“I don’t have enough time!”
It’s the refrain of the busy entrepreneur. Too many things to do. Not enough time to get it all done.
You start your day with grand aspirations. Yes, there are 25 tasks you need to do before the end of the day, but you’ll get them all done.
Today is going to be the day. You can feel it.
Then suddenly it’s noon. And you’ve only checked off one task. Either something urgent came up and you had to put a fire out — or you got distracted and went down the rabbit hole.
And it’s all downhill from there. By the end of the day you’re exhausted, frustrated, and not much has changed on your to do list.
So you decide to call it a day, push all those tasks until tomorrow… and swear that tomorrow will be different.
Lather. Rinse. And repeat.
But what if there was a different way?
What if you took an honest look at your priorities and schedule and created a work flow that set you up for success?
Turns out, it’s possible.
Here are the steps you can take to get your priorities back under control.
Step 1: Don’t Let Time Slip Away
To figure out your best schedule, it’s good to know how you’re actually using your time.
Not just how you think you use your time in an ideal world. How you really spend the hours during your day.
Here’s your challenge: take one or two days this week (ideally on days that are the closest to a “normal” schedule for you) and write down everything you do during those days. Break it down by hour, and possibly even into 15 minute chunks.
Accidentally get sucked into scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed for an hour? Write that shit down.
Intend to write for 2 hours, but end up spending an hour searching for that piece of paper where you wrote down your idea, 45 minutes “researching” your topic, and 15 minutes actually writing? Write that shit down.
Spend an hour doing uninterrupted work on one of your projects? Woohoo! Write that shit down!
Once your eyes have been opened to how you’re spending your time, it’s easier to make changes. Remember, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.
Now that you’ve got a grasp on how you’re spending your time, you’ll move on to how you want to spend your days.
Step 2: Live Your Life on Purpose
This step is all about figuring out what sets you on fire. It’s about a combination of the things that you love doing and your bigger purpose.
One fun exercise you can do is to envision your perfect day. In an ideal world, how would you spend your morning? Where would you eat lunch? What would you do during the afternoon? How much would you work, and how much time would you allow for having fun? Who would you spend it with?
Then take a look at what lights you up. Have there been days in your past where you couldn’t wait to wake up and spring out of bed? What had you so excited? What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Having a guiding purpose that’s larger than you can be just what you need to keep moving forward. Call it motivation, inspiration, purpose — it’s easier to stay on track when you have a clear idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
You now know how your days usually go and how you’d like to spend your time. Next let’s look at how to figure out what stays and what goes.
Step 3: Make a List & Check it Twice
Take all the tasks you do during your normal week and write them out into one long list. Add in the tasks you’d like to be doing from step 2. And then take a couple of minutes to think about any other tasks that you do on a fairly regular basis. Write them all down.
Now comes the fun part. 😉 Take that list, and divide it up into categories — this works differently for different people, so choose what works best for you. You might choose to use something like the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, or your own set of categories (things to outsource, things you love doing, everyday things that have to get done, things I’m not sure about, etc).
However you categorize your list, make sure that it doesn’t leave you with 1,000 things that are all “important” — you want to cut out the stuff that’s not important so that you can focus on the list of things that actually move your projects forward!
Once you have your list categorized, delete the tasks that aren’t important. You can put the list aside and come back to look at it later, but for now imagine that those tasks are no longer yours to deal with.
Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?
Now that you have a list of the things that you want and need to be doing, it’s time to put it into a schedule that works for you.
Step 4: Schedule Yourself Sane
Take your pared-down list of tasks, and start to work them into a schedule.
It’s helpful to create a visual calendar. Using something like Google Calendar or Excel, create chunks of time that line up with the bigger categories of tasks. For example, you might have chunks of time for paid client work or your day job, chunks for side projects, chunks for exercise, chunks for chores and things around the house that you have to get done, etc.
I’d recommend putting the important, non-negotiable things into the calendar first. Things that are paying your bills? Schedule that time first. Exercise or mindfulness to keep you healthy? Schedule that time first. Whatever is important and helps you move toward that purpose you figured out in step 2? Schedule it first!
Now step back and admire your creation:
- Priorities that line up with where you want to go? Check.
- A schedule that will help you get there? Check.
Now, if you’re thinking, “that’s all great in theory, but it sounds complicated. And don’t most people make big changes like this only to have them slip away after a few weeks? Um, New Years Resolutions much?”
And you’d have a point.
Together is Better
I see so many entrepreneurs struggling with actually getting shit done. They work really hard, but so often they either don’t really know where they’re headed, or they let small and ultimately unimportant things derail them.
And I get it. It can feel really good to be “busy” — because then it feels like you’re accomplishing something. It feels like you’re moving forward.
But really. In the long run, would you rather spend your life being busy and not getting anything important done… or buckling down and making progress? Think back to your bigger purpose from step 2. Wouldn’t it feel so amazing to see that bigger purpose realized?
I believe that you can get there. It just takes a willingness to do the things that matter. To step outside your comfort zone and get honest.
Want to become one of those entrepreneurs who actually gets shit done? I believe that the first step is setting priorities and a schedule that works for you.
Back in November, I mentioned that I’ve been working on something special.
FOMO, No’Mo: The Busy Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Shit Done, is live to the world starting today. The 2-week email course will help you kick FOMO to the curb (FOMO = fear of missing out, a key reason we get stuck in the “busy” trap because we want to do all the things) and prioritize the things that really matter in your business and life.
For the time being, it’s only available as a bonus for attendees of the Simple Living Summit. But the good news is that the Summit is free, and it starts tomorrow! My interview goes live on Friday — Wuyen and I chat about the best ways to relieve stress, the individuality of what’s “best” for each of us, and how yoga fits in to a simple lifestyle.
Make your mark on the world. Sign up for the Summit, and get in line to access FOMO, No’Mo: The Busy Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Shit Done.