As a coach who focuses on clients who are transitioning to new jobs and careers or growing their businesses, I often hear from my clients how exciting, yet overwhelming, their days can be. An entrepreneur myself, I completely understand how challenging it is to manage all your responsibilities in your business and personal life when you’re experiencing a big transition or growth in your job or business. Over the past several years, I’ve had to develop ways to manage my time, prioritize, delegate, and work smarter, and I’ve worked with my clients to help them do the same.
Here are my five favorite tips for managing your day, even if you don’t know where to begin.
Recognize all that’s on your plate.
Many of my clients are overwhelmed by the sheer number of things they need to accomplish on any given day. When the list of tasks is too long, people often don’t know where to start—but if you don’t start, the list will only grow longer and more overwhelming. A good strategy is to first realize everything that you’re juggling—from your business to your personal life. Once you have this information, you can begin to sort it into two categories: things that can be done most easily and things that are more challenging. While you might not feel like you have time to stop and take inventory, getting organized and being aware of what’s on your plate is a huge part of effectively managing your day. You may still be incredibly busy, but you’ll be less overwhelmed and better able to start tackling it, step by step.
Determine what you can delegate.
As entrepreneurs, we sometimes forget that we are everything to our business, and we’re the one responsible for the big picture as well as the nitty gritty details. This includes coordinating social media, developing marketing, handling bookkeeping, and staying on top of administrative work (which can feel like a full time job in and of itself). As you take stock of everything that you need to do on a regular basis—whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly—think about what you can realistically delegate. There are many reasonably priced virtual assistants who can support your day-to-day tasks, allowing you to spend time nurturing and growing your business in the way only you can. Don’t waste your time and energy focusing on the things that someone else can do better. Find someone who’s a good fit for your business and let go of a thing or two.
Break up your day so you can work smarter.
When’s the last time you were productive for eight straight hours? Many of us work best when we allow ourselves to reset throughout the day, but too often we try to extend our work day as long as possible, which leads to distractions taking over. When I was working abroad for a month, seven hours ahead of East Coast time, I recognized that I could work in shorter spurts and still get the same amount of work accomplished. Now that I’m back in NYC, I’m trying really hard not to sit at my desk for eight hours, especially since I know I can’t be productive for that entire time. I’m breaking up my day with yoga, lunch meetings, and meditation, which means the hours at my desk are well-spent. Working longer hours doesn’t always mean you’re using your time wisely; try working smarter instead, and taking breaks that will allow you to recharge.
Don’t work from home full-time.
I worked from home for two years, so if this is you, I’ve been in your shoes. It’s often draining and isolating, and it can be hard to separate your professional and personal life. You may end up working around the clock and letting stress from work affect your relationships, or visa versa. If it works for you, you’ve likely found a way to establish firm boundaries, and that’s great. For me, my life drastically changed when I got an office, and I recommend that any entrepreneurs struggling with managing their days consider having a dedicated workspace outside the home. Even if finances don’t allow you to rent office space, try to find alternative spaces to work when you can, like coffee shops, libraries, or drop-in co-working spaces.
Find people who keep you focused.
I’m a huge fan of identifying friends and colleagues whom you can work alongside while staying focused and concentrated. Working with others can be incredibly motivating and productive while also making the experience of entrepreneurship less lonely. Find coffee shops and other places where you can sit for an extended period of time, and set goals and plan breaks for yourselves. For example, if you work for two hours and both complete a task you’ve been putting off, you can take a ½ hour break to chat, get a coffee, or eat. Working with others is a great way to break the routine of flying solo, and it’s amazing what you can get done together.