People become entrepreneurs because they believe owning a business means having better work-life balance. You have your own time and if you decide to run your business from home, that saves you the hassles of the everyday commute. But oftentimes, reality is different from perception.
From running the Monday to Friday 9-to-5 grind as a private employee, many entrepreneurs find themselves working 12 to 14 hours, sometimes for seven days a week.
As a private employee, compensation may not accurately measure productivity but at least you were assured of a bi-monthly salary plus benefits. And if the boss wasn’t doing well, he’d make for great conversation over drinks with the fellas at the bar.
Life Challenges of Being an Entrepreneur
The pressures are different as a business owner. You are invested financially and emotionally in the business plus you are accountable for all decisions that have to be made. Thus, the risks are greater.
Revenues are used to pay for operating expenses. Savings are either plugged back to the business as capital investment to improve facilities or set aside as contingency.
Unless the stream of revenues is consistent and above par, you could find yourself with unstable income for an indefinite period of time.
Eventually the pressure to succeed reaches a point that work has taken over your life. More time is allocated for work, rather than other areas: family, friends and your health.
You start missing out on milestones such as your son’s first Little League game or your daughter’s first dance recital. Your lifestyle takes a nasty turn. You find yourself losing sleep, eating unhealthy food and lacking exercise.
Every end of the month, you look at the company’s financial statements and are faced with the same nagging question:
“Does spending more time at work guarantee the success of my business?”
Quantity vs Quality Time
The short answer is “No”. In the first place, there are no guarantees in life or work. As the old saying goes, “Even the best laid plans go awry.” This is especially true in the age of the Internet. Consumers have more access to information and can make more educated buying decisions.
We’re also at the time of globalization. Economies are more interconnected. There is immediate access to regions where comparative cost advantages and economies of scale are available.
Business has gone global and conditions have become much more competitive. Markets have grown more unpredictable. We’ve seen a shift in political structures across the world the last few years which have made the business environment more chaotic and volatile.
Instead of putting in more time for work, find ways to improve efficiency so you can increase productivity.
Time as a Measure of Productivity
“Give me six hours to chop the tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”
By definition productivity is the measure of output per unit of input. In relation to business, productivity means accomplishing more with less input. In order to achieve greater productivity, you should emphasize efficiency when managing your business.
The best parameter for efficiency is time. Why? Because you cannot change, control or influence time. There is no technology capable of manipulating time. Whether you like it or not, you will always have 24 hours every day.
Time is the one constant in a list of variable factors that could spell the difference between success and failure for your business.
How to Find Life and Work Balance
Your ability to manage time efficiently will not only have an impact on the success of your business but will also have repercussions on the other aspects of your life: family, friends and your health.
Here are 8 of the best time management strategies you can use to find balance between life and work:
1. Plan Your Day the Night Before
American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault always has a busy day but he manages to keep everything smooth and stress-free by doing one simple thing. Mr. Chenault plans his day the night before.
Planning your schedule the night before removes time-wasting guesswork and procrastination that tends to happen during spur-of-the-moment situations. With advanced planning, you will have a crystal clear idea on the things that need to get done and approach them with laser-like focus.
2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington once passed out and hit her head on a table opening up a cut that required five stitches. She was working so hard that she neglected an important part of her daily schedule: getting enough sleep.
Ever since that incident, Ms. Huffington unplugs all technology and makes sure she gets at least seven hours of sleep every night.
Lack of sleep puts you at risk of acquiring many diseases and illnesses such as diabetes, heart attacks and cancer. It also affects memory, cognition and comprehension. Doctors recommend getting at least seven hours of high quality sleep every night.
3. Start the Day on the Right Foot
Do you start your day with a good breakfast or by checking your email? If you find yourself reaching for your smartphone instead of a cup of coffee and a whole wheat bagel, you are setting yourself up for one unproductive and stressful day.
How do some of the world’s most successful people start their morning?
- Former US President Barack Obama – Pumps iron at 6:45am
- Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz – Wakes up at 4:30am to walk his three dogs
- Microsoft founder Bill Gates – Spends 1 hour on the treadmill while watching instructional videos to work both mind and body
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – Breakfast with his wife MacKenzie and their four children.
- Media mogul Oprah Winfrey – 16.5 minutes of meditation at 9:30am
Before you seize the day, get yourself physically, mentally and emotionally ready to pursue the tasks you have set out to accomplish. Clearing out the cobwebs before heading to work matters.
4. Learn to Prioritize
We all have someone in our lives who seems to have every waking hour in his or her agenda filled up with things to do. But is a calendar that is packed with “things to do” a sign of success?
