Whatever happened to work-life balance? Sometimes all it takes is a few days away from work to remember what life was like before you started your business. As a small business owner, however, finding harmony between your work life and your personal life is essential. Because while you love your work, the reality is that you probably started a business so you’d have more control over how you lived your life.
The past two years have been stressful for small businesses. Couple that with previous studies showing the toll that long days worked and little downtime ultimately take on health, relationships, and productivity, and it’s easy to see why the time is right to regroup and refocus at least some of your energy on you again.
We think the new year is a great time to retrain your brain to focus on you. Here are our tips to get started:
What’s on your todo list? While it’s easy to hate the “honey-do” list, it’s easy to love a list that keeps you focused on the must-do tasks for the week.
There are a number of ways to approach your list: paper, white board, chalk, digital. You can prepare your weekly list at the start of your week, which is traditional, or try creating it at the end of your work week instead—when your to-dos are fresh on your mind. However, you can also try a more modern approach: rather than seeing a list as a once-a-week task, take advantage of digital tools to create a running list of tasks that you add to and check-off in real-time.
Apps like Todoist are simple ways to help you create lists of items you need to complete and track their statuses, make notes, and assign deadlines. Other tools, however, may suit you better. You can add tasks to a Google Calendar or write notes on your laptop or phone’s built-in list of reminders. If your team’s project management app can show you the big picture, it may also be able to track the just-you tasks, too. Feeling old-school? Try a simple yellow notepad or a snazzy Moleskin journal and pen. Carry your list with you so you can add and update anytime.
Honestly, there’s no right or wrong answer to how to create a to-do list. But there is one catch: you have to commit to using it. Check your list daily or weekly. And ensure you feel the satisfaction of accomplishment by checking things off as soon as they’re complete.
Big rocks or little rocks? It’s all a matter of perspective, but prioritizing your to-do list is one of the best ways to accomplish more—and help see which tasks are ripe for delegation.
Big rocks are the tasks that will have the most impact and should likely sit at the top of your list. Little rocks are the day-to-day things that have to be done but often get in the way.
Entrepreneurs and business owners almost always wear more hats than can fit on a singe head. Each day can present dozens of tasks that need to be done at any given moment. However, focus is a major contributor to your level of productivity, so it’s important to prioritize one thing at a time. Commit to completing the most important tasks first and then move to the next. And look for trends, too: you may notice that there are categories of tasks that you never get to—and that you could easily delegate, too.
Be honest: how much time did you take off during the holidays this year? How much of your last vacation was spent in business meetings? When was the last time you read a book for fun or went to a sporting event and turned off notifications on your phone? Do you even remember where the “airplane mode” button is?
No, you don’t have to answer these questions. But you do need to realize this: business owners are notorious over-workers, with almost half reporting that they regularly work more than 40 hours a week.
If checking out for a week or two at a time seems like an impossibility, ease yourself into time off with a day-to-day strategy. Start by checking out on holidays and tack on an extra day to do something for you. Let technology help: set up automated responses so people know that you’re out and when you’ll be back. Use scheduling in communication tools like Slack so that you’re not tempted to respond on a day off. Learn where Do Not Disturb scheduling is on your phone. If golf is your thing, book a tee-time. If massages are more your style, schedule one now. Commit to taking a week, a day, or just a few hours for you.
Trust us: you deserve it and will likely feel more refreshed and productive when you return.
No, your dog didn’t ask us to include this tip, and we’re not suggesting you get a dog if you don’t already have one. We are recommending that you spend a little time each day forgetting about work. Take a walk. Ride a bike. Read a book. Cook a meal. Talk to your family. Whatever you do, untether yourself from an always-on state and remember what it’s like to not be on call.
And, while it may seem counterintuitive initially, if you can’t carve time out informally, schedule your “me” time.
Running is business is no easy task. There is almost always more to do, and rarely enough time to do everything. But if you’re working too much, too hard, and too long, you’re risking burning yourself out. Accomplishments are important, especially in the growing stages of your business. Being there to answer questions, to help, to make the tough calls, and to drive progress are essential duties of a business owner. But it’s also important to recognize that working too much can actually make your productivity suffer. Resolve this year to take some time for you, too.