I think it’s fair to say that I’ve made almost every mistake possible in running my small business. Sadly, I don’t feel destined to be the next billionaire entrepreneur. I’m an artist, not a business mogul. I run my business as an expression of my creativity, and as a way of creating the life that I want to live.
But all the mistakes I’ve made have cost me money, time and work-life balance. On a daily basis, this might not add up to much. But after 15 years, it can mean a lot. It can mean going out of business, it can mean neglecting important relationships in your life, and it definitely distracts you from what you were truly passionate about in the beginning.
The following series of posts is a discussion of some of the lessons I’ve learned, and the changes that have made my business more successful.
Managing my time
When I started my business, I was willing to give it everything. It took up most of my waking time and energy, and even my rest hours were spent dreaming and planning. Generally, we all start small businesses for the same reason – because it’s something that we’re passionate about, something that we feel we need to give the chance to blossom. And with some initial hard work and clever planning, that idea can become a reality.
“No matter how exciting the idea of working for yourself may seem in the beginning,
eventually it becomes your work, not your hobby.
And no matter how much you love your job, some days you’d just prefer to be
doing something else. Some days you just need a holiday.”
In the early days of my business, I remember feeling that I didn’t have time to go out on a Friday night because I had so much still to do to grow my business to the next level. My best friend firmly told me that I’ll never be finished, therefore there was no point in spending an extra five hours on it that night, when I could go out with her and have fun instead. And she was right. Fifteen years later, my business is still a constant work in progress.
Set strict work hours
The healthiest thing that I’ve done for myself, and the longevity of my business, is to set strict working hours and stick to them. The temptation of staying in bed longer each morning just means that I have to work later each night, which eats into precious time with my partner, family and friends.
Jump straight into your work
I used to gradually ease my way into the day, distracting myself from the real work of my business by spending too much time sitting at my computer, answering emails and ‘getting organised for the day’. Before I knew it, it was already lunch time, and I’d hardly achieved anything. But between 4pm-6pm, I was on fire. This was my most productive time of the day. And the temptation was always to stay an extra hour or two, as I could see how much more I could achieve in that time.
I found that I could ‘fix’ my morning procrastination by spending 5 minutes at the end of every day with this simple tool, and thus move my productive time forward to take up the bulk of my work day.
Have a plan
Working smarter not harder is a catch cry we often hear. For me, this means working more efficiently, having a clear plan outlined for each day (that falls within my goals for the week and month), achieving it, then leaving at a reasonable time of day to go and enjoy my life.
Whether you’re a maker, full time employee, full time parent, or some combination of all three, I’d love to hear any tips or suggestions that you’ve learned along the way to manage your time. Please join the conversation and share your wisdom and advice in the comments area below.