How to Manage Your Time: Tips for Entrepreneurs

Time is the most valuable asset anyone has: A billionaire and a person deeply in debt both have the same 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So what are the billionaires doing right that we can do, too?

Get away from the trap of “busy-ness.” Too many entrepreneurs — especially female entrepreneurs — tie their self-worth to the quantity of things they’re doing, rather than to the quality and value of what they’re providing. This provides an illusion of productivity, but those tasks might not be getting you any extra clients or growing your business profits.

The key? Redefine your priorities and take control of your schedule so that time is working smart for you … instead of you working hard for it.

Redefine Your Measuring Stick: When people are stuck in busy-ness, they're measuring success based on the quantity of tasks performed, rather than the amount of income generated, the quality of service provided, or the enjoyment of the work. Did you really enjoy that networking event, or are you just going because your mentor said to go to a networking event every week? Pick one profitable and enjoyable measure of success, and base every decision on that for 30 days. Write down what changes; make sure to notice the differences between the frenzied way and this new way. My guess is you’ll find you’re making more money or experiencing more joy.

Take an Inventory of Your Plate: How many tasks have you actually given yourself? This is a tempting exercise to skip, because people are afraid to see just how much they’ve put on their own plate. The point of taking an inventory is not to say, “Oh, crap, things aren’t the way I wanted,” but to set up a “before” and “after” snapshot of an overloaded plate and a schedule of your own design. Think of it like going on a diet: You need to know what empty calories you’re consuming so that you can cut back realistically.

Set Up a Routine for Yourself: After taking an inventory, decide what to remove from your schedule and why. This can happen at any speed — some people might remove a task a day, others might have bigger projects that will take longer to wean off and complete. The important part is setting up a routine. Imagine your year: How do you want your plate to look in 12 months?

Block Your Time: Give each day of the week a purpose — and stick to it. For me, Mondays are for blog writing, Tuesdays and Thursdays are for clients, and Wednesdays and Fridays are for creating new e-products and for prospective clients. Before I set this schedule up, I was a slave to my clients. They were picking meeting times, and my schedule looked like a Swiss cheese slice, full of holes. You can never get any creative work or planning done when your schedule is full of short windows of time.

Have a Selfish Month: For one month, run your business and live your life as if you were the most selfish person in the world — and don’t tell anyone you’re doing this. If a client asks you to drive two hours away for a meeting, write back and say, "Why don't you come to me?" They could say no, right? In my experience, people always say yes — and if they say no, you’re no worse off. The purpose is realizing that it doesn't have to be so hard all the time. Your life can be much easier — if you let it.

Dream Big: What if you always had three-day weekends? I have Fridays off now, and I never thought I would. It’s only because someone told me it was possible, and I believed it. I started slowly, making my Friday end at 4 pm, then 3 pm, then 2 pm; eventually I developed the skills and talents so that the whole day was cleared. Give yourself full permission to play and to design your business around your life — whether that means three-day weekends or an entire month free to travel.

Learn to Say No: We want to be everything to everyone. If a friend came along and said, “Let's do coffee,” we'd say, "Yes, of course." Busy women entrepreneurs often forget that the key to success is priorities. I like to borrow a saying from Jack Canfield: “Say no to the good so you can say yes to the great.” If my choice is to go to coffee with an old friend or launch a new e-product and make $6,000, which is it? Maybe it is coffee — if I’m halfway around the world and haven’t seen that friend in 10 years. Have the courage to say no when necessary and trust that something even better will come along.

Ask Yourself the Big Questions: Why are you staying busy? Is there something you're avoiding? As a coach, I find my clients are almost always avoiding something by filling their lives with busy-ness. Maybe it's the fear of success, maybe you’re dealing with a bad personal relationship, or maybe you don’t think you deserve to make a lot of money. Figure out what it is, so you can escape the busy-ness cycle.

Tina Chen is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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