Time Management when Self-Employed

When running a business, specially as a one person band, it can be hard to manage your time effectively. When you run a business you tend to work 60 hours to avoid the 9-5 role, so making sure you get everything done it vital. I have spoken to many business owners who say they just can’t find time to do everything, this is probably because they are every kind of person. They are not only the Founder / CEO, they are also the tea maker, the order packer, the customer service team, the graphic designer, the coder, the accountant, the developer, the product designer, the blog writer, the social media manager, literally everything and it can be so hard to balance your time. 

As humans we aren’t very good at multi-tasking, no matter how much we try and convince ourselves that we can do 100 things at once it just isn’t a very effective way of doing things. Sure, it may sound like you would get everything done quicker but it actually makes one task 100 times longer rather than making it shorter. We are designed to work on one task at a time rather than everything. So when it comes to time management, my advice is exactly that, to focus on one thing at a time. 

Someone once gave the advice ‘only write a to do list if you will actually stick to it’, and it’s the best advice I have ever heard. Not everyone is suited to a ‘to-do list’, this can actually, in many cases, cause more stress and more anxiety that it should do. Writing a 3 page to do list is great for some people but seeing everything you need to do in one long list can cause pressure to get everything done in one go, so that you can cross things off. If you’re anything like me, I HATE not being able to cross things off my list, so having a massive to do list can cause me to become less productive. 

I have created a detailed list (ha, how ironic) on how I manage my time, please note, this may not work for everyone but it will give you a good idea of ideas you could adapt. 

  1. Set working hours

I find this the most important, when i first started my business I worked ALL THE TIME, whenever I wasn’t working, I was thinking about working or feeling guilty for not working. As you can probably imagine I burnt out quick. So I decided to set business hours. I work 9-5, 5 days a week and then 2 hours Saturday and Sunday if it’s needed. This made me so much more productive as I could plan my days accordingly. 

  1. Prioritise Activities 

I do actually write a big to-do list but this is only to make sure I remember everything, once I have written my list I then put it to one side and separate it into smaller more manageable tasks. Before I can section it off, I prioritise my to do list highlighting the items that will help me to develop my dream. They are normally a mixture of blog writing, admin, creating product etc. I also highlight things with deadlines (work for other people normally). Once I have done, I write smaller to do lists either for each BIG topic or lots of items off my to do list that I then break down into a weekly schedule. 

  1. Group tasks together

Something I have found helpful is to group items together. Normally ones that are similar or take a similar amount of brain power. I tend to do all my content planning in one go or admin in one go. Jumping from job to job can be really frustrating as it takes you several minutes to unwind from the last job and into the new one, specially if you go from something creative to something more admin-based. Have photography days or product days or admin days and then split each task into manageable chunks so you have something to ‘achieve’. 

  1. Get a planner

Instead of using a massive to do list to get everything done, I use a weekly view planner. Every Sunday I schedule in the things that need doing that week, I highly recommend the Day-By-Day Planner by Rae Dunn. I find it makes everything I little bit more manageable, however make sure you are realistic with how much you can achieve, some days you don’t complete everything and that’s okay as you can learn how long things take.

  1. Practice the 80/20 rule

If you haven’t heard of this rule, it’s definitely something you should know. It is said that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In a business sense, this means that 80% of sales come from 20% of clients.

In the original observations it was found that 80% of the land owned in Italy was by the 20% of richest people.  This can be applied to many examples, specially tax, it is said that 20% of the highest earnest in the US equate to 80% of the total tax income. It can be applied to almost anything. 

You should put most of your efforts into those 20% of clients, the ones that bring in 80% of your revenue. You will need to work out where these people come from. It may be from social media, a marketplace like Etsy or from email marketing. Once you have figured this out, you can find these kind of people and focus 80% of your time on these 20%. 

  1. It’s okay to say no

When you’re starting out, you can sometimes feel like you need to say yes to every opportunity and it can be hard to turn work down because you want to make as much money / be as successful as possible, but if you’re struggling with managing time or just don’t like the proposal you can say no. It will take some practice not to feel awful afterwards but it will be worth it for your own mental health. 

This also applies to aspects of your business, it’s okay not to do everything. If you don’t have time for social media and it doesn’t generate money for you, it’s okay to not be doing it constantly.

  1. Make time for yourself

The most important part to time management, make sure you have time for yourself. Running a business can be tricky as you can end up working all hours of the day to get things done, because let’s face it, no one else is going to do it! But try and take some time for you, after all you are the most important part of your business. 

I try and take at least a full day off a week, this means no work AT ALL on that day, I don’t even check emails!

  1. Monthly review

Once you’ve gone through a whole month, take a moment to look back at everything you have achieved. What went well? What didn’t you complete? Is there anything you would do differently? Then apply this to the next month and the next until you have found the perfect routine for yourself. 

Hopefully some of these ideas will help you create a better working environment and create a time management system that works for you. Remember, you are amazing and you’re going to achieve amazing things in life. GO AND GET YOUR DREAM. 

Your cheerleader, Gemma

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