Everyone I know struggles with managing all the business and personal tasks, chores, and responsibilities that pile up on a daily basis. When you’re an entrepreneur, that situation becomes an increasingly acute, persistent issue because initially our business requires we step into multiple roles — many of which we’re simply not qualified to do.
We have to do everything from marketing to sales to bookkeeping to scheduling and administration … and everything in between. More times than not, there’s not enough time to do even half of what we’ve put on our this-must-be-accomplished list. The push and pull between what we want to do and what we can realistically accomplish becomes an ongoing, overwhelming, and exhausting tug-of-war.
When our businesses have grown a bit, we can delegate out tasks and mitigate the never ending list by hiring an assistant, bookkeeper, etc. But what do we do in the meantime? How do we NOT spend our days stressed, overwhelmed, and feeling like our brains are spilling out of our heads?
I’ve never been someone who has what I’d call a natural sense of time. It’s taken a LOT of practice, concentrated effort, and getting help to get a working structure to manage my schedule and time. Without structure, I find that I’m always late and/or unrealistically ambitious about what I can actually accomplish in a given set of hours which used to leave me feeling like a failure more often than not.
After I started my business, I frequently found myself utterly swamped and overwhelmed; I just couldn’t seem to get a handle on my schedule or wrap my head around everything that needed doing to take care of my business, myself, my home, and my partner. I wasn’t used to doing it all myself. I had a team in my corporate job, but now as a solo-entrepreneur, I was on my own … and drowning. I knew I had to figure out what was wrong and when I took a good look at everything I was and was not doing, it was pretty clear that my lack of time sense was going to be my undoing if I didn’t get some help.
Ask for Help
I admitted I couldn’t fix this schedule issue myself, so I looked for someone who’s brain works differently than mine and who not only possessed skills I didn’t, but who excelled in the very areas I don’t.
I met Marina Darlow, founder and CEO of Vision Framework, while I was a participant in Dr. Kate’s Serious Success business coaching program. Marina saved me a boatload of time (and frustration!) by giving me the systems — the structures — I and my business needed. From setting up my client and financial tracking to helping me get a handle on my schedule, which is what I’m highlighting here, life got a bit easier after working with her. Marina asked the right questions to figure out exactly where I was struggling and proceeded to provide what is a seemingly simple solution, but it wasn’t one I was going to come up for myself and it immediately made a difference.
Scheduling: A Visual Solution for a Visual Person
I needed something EASY and something that would be more visual than a list. Marina had me create multiple calendars (ie: marketing, client work, admin, exercise, etc. using Google calendar) and assign each a color, creating a calendar with blocks of time for everything. Once I did, I had an at-a-glance way of seeing if my week’s schedule was balanced or not, if I was going to get my exercise in, if I had too many meetings, or if I had over-scheduled myself. It took a little tweaking to figure it all out — including a discovered need for a “travel” calendar so I could be realistic about how long it took me to get to one place or another instead of constantly stressing and being late.
Here’s an example* of what a week in May looked like:
* Details have been edited or removed to protect privacy.
What’s great about this system is that I know I need a certain number of red, green, purple, orange, blue blocks, etc. Each color represents a category of my business or life that needs regular attention: marketing, meetings, client work, admin and financial tasks, conferences, exercise, social, and self-care activities. I can move the blocks around if needed — some weeks require more marketing time or less admin time or more self-care time. The calendar graphic shows a perfect example of this in action — I had a week heavy with meetings (red) and spent all day at a conference on Thursday, so I knew that I’d need to do something physical the next day to clear my head, so I scheduled a local hike with a friend and achieved both exercise AND the mental break I needed.
I’ve learned a LOT about how I work and what are the best conditions for me to accomplish certain types of activity, so I’ve now settled into keeping certain days for at-my-desk-alone work and days when I’m out and about meeting with clients or colleagues and networking. I find not trying to do these different types of activities on the same day keeps me much more productive and efficient with my time because I don’t need to shift between radically different types of thinking and energy.
Find YOUR Solution
The bottom line is we all have our strengths and weaknesses. The best thing to do is identify what areas need outside help and then get that help AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I guarantee there’s something in your life or business that takes up way more time and energy than it deserves — especially if it’s something that’s not directly making you money — those tasks are the first ones you ask for help with!
Sometimes, investing some money now will save or make you money over the long term. How many new clients or customers could you reach if instead of spending hours you delegated cleaning your house? Or grocery shopping? Or bookkeeping? Or got help so key business systems were automated instead of needing your manual management? How much more calm would you be?
For business solutions, I highly recommend working with someone like Marina (go ahead, contact her!) to help identify what’s sucking your time and money and then to create systems and solutions that work for YOU specifically.
What’s your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur or professional? What’s the task you can’t wait to delegate out?