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How to Create Structure as a Business Owner

The Downside to Time Freedom

I'm excited to dive into today's topic addressing something I get a lot of questions about. We're going to discuss one of the biggest downsides to having the time freedom that comes with running your own business. 

During this blog post, we're going to dive into the importance of creating structure to help you manage your time as a business owner effectively. By prioritizing tasks in a way that seems manageable and setting realistic goals, we can maintain a work-life balance to ensure long-term success.

To learn more about setting realistic goals for your business, check out my blog post here.

The Allure of Time Freedom

When talking with people looking to start their own practice, often there are three major things these individuals are looking for -- financial freedom, time freedom, and clinical freedom.

We already know it has a bunch of pros. You can schedule time off whenever you want and not have to ask your boss to take PTO. You can visit your family for holidays and take off the week of your birthday, without getting guilted by your supervisor. There is still some planning that goes into time off as a business owner, but this is something I see time and time again that new practice owners prioritize.

As long as the work is getting done, you can spend your time however you want to. For example, I have been spending a lot more time in the gym over the past year or so. Being able to structure my business around the things that matter most to me is a huge positive to being my own boss.

The Biggest Downfall

Now that we've covered some of the pros of time freedom, let's move into some of the cons and the main topic of this post. When you're working full-time for yourself, or even part-time, if you don't have a structure in place for your business, it can be really difficult to get things done.

The lens I want to look at this through is based on my own experience. A personal thing that I've battled, and I'm sure others do too, is that I was diagnosed with ADHD last year. I have been looking a lot over the past year for different tips, tools, and tricks to help me succeed in getting things done.

If you're someone who has ADHD or just difficulty with time management and task management, you're in the right place.

Go Back to the Basics

When you're working for yourself, you are the one that has to provide structure. To start with, I think one of the most basic things you can do to start creating structure for yourself is to look at your schedule. The following tips are based on what I am currently doing and some of the steps I have taken that have led me to the best work-life balance I have had.

To learn more about creating consistency for your business, check out my blog post here.

Your Three Steps to Success

We're going to break this down into a three-step process. There are definitely more advanced aspects to this, but I think making it as simple as possible is the most beneficial for anyone getting started

Tip 1: List Out What You Want to Do

The first part of this process is listing out all of the things you want to do with your time. Look at these things from the lens of what you want to spend your time doing on a daily or weekly basis and prioritize these things.

So for me, number one priority is working out. This goes at the top of my list and is the first thing that I will input into my calendar. Second thing is lunch breaks, which seem simple, but personally I've forgotten to give myself lunch breaks and really kicked myself for it. 

Number three for me is the days that I plan to take off. Right now I have two days off of work completely. This means no checking work emails, looking at anything work, and only dealing with something if it's an emergency.

Number four is implementing "themed days.” Basically the two themes I have are "client-facing days" and "non-client facing days." For example, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday may be days where I allow scheduled appointments so these would be "client-facing days" and Tuesday and Sunday would be "non-client facing days" where I focus on admin stuff for myself. Splitting my week into "themed days" really helps my brain stay focused and in the mode it is supposed to.

Number five is maintenance tasks. These are things that can be totally specific to you but it could look like housework, errands, getting your nails done, or personal time. These things help me to maintain relationships, maintain a good mental/emotional environment, and help avoid burnout.

The last things I remember to list out is drive time and break time between events or tasks. This prevents me from feeling rushed to get to the gym or being ready for my next client session.

Tip 2: Line Out Your Work Tasks

Once you've figured out what you want to do, it's time to start penciling in work tasks. If you have a service-based business or meetings that you schedule, I would suggest coming up with a number of appointments you would like to take per day or per week. These appointments would fall on the days you are available for appointments or your "client facing days."

It's going to feel silly at first when you're getting started and you don't have any clients yet, or only one or two. But establishing these boundaries now will help you when your caseload is full but you're still trying to prioritize personal time and maintenance tasks for your business.

Take it from me, someone who has not set great boundaries for myself in the past. Without structure, things can get chaotic and important tasks get placed on the back burner. By getting these boundaries in place for yourself and your business, you're going to experience a much more pleasant work-life balance.

On a side note, when scheduling personal appointments for myself, like the doctor or dentist, I try to schedule these on off days or non-client facing days so I'm not stressing about time constraints. We've all experienced when your doctor is running 30 minutes or an hour late, resulting in unnecessary if we have our own clients scheduled that same day.

Tip 3: Now Schedule It

Part number three of this process is actually placing all of these things on your blank calendar, what you want to do and work related tasks on your calendar. I personally use Google Calendar for everything, but you can use any form of digital calendar or paper calendar that you prefer.

I like to start with things that I want to do, going in and scheduling them throughout my weeks. If they are appropriate to be repeated, then do that. I then block off time off or drive time in a gray color so that I know this is time that can't be scheduled on.

Next, input the titles of your "themed days" at the top of each designated week day that you've chosen. This helps you organize in your brain where you can actually schedule appointments and where you can schedule admin time. When deciding themed days, take into consideration your own personal energy capacity. Speaking from experience, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are the days of the week when I have the highest amount of energy. From there my energy kind of tapers off for the rest of the week. If there are tasks that require a lot of brain power or concentration, I make sure to schedule them on the days I have the most energy.

Your Calendar as a Task List

The last piece here, we can call step 3b, is to utilize your calendar as a task list. What I've found to be the most balanced way to get things done throughout the week is to use your calendar as the actual task list. I always think I can get a lot more done than I actually can so putting tasks on a calendar and assigning them an estimated amount of time helps to keep things more tangible and helps me to set realistic expectations.

Assigning tasks throughout your day will also help you feel much more accomplished by the end of your work day. When every task is laid out for the day in front of you and you can just operate based on what task is next, you'll end your day feeling like you actually got things done. Be specific with your tasks. For example, don't just put "housework," put something like "clean the bathroom" or "fold the laundry" so that you know exactly what it is you're doing.

You Don't Have to Work All Day

An important thing to remember as a business owner is that even though you have all day to work, it doesn't mean you have to work all day. This was something I had to work past. We've all been in the traditional work setting more than likely, where you basically work the entire day whether you're actually busy or not.

Instead of forcing yourself to work the entire duration of your day, try to compartmentalize the times that you will have the most focus. Finally, make sure you have a cut off time for when you're done working. This is another important boundary to set for yourself now rather than later. At the end of the day, you're probably not going to fill up every single spot on your calendar and that is perfectly okay.

Trick Yourself Into Enjoying Dreadful Tasks

This is just a little tidbit that I like to do for myself and think it has been really helpful. We all have tasks that we dread to do or things we don't want to do. But when it comes to doing a task I don't like doing, I will reward myself while doing it. 

For example, if I'm dreading emptying out the dishwasher, I will reward myself by listening to my favorite podcast while doing the task. Or if it’s business related, I like to make myself a fun drink like a protein shake or coffee/tea for when I sit down at my computer to start working. This helps me frame it in my mind that I am enjoying whatever task it is that I'm doing.

Have Grace For Yourself

In closing, have grace for yourself throughout this process and don't stress out if you don't finish something in the time you thought it was going to take you. Find a new spot for that unfinished task and move onto the next thing.

The important thing is that you set boundaries for yourself, find structure in how your business is functioning, and enjoy the work that you're doing. Time freedom as a business owner is a blessing. Let's make sure we set ourselves up for success.

If you’re struggling to bring structure into your business, get in touch! I’d love to learn about you, your practice, and see if I could help you take your dreams to new heights. You can learn more about my business coaching program in my blog post here!

Listen to this episode on my podcast!

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