As entrepreneurs ourselves, we understand the challenge of effectively managing our time and maintaining our personal well-being.
We know what it’s like to have a million things, all trying to get our attention at any given moment, and how hard it can be to tune in to what you really need to do in that moment and turning down the noise of everything else.
Productivity isn’t about the latest app or craze, it’s about recognizing your goals and aspirations and making steady progress (daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) toward them. It also isn’t about working yourself into the ground and burning out. It’s about taking proper rest and nourishment so that when you are working, you’re properly equipped to do what needs to be done.
Without clarity on what’s important, you can’t get a balance between work and well-being. And we’re going to state front and center that rest is productive. Yes. We believe that. That’s why we want to give you strategies to optimize your time so that you can prioritize your well-being.
Understanding the Value of Time
Time is finite. That should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway. You can’t get it back, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Boy, that sounds gloomy! But in entrepreneurship, it’s the most precious thing you have. You can always make more money, you can’t make more time.
If you gave up corporate-land to become an entrepreneur, we’re pretty sure you did that to have more free time, to be able to spend your time doing something that inspires you, or to make a difference in the world.
Honestly, is that what’s happening now?
The effects of poor time management (or time judgment) can lead to increased stress, burnout, and a compromised immune system. No one wants that. So, how can you master your time to get a harmonious balance between productivity and self-care?
First, you need to know exactly where your time is being spent. If you don’t know that, you can’t see problems, issues, overlaps, and other elements that need to change. A time audit might help you. By tracking everything you do for a week or two, you get a much clearer understanding of exactly what’s going on and where you’re spending your time. Remember, once time is spent, you can’t get it back. So getting an overview of what’s happening (not what you think is happening, or remember happening) is a valuable first step.
Identifying Priorities and Setting Goals
Have you worked out what your priorities are? Have you set weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly goals? Are they working for you?
If your time management is a little wonky, it might help to re-evaluate those and see if you’re putting the right things on your plate at the right time. As entrepreneurs, we have all these ideas, goals, and strategies to get there, but sometimes they need a little tweaking to get them aligned with your well-being as well.
Outcome-based planning can help here. This is where you get clear on your “why” and then work backward. This is effective because it’s a more holistic approach to goal setting. It includes you paying attention to your resources, not just in terms of time but in terms of energy as well. We can’t be 100%, full tilt, rocket-fueled all the time, we’re just not built that way. By thinking more strategically about the desired outcome, we can see roadblocks, challenges, and problems before they occur. That means we can work out our interventions in advance of when they happen.
Our well-being can influence our ability to reach a goal, so it makes perfect sense to take our well-being into account when creating goals and plans to reach those goals. For example, if you have a cycle, and you know that one week out of the month you feel like utter crap, it makes sense to lessen the load on that week when creating your plan. Goals and outcomes don’t just have to be work-related either, you can (and we would hazard, should) have well-being goals. They can be as small as meditating for 5 minutes a day, all the way to training daily for a marathon. Whatever self-care and well-being look like to you, can have a goal attached to it, if that makes sense for you, you don’t have to have goals for them if that puts too much pressure on you and takes the fun out of them!
Once you have a goal in mind, try and have a due date of when you’d like to get it completed. This needs to be realistic and can (and probably will) change. If you know you have a big project and it’s due in 12 weeks, what are the objectives you need to have completed each week to keep it on track? Got ‘em? Great! Write them down!
Now you know what you have to have completed every week, can you get more granular and work out what you need to do daily to get the weekly bench-mark done? Look at your calendar. Get critical. Can you actually do everything in the time you’ve given yourself? At this point, you might be tempted to put everything in your calendar and leave very little, if any, white space. This is a mistake.
Time Management Strategies
The time management strategies that make sense to you, might depend on your goals and priorities, not to mention your personal preferences. The most popular strategies are time blocking, the Eisenhower Matrix, and the Pomodoro Technique. The one you try first might not work for you, and some of them can be used in conjunction with each other.
You might find that time blocking works with the Pomodoro technique. This is where you would block off big chunks of time in your day for a specific theme of tasks (e.g. socials or email), and then set Pomodoro timers for individual tasks within that (e.g. engaging on IG, or replying to yesterday’s incoming emails).
Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” which is a fancy way of saying that if you put 4 hours in your calendar for doing a task, it’ll take you 4 hours to complete it (or in reality, you’ll procrastinate for three and a quarter hours and get it done in the last 45 minutes). The inverse is also true, if you put it in your calendar for 30 minutes, you’ll get it done in half an hour. If you use a time tracker, rather than guestimating how long something will take, you can time block better because you have concrete figures on how long it took last time.
If you have a team, you might be able to delegate tasks to them so you have more time and flexibility in your schedule for self-care time, but we understand this isn’t always possible.
