Fact: We all have the same amount of time to work (and play) with.
24 hours in every day.
168 hours in every week.
None of us who run our own businesses seem to have enough time – ever! And we all talk about work/life balance, but recognizing what it really means to us, let alone achieving it, often evades us. Many of us really don’t know how our time is being spent each day and each week.
If you get stressed out, irritable, feel like you’ve taken on too much and are falling behind, or your family complains they’re getting the short end of the stick…it’s probably time for a time reality check.
Do you have a handle on how you’re spending your 168 hours each week?
To figure it out, start with tracking approximately how much time you spend on the following activities:
Sleeping – Face it. You need it. Some people function better than others on lesser quantities, but I personally find at least 7.5 hours per night is the magic number for me. (7.5 x 7 days. That’s 52.5 hours per week spent on catching z’s!)
Billable Client Work – If you’re a freelancer or professional services provider like me, you want a reasonable amount of this “bring home the bacon” time in your schedule. Too much of it, however, can leave you burned out and overwhelmed when you can’t keep up with all the other business-related tasks you need to tend to. According to freelancing expert Laura Spencer in an article on FreelanceM.ag’s website, generally 6 hours of billable client work per day is what most freelancers can accommodate in combination with their other responsibilities. Of course that could be less depending on the freelancer and varying other professional and personal demands.
Administrative Tasks – Invoicing, recording expenses in Quickbooks, responding to emails, managing your computer files, etc. It all needs to be done, and if you’re a solopreneur, it likely all needs to be done by you.
Marketing and Social Media – Depending on how many online social media channels you’re active on and how many networking groups you’re involved with, this could require a substantial amount of time every day.
Volunteering – Community involvement can be a win-win all around if you’re giving back without giving up too much of your time. You definitely want to keep tabs on this one!
Exercise – Like sleeping, I consider exercise a necessity personally and professionally because it directly affects my energy level, optimism, and ability to think clearly and creatively. If exercise is a regular part of your routine, it’s good to have a grasp on how much time you’re devoting to it. Not so much to limit it, but rather to make sure you don’t neglect it.
The categories above are the things I consider “professional essentials” and that’s where I’ve focused my efforts in figuring out how my time is distributed every day. I’m presently in the process of zeroing in on it all using a combination of time tracking via the tool Toggl and my own handwritten records.
Next step will be to put it all of my actual data in a pie chart similar to the one below. If you do the same, you’ll be able to get a visual on the time you have left for you (and for those who might be complaining they’re not seeing enough of you!).
Something to note…whatever free time (represented by the powder blue wedge) you have won’t likely be distributed evenly across all seven days. Most people’s weekends contain a disproportionate amount of free time compared to Monday through Friday. So, for example, if you find you’ve got 60 hours of free time per week, you might be using 43 of them over the weekend. That leaves just 17 hours to share throughout the work week. That’s less than 3.5 hours per day for things like running personal errands, homework with the kids, cooking and eating, bathing, reading before bed, watching a movie or a TV show, and whatever else you do in your spare time.
Kind of scary, right? But fear not! While you might be surprised (or perhaps shocked) by what you discover about how you’re spending your time, you’ll also be empowered. Having gone through the exercise, you’ll be able to recognize inconsistencies between how you want to spend your time and what you’re currently spending the majority of your time and effort on. What then? Use that knowledge, make adjustments, and take steps to bring your reality closer to what you consider your ideal work/life balance.
Your turn! What techniques and actions have you taken to keep your work/life balance in step? What time management tips can you share with other small biz owners? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment!
By Dawn Mentzer – a.k.a. The Insatiable Solopreneur™
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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