Here’s the truth: When you try to do everything, you end up accomplishing nothing.
Learn to prioritize the things you need to do. Often the first item on your agenda should be the one you dread the most. Guess what? Unless you take care of it, you will find it on your agenda every single day. And the situation may get worse unless you attend to it as soon as possible.
Get it over and done with then move on to the next item on the list.
5. Set Clear and Realistic Goals
Goal setting has been proven to be an effective approach to improving productivity. Your goals establish direction and provide guidance to where you want to go.
But for your goals to be effective, they must be clearly defined and realistic.
For example, if you want to improve lead generation it is more realistic to target a 20% increase in one month than an astronomical figure such as 2,000%. In the first place, you may not have the scale, funding or infrastructure necessary to accommodate the demands of a 2,000% increase in lead generation.
By setting clear and realistic goals, you will be able to align your available resources to meet those targets. There will be less time wasted on reviewing strategy, implementing changes and managing risk factors.
6. Create a Productive Work Environment
You’re busy finalizing the design drawings for a presentation to a big client tomorrow. You’ve hit roadblocks on some areas of the design and are presently reworking key numbers in your calculation.
Then your phone starts ringing. Or you see messages flashing on your PC from Skype, Viber or Messenger. At the most inopportune times, people knock on your door.
Regardless of the type of message or who they are from, these are distractions that can seriously take away precious time and impact productivity.
Before starting your work day, set aside all forms of distractions. Here are some things you can do to create a productive work environment:
- Create voice mail then put away your mobile phone.
- Lower the ring volume of your landline but leave a voice message.
- Leave word at Skype or Viber that you cannot be disturbed during a certain time period.
- Close all of your social media accounts.
- Place a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your office door.
Dedicate specific hours of the day to check messages. This will be discussed in the next strategy.
7. Utilize Focus Blocks
According to studies, the average American office worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive time per day. This means that on a full eight hour schedule, the average American only generates 19% productivity.
The rest of their time is spent on non-productive behavior such as checking social media, taking restroom or water cooler breaks and surfing the Internet.
Yet, America remains the most powerful economy in the world. Imagine if the average American worker was able to increase productivity by 300%.
Is that even possible?
The answer is “Yes” and the best way to achieve it would be to use focus blocks. A focus block is a time period that is committed for the accomplishment of only one task. Based on the study, the ideal length of a focus block is 90 minutes.
The study on the productivity of the average American office worker is also supported by other research which claim most people can maintain 100% focus for only 90 to 120 minutes.
Here is how you schedule focus blocks for a typical work day:
- Identify three tasks that you want done at the end of the work day. Rank these tasks in terms of priority.
- Commit 90 minutes for each of these tasks. For example:
- Once you complete a focus block, give yourself a 30 minute break. You can have a nap, go to the restroom, have a snack, check emails, check social media, return calls and other matters that need your attention.
Assuming you complete all 3 tasks, then your productivity rating soars to 75%. If you compare this with the performance of the average American office worker, you are looking at a 300% increase in productivity simply by using focus blocks!
With focus blocks, you reduced your work schedule from 8 hours to 4.5 hours per day. You reduced time input by 44% but increased output by 300%.
Now that is efficiency!
8. Outsource Non-Core Functions
We discussed the benefits of outsourcing in our article “How We Can Help With a Blog”. If you want to learn more about outsourcing and its benefits, you can simply click to our article.
The most successful entrepreneurs in the world like Tim Ferriss, Michael Hyatt and Pat Flynn were able to grow their businesses by outsourcing administrative and technical tasks to virtual assistants and freelancers. By outsourcing, they were able to dedicate more time to the core functions of their business.
Outsourcing is a proven way to increase productivity and improve efficiency because it allows you more time to attend to the tasks that matter.
As you have read, you don’t have to put in a ton of time every day to become productive and achieve success. It all comes down to effective time management; planning your day so that you can accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.
In our focus block example, you could be working only from 9:00am to 2:30pm every day.
What would you do the rest of the day? Here is a list of suggested activities from your friends at Mountaintop Web Design:
- Spend quality time with family.
- Take up a new hobby.
- Try out a new restaurant with the spouse.
- Watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
- Meet up with old friends over coffee.
The possibilities are endless once you are able to expertly manage your time. Always keep in mind that you should work to live and not live for work.
Did you find our article useful or inspiring? Let us know what you think by sharing your comments. If you want to know how we can help you succeed as an entrepreneur, feel free to give us a call or drop us an email.
We would love to hear from you!