“I can’t find the time to work on my business.”
This is a common complaint I hear among female solopreneurs, and it’s totally understandable.
A lot of us are working full-time jobs, while trying to build our businesses on the side. Some of us are even attempting to raise a family, keep a nice house and cook, too!
(A good slow cooker will revolutionise your life, promise.)
And while you’re all superwomen for trying, it’s not possible to get everything done, all the time.
And while you can live off coffee and adrenaline for a while, eventually your body is going to give up on you and make you crash.
This is common amongst entrepreneurs – call it burn out, overwhelm, or depression, the result is the same.
So how do you avoid spinning your wheels and actually make solid progress on your business?
Well, my friends, I’ve done the research, read the blogs and tried & tested the following steps. All while building my own e-commerce store, working full-time for marketing clients and travelling the world.
If you want to see actual results, you have to actually do something differently.
Let it be these following steps:
Take a deep breath
I know what you’re thinking….”Don’t tell me to stop, drop and breath. I’m not here for someone to tell me to meditate!”
And I get it BUT…
In order for your mind to function effectively, it needs a healthy dose of oxygen.
If you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious, which can happen without you consciously realising, your breath gets quicker and shallower and you cannot – no matter how much you try – focus.
And I need you to focus. So, please grab a pen and a note pad, a hot beverage and take a few deep breaths. (A large glass of water wouldn’t hurt, either.)
Done? Great, let’s move on…
Do a big braindump
You have a million things on the go and never quite finish anything. You’re pulled in a million different directions and don’t know what to tackle first. You have grand plans but they feel overwhelming and you don’t even know where to start.
I know this because most entrepreneurs also go through it, myself included.
So I want you to use that notepad you’ve grabbed and write down all the things you want and need to do for your business. Split up your page into projects, tasks and ideas. Write things such as “create a welcome email sequence” under projects, “order more stock” under tasks and “blog about summer festivals” under ideas.
Nothing is a silly or stupid idea, and only you have to see it, so let loose and give yourself a good half hour to sit and note down anything that pops into your head.
Pro tip: Keep your notes with you while you’re working to note down ideas as they strike! I actually love my bullet journal for this.
You’ll be amazed how much better you feel when everything is written down!
Pick one project
The projects are likely to be the things that will make the most difference to your business. Usually a marketing campaign, creating a new product line or becoming known in the farmer’s market scene.
They’re also the things that take up the most time and energy.
So, pick one. Pick the one that”s going to make the biggest difference to your business or your customers. What have you been putting off for the longest time? What are you most excited by?
And picking this one project doesn’t mean you’ll never do the other projects, but we’re focusing on working smarter, not harder. And you definitely will be more efficient if you focus on one – just one – project at a time.
Let me know what your next project will be in our Women’s Business Accelerator. We might be able to help!
Now, turn the page, write your project down at the top and brainstorm every little task you can think of that you will need to complete to finish the project.
So by now you should have a clear idea of what needs to get done in order for you to complete your project.
Depending on your current level of organisation, you might be able to go straight ahead and give those tasks time slots in your diary, bullet journal or digital planner.
Pro tip: Overestimate how long it will take you to complete each task. If you think it’ll take 30 minutes, plan for 45, and so on.
However, if you’re now sitting there saying “Look, I just can’t find the time…” then I want you to banish that thought from your brain and trust me.
You just need an hour a day. Honestly, you can get so much done in a single hour, ESPECIALLY when you’re not wasting time figuring out WHAT you want to do. Having a plan means you’ll be able to sit down and get stuck in straight away. That’s why people say “planning now, saves time later.” I promise, it’s true.
So look at your schedule, and allocate some time to working on your business.
I hate the phrase “find time”, because the reality is you’ll need to sacrifice something else. Just like a household budget, there is a fixed number of hours in a day.
Most is taken up with work, travelling to and from work, cooking, cleaning etc…
But when are you spending time doing activities that don’t help your life in anyway? I’m talking about endless scrolling or sitting in front of the tv.
And hey, I’m not a grinch. I love binge watching Orange Is The New Black as much as the next person.
But, in order to add an hour of biz time into your day, we’re going to have to sacrifice an hour of something else.
Be honest with yourself. What are you willing to give up in order to fit this in? If your answer is “nothing”, you simply might not have the time to run a business on top of everything else you want to do! And that’s okay – we can’t all run our own businesses.
However, hopefully you’ve identified some time in your day that you are willing to dedicate to your business. Plan project work on 4 of those days, and on the 5th, leave the hour for the short-task list you identified above.
Simply add to this short task list throughout the week, knowing you’ll attack it on Friday (or Monday, or Wednesday…)
You’ll be amazed how much you can get done when you’re that focused.
Distractions, be gone!
Don’t roll your eyes when I say this, but seriously turn off all notifications on your phone.
Social media platforms are addictive. They promise a rush with every little ding you hear or message you see. They’re literally irresistible when they promise a notification! My life improved exponentially when I removed all email, Facebook and Instagram notifications from my life. (I also banished my newsfeed on desktop, but that’s another story)
I check them on my breaks sometimes, but I actually plan “social time” into my day, because these platforms do require my attention – I am a social media strategist after all.
But when I lock into a project or a task list, I do not allow my phone to demand my attention. I also close all unnecessary tabs (I’m terrible at having a million open at once) and windows.
If you live with people, let them know you don’t want to be disturbed, just for that hour. If you have mini people running around, either ask your partner to keep them busy, or schedule your business time during nap time. I get that being a parent is not easy, but try and anticipate any needs up front and avoid being distracted at all costs.
Because every time you break the “flow”, you lose 20% of your productive time.
That means in a single hour, one distraction could cost you 12 minutes or more.
“Even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”
So stop trying to multi-task – no one actually does it well – and simply focus all your energy into the task you’ve planned on doing.
You’ll be amazed how efficient you can become!
Don’t overthink it
Here’s a nugget that might be tough to swallow.
If you’re struggling with “perfectionism”, it’s because you’re too chicken to actually put yourself out there.
I see it all the time with clients, and bullet journal customers.
Unless you have OCD (the real, mental illness, not the “cutesy I like things tidy” kind), there is nothing stopping you moving forward with a project that is less than perfect, except you!
Here’s a kicker. The more you do imperfectly, the closer to perfection you get.
And this isn’t just me being contrary. The following story comes from the book Art & Fear , by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
“The ceramics teacher announced that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
“His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.
“Well, grading time came and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!
“It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat around theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”
So, when you sit down for your allocated business time, don’t think about it. Don’t for a second let your brain start convincing you to take it easy, or that it’s not good enough, or whatever other tricks it might be trying to pull.
Just get out your to do list, and get doing!
Look, running a business is HARD. Especially if you’re trying to do it while holding down a full-time job, study, a family…
It seems to be all the rage to have a side-hustle right now. Everyone’s building their own website on wix (don’t do it), selling essential oils (seriously, how many essential oils does one country need?) and drop-shipping cheap, asian rip-offs.
But most of these people will fail at building a business. Why?
They aren’t doing it for the right reasons. You’re not going to earn a year’s salary in the first 6-months. Heck, you won’t even get paid the hours you put in.
But people put in the hours because they love what they do. My bullet journal business was born out of a love of stationery and NancyEMedia was created because I had too many clients and I couldn’t help them all.
I also LOVE talking about business and marketing and would happily write about it all day.
But when shit gets hard, and I’m tired, and I’ve typed my fingers to the bone and scheduled a million Instagram posts…
Love for the job keeps me going.
The question you have to ask yourself is: would you still do it if you knew it wouldn’t make you any money?