phone, that we will spend the weekend unplugged. And yet despite the best intentions, that doesn’t always happen.
So before you spend another year asking yourself where the time went, take the time to review how you are spending your time now.
When it comes to time management, one way to determine what is or isn’t working is to use the review method coined by the Boy Scouts: Start, Stop, Continue.
Start. Honor your commitments. Yes, that includes giving yourself that much needed downtime.
Stop. What can you delegate? Are you spending too much time on busy work that is no longer serving you or moving your business forward?
Continue. What’s working? What do you love doing?
You don’t have to account for every hour of your schedule. If you start your day with a to-do list that is a mile long, it’s time to ask yourself if completing everything on the list is realistic. Can you complete the items on the list or are you going to end up feeling guilty for not getting everything done by the end of the day? If you spend more time feeling overwhelmed than taking action, start by simplifying your list.
As busy entrepreneurs, downtime is important. If your list has all work tasks but leaves out time to eat or time to take a break, that’s also unrealistic. Business owners are human too. We started businesses to enjoy certain freedoms, not feel chained to our businesses.
Downtime should be something fun for you, not work-related. Having some scheduled downtime can trigger a creative flow and give you the chance to look at things in a new light. You’ve heard people say that you have to slow down to speed up, and that’s exactly what giving yourself downtime does.
One example is the runner who was having a hard time beating his two-mile run time. His coach advised him to take a break after one mile. The runner thought his coach had lost his mind. Surely taking the break would cost him more time, not help him speed up. But he tried it. And it worked! By taking a short rest, the runner was able to set a new personal best for his 2-mile run.
Technology has allowed us to be available 24/7 and has helped us grow leaps and bounds in our businesses. But being available to everyone at all times of the day is one of the fastest paths to burn out. How can you focus on a task when you are constantly being bombarded with messages and putting out fires?!
Here are some tips for dealing with distractions:
Remember that not everyone is expecting an immediate response. If someone texts or messages you, you don’t have a responsibility to respond right away. If it’s a true emergency, they can call you.
Silence your devices. Most cell phones and computers have a “do not disturb” function. If the idea of being out of touch feels scary, start by setting a timer for 15-20 minutes at a time.
Set clear expectations. If you’re a business owner with a team and you need some dedicated quiet time, let your team know that you’re going to unplug. Assign someone else in charge. By being less available, you might be surprised to see how well your team manages things without you.
Set times for checking email. Create an automated reply that lets people know when you will be checking email. Don’t feel obligated to check your email at the beginning of your day. Doing so may cause you to throw your well-laid plans out the window. Start your morning by being intentional about your must-dos.
Again managing your time is all about being realistic. During the holidays we have a lot more on our plate, whether it’s extra tasks at work or making time for social activities. Accept that the holidays are not the best time to launch big projects, take on new clients, etc.
Honor the extra time you need for shopping, planning, spending time with family and friends, etc. Bonding with your friends and family matters. Make sure you are setting time aside for yourself and for spending time with those who are important to you.
Leave room for unexpected opportunities. While you might feel too busy to make it to that holiday party or leave work early to see friends, it may lead to a great opportunity. You don’t have to set a goal to turn every party into a networking event, but it is a great way to naturally connect with others.
Depending on the type of business you have, consider blacking out time around the holidays. Will you be closed Christmas week? Are there other holidays that you will close early or for the day? It might feel overwhelming to lose a few days of business, but coming back fresh and rested will give you a greater return on your investment.
Take work load off of employees around this time. Slow down your company for them. If you cannot close your business around the holidays, plan to schedule some extra time off either before or after the holiday. Consider a retreat or other team building event to show extra appreciation for those who worked over the holidays.
“We need the courage to start and continue what we should do, and courage to stop what we shouldn’t do.” – Richard L. Evans