As a small business owner, it’s nearly impossible to simply “call it a day”. Running a business is like an endless loop: your never-ending to-do list just keeps on piling up. Without a healthy balance—or work-life harmony—between a professional life and a personal life, your work can easily and eventually become uninspiring. That’s why it’s so important to step away each day with enough time and mental energy to accomplish work that’s not related to your business in order to regain your overall perspective.
To reclaim your life, know and accept that your work will never be “done.” As a business owner, the sooner you can accept that work is continuous and ongoing, the sooner you’ll learn to regain your time, mental health, and happiness. To get you started, here are 5 time tracking strategies to get you out of the office (wherever that might be).
1. Commit to the Same Departure Time Every Day
Defined timeframes and deadlines are incredible motivators to get you pumping out deliverables on time. If you know you have a client deadline at 5 pm on the dot, you’ll likely work smarter and harder throughout the day to make that happen. If your post-work time is important to you (as it should be), make it a priority and a habit to leave on time. You can make leaving easier by booking appointments or meeting friends immediately after work, rendering you with no choice. As you slowly incorporate this habit, you’ll get to know your priorities better, including skipping any leisure and unnecessary coffee walks, idle chit chat, or social media check-ups if it means that you can’t leave the office at your designated time.
2. Allocate Personal “Work” or Errands Outside of Work Hours
One of the greatest perks about being your own boss is the flexibility to manage your own time. Need to pop out for a quick haircut? Have to drop by the grocery store to pick up some ingredients? Naturally, these are all personal “work” that can be done during your workday. However, these errands can definitely take up more productive hours than you think. If you want to get into a healthy habit of leaving on-time everyday—and avoid working in the evening and on weekends—then keep your workday items focused specifically on professional work.
3. Read Emails in Blocks, Not in Real Time
Many business owners, directors, managers, and employees struggle with a certain addiction: checking emails. If you can have the willpower to turn off your email, you’re in a way better position to become a more productive person. Instead of checking your emails in real-time, try setting aside “time blocks” throughout the day (i.e. 3 equally distributed time blocks) so that you can focus on your priority tasks. An added bonus? Most people will notice that you’re not lightning-quick to respond and will be less inclined to email you with simple, low-priority questions.
4. Preserve Your Work-Life Balance
According to a study, 15% of a company’s time is spent in meetings. If your days are packed from morning till the evening, you are likely to be far from productive. Top leaders give themselves “margins” throughout the day, such as in-between meetings to do important tasks like taking a break, brief walk, or even to meditate. As a victim to non-stop meetings and commitments, start by learning to say no to unimportant tasks. Protect an hour or two each day and work your way up from there. Eventually, you might even institute traditions like, “no-meetings between 10 to 11 am each day” or “no-meeting Mondays” to help you clear out some of your to-do items and backlogs each week.
5. Stop “Working” an Hour Before You Stop Working
By 4 pm on work days, you should forget about diving into any complicated tasks or projects. Chances are if you do, you’ll lose sight of time or others will easily derail your plans to leave work for the day. To rectify this issue, commit the final hour each day to setting yourself up for success the following day. Whether it means closing documents on your computer, compiling a priority list of tasks for the next morning, answering those final emails for the day, or tidying your workspace, you will be back in action and fresher than ever the next morning to take on those critical tasks.
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