It might help to have a list of your top 3 priorities for the day written down (Daily 3), this can be on paper or in a project or task manager. These three should be your “if I do these three, I’ve been awesome today” tasks. If you already have your big goals and weekly objectives, it can help to have one of the three related to that. That way, you know you’re moving the needle on your big projects every day. It doesn’t matter how big these three tasks are, they just need to be the most important ones for the day. You could even time-block these into your calendar. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but a recurring 2-hour time block could be helpful to make sure that you always have time scheduled to get them done. If you find you overrun, edit the block and make it longer for today, if you find that you get them done quicker, use the extra time remaining to journal, stretch, or do something else that’s nourishing your mind and body (not doom-scrolling IG!).
Protecting Personal Well-being
Self-care is vital for everyone, but as entrepreneurs, sometimes it falls by the wayside. Self-care covers a variety of pursuits and will look different from person to person, but what isn’t different is its impact on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
If you’re struggling to protect your well-being, you could block out time in your calendar for it. The title of the time block doesn’t have to be specific, it can simply say ‘unavailable’ or ‘sacred time,’ whatever makes sense for you. If you have a shared calendar, it might be more acceptable to call it ‘unavailable,’ on the other hand, if you’re sharing your calendar with like-minded peeps, calling it “Protected: well-being” in your calendar might make sense.
At the Rootvik Agency, we put our health and well-being tasks in our calendars first, then work around that. Sure, there are some times when we get it wrong, and things need to change, but we start out intending to be good to ourselves first.
We know it’s hard to prioritize yourself when there are so many other demands on your time, but if you don’t protect your well-being, there’s a very good chance that it’s going to impact other areas of your life.
Your choices for your well-being are personal to you, but it could look like exercising, meditation, journaling, or taking restful breaks. It’s important to remember that well-being activities are productive. Have you ever been in the shower and a great idea came to you? That’s because your brain has the space to have a great idea — because it’s not being pulled in a million directions at once.
When considering your well-being you might like to think about the types of tasks you’re putting on your calendar, when they’re happening, and what’s going on before and after. If client meetings on Zoom wipe you out for the rest of the day, and you know you can’t do heavy tasks afterward, it would make sense to put them at the end of the day, rather than at the start. If you know you’re at your most creative at 3pm, put your creative work then. Capitalize on your natural rhythm, don’t try and work against it.
Keeping a mood journal or diary allows you to note these changes in capacity so that you have data specifically tailored to you, that you can use to inform future decisions around your calendar.
Leveraging Technology and Tools
Technology can help with time management, don’t be scared to try something new with advancements in technology happening at a mindboggling rate!
There are to-do list apps that have the Eisenhower Matrix built into how they present your information back to you. You put tasks in however you like, but depending on a specific set of parameters, the information will be displayed to you based on priority. This can be helpful if you know what you have to do but don’t know how to prioritize it to get the most important things done first.
If you’re not sure how long something will take you, and you can’t correctly estimate your time, you might find that a time-tracking app is helpful. Not only will you track your time, but you’ll be able to use that data to inform your time blocks next time a similar task comes up.
Automation can also save you time in the long run, although depending on the complexity of the automation, it may take some time to set it up the first time and test it.
Depending on your calendar app, you can set yourself as busy or free, even on entries, not just on white space. If you’re using the Daily 3 (above), it could be beneficial to have this time block as busy so that no one can book a meeting with you over the top.
Likewise, scheduling apps will allow you to set your working hours. These are 100% defined by you, so if you want to have your Daily 3 from 9am until 11am every day, when setting up your scheduling app, start your work day at 11:30am. You could even have your availability for meetings to start after lunch, giving you the whole morning to get things done.
Or you take a more leisurely approach to your morning after your Daily 3 and make time for some meditation or journaling after your big push first thing in the morning.
What your morning or daily routine looks like is totally up to you. Just make sure that it’s reflected everywhere; your calendar, your time blocks, and your scheduling platform.
When considering self-care technology, journal and mood-tracking apps often have alarms or reminders that can nudge you to record your mood and feelings or pause to journal for a moment. These can be invaluable when reclaiming your well-being, especially if you find yourself getting into a flow state and working for longer than is healthy in one sitting. Not that we’re suggesting that the flow state is a bad thing–far from it–but if this is something you experience, a small reminder to take a few deep breaths or to stand up and stretch might really benefit you.
Productivity doesn’t mean working crazy long hours and doing #allthethings. Productivity also isn’t confined to work. Rest and relaxation can be productive as well.
Setting reasonable and achievable goals, followed by daily or weekly priorities to move us closer to those goals, we leave space in our lives for more self-care, more well-being activities, and more self-love.
Aligning our goals with our daily lives and the other roles that we have as humans (caregiver, parent, spouse, etc.) allows us to carve out more time to be kind to ourselves and others, as well as feel more effective as entrepreneurs.
When self-care and well-being are given priority status, the impact is broad and all-encompassing.
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Our passion is helping ethical business owners succeed. We want to help you get your good work out into the world. We work to help you design and build a life and business that you love while making a positive difference in the world. If you'd like that kind of support, let's talk.