More often than not, people find themselves building their online businesses tangentially with a mountain of other responsibilities. Whether that’s working a full-time job, raising kids, taking classes, or something in between, we rarely see creators get to give 100% of their time to their online businesses from the get-go.
While our culture is veering in a direction celebrating whoever can hustle the hardest, I advocate the idea of working smarter, not harder. Nobody wants to be up until the wee hours of the morning, chugging coffee like it’s their job, just to get their business up and running.
And luckily, you don’t need to.
If you can implement time management skills into your daily schedule, you’ll find yourself getting more done in less time, and eliminating some of the overwhelm that often comes with starting an online business.
Time management for business owners
A lot of people think they have their time management under control and that’s where the problem starts. People equate stress and busyness with working hard and doing a good job and don’t stop to think if they could elegantly eliminate any of that stress.
The thing is, most people aren’t optimizing their time the way they should be, and no matter how efficient you think your workflow is, there is likely room for improvement.
Getting started: Analyzing your workflow
You may be one of the few who are optimizing at all the stops, and really don’t have much room for improvement. If that’s the case, this post likely isn’t for you. Or, maybe you’re still trying to figure out how to make the most out of your time and get more done so you can win your free time back.
Either way, this section will walk you through analyzing your workflow and deciding whether or not there is room for improvement.
Step 1: Documenting your day
This step might seem tedious, but it’s important in gaining clarity on how you’re really spending your time.
All you need to do is keep a notebook by your side, and document what tasks you’re working on and when. The thing is, you need to be super detailed.
For example, if you’re writing blog posts from 1:00 to 2:15 and then scheduling social from 2:40 to 3:10, where did those 25 minutes in between tasks go? If you’re like a lot of people who work online, they were spent scrolling through social media and reading click-bait articles.
Even if you’re not spending your time the way you'd like, make sure to record it so that when you’re reviewing your time spend, you’ve got the full picture.
I recommend doing this step for a full week. That gives you enough data points to identify patterns.
Step 2: Analyzing the data
Now is the time to take a look at where your time is going, and identify the weak points. The first thing I want you to do is to take a highlighter and mark any chunks of time where you’re wasting time. Whether it’s for 3 minutes or 25, highlight it.
Those quick peeks at Facebook and scrolling through Instagram add up and are the most obvious places where creators are wasting time.
But you’re likely wasting time in less obvious ways, too. You tell yourself you’re doing “market research” when really you’re laughing at gifs on Twitter. Or maybe you’re looking for “design inspo” when you’re really just pinning recipes on Pinterest.
Right now is when you need to be critical of how you spent your time. If looking at it after the fact, you realize there wasn’t a benefit to your business after doing a task: highlight it.
Pro tip: Don’t panic if you realize about 20% of your time is highlighted - that is so normal! We’r human, and we’re not wired to sit and work for 5 hours at a time without an interruption in focus. The key is to identify and eliminate time waste while also scheduling in healthy breaks.
Step 3: Make a list of the things you waste time on
Look at everything you highlighted and jot out a bullet-pointed list of everything you wasted time on in the last week. Consider sticking it where you can see it at your workspace.
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.
With that said, allow yourself small breaks every hour or so. For example, when I’m working on a big project, I like to set a time for 50 minutes. After I’ve worked for 55 minutes straight, then I set another timer for 5 or 10 minutes to decompress. Sometimes that means scrolling through social media, sometimes that means getting up and doing a few stretches. Whatever it is, I feel like it’s an essential step in maintaining my sanity while working long hours.
Learn to batch
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 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 I recommend you invest 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 could focus on more valuable tasks.
The number one wall creators hit when scaling their businesses is thinking that they have to or should do everything in their businesses themselves. Let’s face it: There are some things that you’re the best at, and other things other people could do better than you.
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." When you make that realization, outsource your email marketing so you can spend time doing what you're great at.
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.
The best part of freeing up your time by hiring help is that you’re now able to spend the time you would be devoting to your now outsourced task to do something more profitable like creating an online course.
Learn to plan
I’m guilty of regularly flying by the seat of my pants when I’m tackling big projects. I get so overwhelmed that I don’t take the time to step back and develop a solid plan moving forward. If you’re like me, you’re likely not working efficiently and also letting a lot fall into the cracks - meaning you’re going to have to backtrack and waste time fixing mistakes you made because you didn’t develop a plan.
The thing is, learning how to plan efficiently can be hard.
For me, I like to overcompensate and over plan, even planning out very obvious steps so I don’t miss a thing. For example, if I were planning out my course creation and was trying to come up with a course idea, here’s the list of steps I’d create:
- Decide on a broad topic
- Do market research to identify a transformation
- Facebook groups
- Refine my course topic to cover a problem I identified during my target research
- Test my course topic by messaging 5 friends in my niche & getting brutally honest opinions
- Redefine my course topic based on feedback
From there, I’d add deadlines to create my plan. I might do steps 1 and 2 on Monday, steps 3 and 4 on Tuesday, and step 5 of Friday after receiving feedback from friends.
Having everything broken down step-by-step with deadlines to go with the plan is a great way to help yourself visualize what needs to get done for the week and when you need to finish it by. Personally, I like to plan for the week ahead EOD on Friday, so I can go into the week knowing what I’m going to do, and I don’t have to worry about interrupting my Sunday to start planning.
Learn from the best
When you’re building your online business, the biggest disservice you can do yourself is to try and make it all up as you go along. Some strategies work time and time again, and experts who will tell you every step they took to build their biz.
We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel; we’re trying to build a business and get it rolling.
Learn from the people who have been there, done that, and build your workflows based on what has been proven. If you’re looking to gain insight from the best in the business, consider joining us for our Women Who Create summit and hear how 25 successful female creators built their online businesses.
The event is 100% free, and while we’re celebrating successful women creators, anyone can register and attend to get invaluable advice from women earning a living online.