One of the concerns associated with owning a small business is not being able to juggle it all, and thus risking that “it all” falls apart. If, like many business owners, you love running your business, it’s a risk you want to mitigate.
Many of us charge ourselves with everything from payroll to sales to doing key projects. Plus, not only does your workday often not end when your employees (if you have them) go home, but family, home and other obligations may then kick in full force.
During the very early years of my strategic marketing company, I often towed along my first and then also my second baby boy, or kept them playing (or fussing) next to me as I worked in my office. The boys spent so much time listening to me talk with clients that the oldest thought his last name was “van Schouwen Associates.” Those early years taught me that running a company while actively raising children was not going to be a picnic. Multitasking, stamina and a sense of humor were must-haves. (By the way, the boys grew up to have great career skills. Perhaps they learned something useful while in their playpens and strollers.)
Later challenges, including recessions, employees gone feral, sudden widowhood, and usual and unusual client concerns, further inspired me to hone a set of time-and-sanity management tactics and reminders. Several are based on wisdom shared with me by other business owners. (Thank you all.) Some are obvious, some less so.
• The toughest times to manage your business are 1) when personal matters intrude and 2) when your business is facing major challenges. Recognize that in most cases, the level of crisis and responsibility will not remain at peak forever. This may help you cope.
• If your situation is likely to remain at “high peak responsibility” and you are not sure you can handle it, prioritize your areas of involvement, delegate where you can, drop what you must, and focus on what matters most. Solicit professional or other competent help in determining how to do this, if you can. Not all balls need to be juggled forever, or by you personally.
• Don’t lend your emotions to every aspect of your business or your personal life. Some potentially heart-wrenching matters must sternly be relegated to mere “process” or “administrative” status, and not allowed to drive you crazy. Life is way too short.
• Each day, update a typed or handwritten “to do” list that includes both business and personal tasks. Place at the bottom or in a separate column those items that can be postponed. This way, you know you haven’t forgotten them, and they can simmer on the back burner, duly listed, rather than continually popping into your mind. You’ve got this.
• Remember that you own the place. If you need to take two hours midday to see your mother’s doctor in East Podunk, do it. If you need some personal time to breathe, take it.
• Assigning “time chunks” is a great way to segment your days. Create your own. For example, eight a.m. to noon, when you are fresh, do your hardest business tasks. Take a walk at lunch… and eat something, for heaven sake. After lunch, meet with an important client. From 2:00 to 3:30 polish off those personal tasks that must be accomplished during business hours (we all have them). Then, finish up the easier, less taxing work that must be done by you today, and go pick up your kids, your dog or your groceries, and hopefully relax. Own your time.
• Learn what energizes you and what saps you. I love traveling and working with clients. Afterwards, returning to my office or my house from a long trip marks the exact moment when my typically high energy level plummets to zero. I try to schedule such returns so I’m done with the day’s business work when the trip is through.
• Scale and organize your business so it serves your goals. A business with too many time demands or pressures is ultimately exhausting. Make it a goal to run a business that enriches not just your checkbook but your life. This may mean hiring more people to help get the work done faster, or outsourcing non-central tasks.
• Read for inspiration on the business and life you want. A couple of recent books I recommend if you want to energize and refresh are Choose Yourself by James Altucher and The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz.
It’s a great achievement to tap into your own resources as a business owner, and improving your time management is a rewarding evolutionary process.
is president of (vSA), a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. The company is known for , its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, as well as its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B.