In the early stages of bulding your business no skill is more important to master than the art of time management. Once you're working smarter, not harder, your efficiency and sense of accomplishment in a given day will grow as your business does.
Here are a few time-tested ways to make the most of the time you have:
Document your day.
This step might seem tedious, but it’s an important method in gaining clarity into how you’re spending your time during the workday.
All you need to do is keep a notebook by your side and document what tasks you’re working on and when.
In this exercise you're looking for noticeable gaps in productivity. For example, if you’re writing blog posts from 1:00 to 2:15 p.m. and then scheduling social from 2:40 to 3:10 p.m., where did those 25 minutes in between tasks go?
We're not saying that you should fill every second or that a little downtime is a bad thing. The point of this exercise is to make note of where and when those moment happen so you can actively decide to fill that time (or not). Some of us need breaks, especiallly during intensely creative work. If that's the case for you, this work can help you schedule that break time in at a moment in your day that is optimal.
As you find those empty spots in your day, highlight them in your notebook so you can look for patterns. Don’t panic if you realize about 20% of your time is highlighted—that's normal! We’re human, and we’re not wired to sit and work for five hours at a time without an interruption. The key is to identify and eliminate time waste while also scheduling in healthy breaks.
To finish this exercise, make a list of the activities you no longer want to waste time doing. Keep that list where you can see it as you work. Once you’re able to recognize where you’re wasting time, it’s a lot easier to stop yourself in your tracks when you’re about to be unproductive.
Batch your tasks.
Now that you’ve started cutting out distractions let’s talk about how you can begin to work more efficiently. If you’ve spent any time at all reading articles on productivity, you’re probably familiar with the term batching.
Here’s a quick refresher: Batching is the process of doing all like tasks at once so you’re not constantly interrupting your workflow. So, for example, if you’re a fashion blogger your batching process might look like this:
Monday: Write blog posts, pitch sponsors, plan outfits for shoots
Tuesday: Shoot outfit pictures, edit pictures
Wednesday: Edit blog posts, write newsletter copy
Thursday: Plan social media, send follow-ups to Monday pitches
Friday: Schedule blogs posts, schedule social media posts, engage with other bloggers
Batching your time is a lot less chaotic than trying to do a little bit of everything every single day and bouncing around tasks a couple of times an hour. There’s also the added benefit of knowing you won’t have to worry about a certain task for the rest of the week.
If you’re putting your time and energy into creating an online course, here’s how batching might look for you:
Monday: Write out video scripts, create slide templates
Tuesday: Fill out course slides, edit video scripts
Thursday: Edit videos, edit slides
Friday: Upload content
We see a lot of course creators attempting to work like this:
Video one: Create script, create slides, film, edit upload
Video two: Create script, create slides, film, edit upload
The problem with that is that you’re wasting time transitioning between tasks, and just when you hit your rhythm with one step it’s time to switch to the next.
Learn to delegate.
If your business is profitable, one of the first things to consider investing in is help for the tasks that you’re not best at.
That doesn’t mean you need to hire a full-time employee, but even paying $75/week to have someone schedule your social media for you can free time that you need to expand your business.
It's tough to realize when you're in the thick of building a business as a solo entrepreneur but, you do not have to do everything yourself. There's no shame in saying, "I'm the best person to write blog posts for my business, but I'm not great at email marketing."
You’ll always be the heart and the soul of your business, even if you’re having someone help you out for a couple of hours each day. Freeing up your time by hiring help gives you space to grow your business and launch new products.
Create a plan.
Attacking a big project with no plan is a recipe for stress. You've probably heard this age old advice but we're going to repeat it: Break big tasks in to small, doable steps.
Even the biggest and most complex projects become manageable when you break them down to their essentialy components. Work backwards from your launch date and cover every step and dependency along the way.
For example, when planning an online course launch you could try this order of steps:
- Decide on a broad topic
- Do market research to identify a transformation
- Facebook groups
- Refine your course topic to cover a problem you identified during your target research
- Test your course topic by messaging five friends in your niche and getting brutally honest opinions
- Refine your course topic based on feedback
- Begin outlining your course
- Start writing lectures
From there, you could add deadlines to create a complete plan.
Having everything broken down step-by-step with deadlines will allow you to visualize what needs to get done for the week and how best to allocate your time each day.
Learn from the best.
When you’re building your online business there's no need to reinvent the wheel. If you've got a mentor or another creator you look up to, ask how they manage their time. Or, pick up a book or two on the topic and find the specific method that works for you. These tips are a great place to start.