Since I quit my day job, the biggest struggle that I have had as a business owner has been time management. Before I left my 8-5, I remember thinking how much time it would feel like I would have, now that I could solely focus on my business.
Fast forward a year later, and we all know that is not reality. As a business owner, your mind is constantly going a mile a minute, and there are always a million things to do. And that’s before you start factoring in things like daily distractions, people wanting to grab coffee or lunch, social media time suck, and a million other things that can pop up on the daily.
Today I’m sharing the three things I’ve been doing lately to protect my calendar, and therefore my sanity, as I navigate being my own boss and trying to make sure I don’t go crazy trying to do it all.
The first thing I started doing was scheduling downtime. I heard people say to block time on your calendar that you don’t fill, but I never really listened. I was only doing this in my head, and I wasn’t actually blocking time on my calendar. I was just saying things like “oh, I won’t work Tuesday afternoons” or “I’ll take Friday off.” Because I wasn’t physically doing it, I came to realize that if there was white space on my calendar, I would fill it.
To keep myself from always filling every empty space on my calendar with more work, I began blocking time off for downtime or things I am wanting to get done. It doesn’t matter what I am filling it with; it matters that I have that time actually blocked on my calendar. I know it sounds silly as it is basic, but it has made a big difference for me.
It is something to get used to because when I look at my calendar, it still looks full. But when I look at the weekly view (in Google calendar), I am able to see I have that downtime scheduled in. It helps me prepare for the week as I know I will have that time during the week. It has helped me respect my time a bit more, and visually seeing it on my calendar has helped me so much.
Saying “No” once per day
This next idea came from my friend, Carol, who is in the current mastermind that I’m in. One of her suggestions for productivity is to say “no” once per day. This is where I have needed some help as I am really bad at saying no.
Practicing this has been SO liberating for me. One phrase you may have heard is, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.” I have been leaning into that as I am figuring out what I need to say no to. It is difficult, but it has been helpful for me to take control.
And guess what? The times I have said no, people have totally understood and been okay with it. We are all in the same boat, and this is something that can help us learn to protect our time with.
Believing that business will be there when I’m ready
The last thing that I have been doing to protect my calendar is a mental shift. For years when you are first starting your business, you never want to say no as you don’t know when business will stop coming. What if you say no, and that’s the last business inquiry for 6 months? A year? Ever?! We start going down a rabbit hole of negativity and worry, and I did that for a really long time. I have been lucky in always having more business than I needed, but I still had that paranoia. I just kept saying “yes, yes, yes” to every inquiry that came in.
Now my business has shifted a bit. I don’t really have that off-season I used to, and work is pretty consistent year round, which is such a gift. But when business is consistent, that means you can’t go hard for 6 months out of the year and then expect to take the next 6 off, because suddenly you are going hard 12 months out of the year and you are exhausted. That was the boat I found myself in.
One of the things that I am doing now, is believing that business will be there when I want it to be there. It’s believing that I can say no, and there will still be plenty of business –not just for me, but for friends, for colleagues, and for others in this area.
One of the things I so strongly believe in as a business owner is in abundance. I truly believe that there is enough for everyone and there is enough to go around. Whether you are talking business, or money, or something else, that is a belief that I believe so strongly in. And if I believe that, then I need to start acting like it. I need to shift my mindset to understand that I can say no, and that doesn’t mean “no” forever.
We tend to think the worst and I find myself saying “what if” too often. But the reality is, I have built a really amazing business over the course of 8 years. I have worked my butt off and made great connections. And I believe the business will be there when I’m ready, and the right business at that.
And to be honest, in my career, I haven’t regretted saying no, but I have regretted saying yes at times. I’ve looked back and said “I shouldn’t have said yes to that.” Possibly because it took too much of my time or I simply wasn’t excited for it, but said yes anyways. And that is pretty telling.
These are the steps I’m taking in how I’m scheduling my days and how I’m managing my calendar. Some are new changes, but I’m really seeing a difference already. I still have a lot of work to do, but I feel confident in the tools I have and the accountability from all of you. These are hard things to do – we want to say yes, we want to do it all, we want to make all the money, and do all the things. But at what expense? We don’t want to get burnt out. Don’t let it happen every day, every week. If it is, then you need to make a change. Start protecting your calendar!