How to Manage Your Time Without a "Normal" 9-5 Job
When we decide to step out of the traditional work force and become an entrepreneur, we tend to minimize the hard parts and focus on the perks (which is not necessarily a bad thing - I'm all for optimism!). We image spending our days in your pajamas, sipping coffee, and working from bed. We think that everything will be rainbows and butterflies and smooth sailing. And while much of this is true, we don't consider the whole picture and how challenging it’ll be at times. That we’ll struggle to be productive, and that some days we’ll just want to watch Netflix. That sometimes we won’t feel inspired or like we have anything to give the world. How easy it is for days to slip by without doing a single productive thing.
In my five years of entrepreneurship, I’ve gone through seasons where I was super productive all day every day, and I've also gone through seasons where it was a struggle to make any progress in my business at all.
These are a few things I've learned along the way:
A day well spent means something different for everyone.
Define what it means for you, and don’t feel guilty that your productive day might not look like the person you follow on Instagram. We all have different goals, and success looks different for everyone. Focus on what makes you a success, and tune out everything else.
Use a physical paper planner.
Studies have shown that we're more likely to accomplish our goals if we write them down. Typing doesn't count - something happens in our brains when we actually grab a pen and a piece of paper that makes us more productive.
Make yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly goals.
Start by imagining where you want to be in a year, and work backwards from there. In order to have accomplished your goals by next year, what do you need to do over the next three months? Over the next month? Week? Day? By working backwards from the big picture, you ensure your daily and weekly goals actually matter and are taking you where you want to go.
Write down everything you need to do today and an estimate of how long it’ll take.
Give yourself a realistic but short time limit for your tasks. I've found that having deadlines makes me more productive - without them, I tend to procrastinate and waste time. On the other hand, if I tell myself I have an hour to get something done (and that's it - no extensions!), I'm much more likely to knock it out in that time frame.
Your brain is most effective when you give it short breaks throughout the day, so schedule time to step away from your computer, go for a walk, read a chapter of a book, or simply sit outside and breathe for a few minutes.
Utilize the Pomodoro technique.
If you're unfamiliar with the Pomodoro technique, check out the post 5 ways to be more productive as a small business owner to read more about it. I pull out this technique when I'm feeling super uninspired and unproductive - it ALWAYS helps me get back on track.
Finally, give yourself grace.
You chose this life because it brings you joy; don’t loose sight of that in the hustle.
At the end of the day, our legacy is made up of the little every day moments. What you choose to do every single day makes up how you live your life. So today matters. Use it well. But don’t kill yourself hustling so hard that you no longer enjoy this season of your life. Living a life that you’re proud of starts with how you spend the next hour. The next day, week, year.
Live it well, friends.