In Nine to Five, Dolly sang, “There's a better life, and you dream about it, don't you?” Well, for those of us running our own businesses, the dream is real. Real cool. And real hard.
As business owners who also work nine to five, we wave off nightly TV, pass on weekend activities and haven’t had a normal work day in forever because when we punch out at 5:00, we punch back in at 5:01. We don’t clock back out again until our heads hit the desk, because running our own small business is a second full-time job of marketing, developing and making a product or service. And, if we’re the sole proprietor without virtual assistants or outsourced services, everything is on our to do list.
Oh! And don’t forget our home lives. We have families, laundry, groceries and maybe friends who haven’t disappeared by now. It’s a juggle and a struggle. But it’s rewarding knowing we are making something that is all ours. We’re making the better lives that we dream about.
So, how should we manage living in our three worlds effectively? We could drink heavily to cope, but that could lead to inefficiency. We could ask our kids to do the stuff we hate – like accounting – but that could bankrupt us. We could bypass mealtimes but that would cause hangry customer service.
Here are some better ideas for getting through a day in our three worlds.
- Take it slow and accept that your small business will not replace your “real job” anytime soon. Allow yourself a slower pace in order to stay sane. After all, if you lose your sanity, your business will likely fail.
- Don’t be tempted to let your small business take time away from your nine to five, or you risk poor performance on the job. Again, you need that day job for a while. It’s hard to run a side business out of a cardboard box on the street. Unless you sell lemonade or painted rocks.
- Don’t worry about what others are doing. You don’t know how long competitors have been working toward their perceived success. You don’t know what they sacrifice or how they perform in their job. So, don’t try to outwork them.
- Spend small amounts of time on small tasks. Keep track of your time with apps like RescueTime and ask if you are prioritizing well in the crazy amount of time you do have to work on your business. Losing track of time spent may mean you are spinning your wheels and only getting deeper in the mud. Use a timer like Toggl to see how long you really spend on social media and you may see you’re lingering too long in the wrong places.
- Manage expectations of everyone relying on you in all of your worlds; keep people aware of your deadlines, response times and delivery methods. You may want to be a business owner who is available for clients 24/7, but in reality, you just can’t. Allow yourself 24-48 hours to reply, and communicate your time range early on, subtly reminding people that their emergency isn’t necessarily yours. This is easier said than done with some customers or clients, but the sooner you set the boundaries, the less likely they will be to step over the line.
- Consider a housekeeper! Seriously. The more you can take off one of your plates, the better. And it doesn’t have to be work for your business that you hand off. A housekeeper takes one major task from your personal world and checks it off a list. Your home will look better, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll have time for yet more work! Yay!
- Order from places like Amazon Prime Now for your weekly groceries and/or set up Subscribe & Save for stuff you’d normally head to the store to get. This can cut your time at the store drastically, especially when you’re too damn busy to walk out the door – or take a shower."
- Use apps that allow you to work on your business during your lunch or other breaks on the job. Apps like Later or Buffer help you post to social media during the day in just a few minutes.
- Similarly, having your business email or voicemail on your phone makes it easier to reply to customers or vendors during those breaks.
- Have a list of “Fives”- tasks that only take five minutes – with you at all times so when you get a moment while waiting for your stupid computer to reboot, or you’re sitting on hold with your web provider, you can wipe more stuff off your list.
- Consider a paper or digital planner that lets you see each day at a glance, but divides the day by each of your worlds. Set three columns: show meetings for work on the left, calls to return for your business in the middle and your doctor’s appointment on the right. This allows you to see everything at once but still keep your mind in silos for better time management decisions.
- Make sure you know your next steps for projects at work and in your business. It’s easy to think too big picture when managing a lot and forget a small step that causes you to backtrack. If you’re visual, create a chart or timeline with each step. If you like scheduling steps, set up notes that alert you for each step in in your project. Trello or Asana are great tools for this. Missing a step can cause a lot of pain – and not just on staircases.
- Have fun. Whatever it takes, find ways to stay interested in your day job, keep your side business dreamy and your family still liking you. If you get to where any of your worlds are an emotional drain, take a mental day and allow yourself to refresh. Getting down about any of it will consume time the wrong way. And ain’t nobody got time for that.
Do you have any other tips for balancing our three-legged stool of life? Please share them in the comments. You may just save someone time in their day.