It might not always seem like it, but we all have the same 168 hours in a week. Of course, there are some weeks where it feels like I only had 20, blinked, and the rest never even showed up! That's why I'm constantly on a quest to figure out how to make better use of my time--and I know that's a mission for a lot of small business owners trying to balance the needs of work, family and a personal life.
If like me you have weeks that seem to evaporate into thin air, you've need to take a pause (yes, even if it require carving out a few hours!) and figure out where your time is being spent.
Track your time using a time journal, suggests time-management expert, Laura Vanderkam author of the new book Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done as well as 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. Once you start seeing how your time is actually being spent (like scrolling through Instagram for 30 minutes before bed instead of reading) you'll be able to figure out where you can make improvements.
Here's how I maximize every hour I can for my content marketing company when I'm working, so I can make sure I'm fully present with family and friends when I'm off the clock.
Find Your Magic Hour
Some of us are hyper-productive in the early morning, like 5 a.m., while others don't hit their stride 'til late at night. Be honest with yourself and figure out when you're at your sharpest, then block out an hour or two and schedule some business-building tasks for that time. Those could be writing a business plan, coming up with blog post topics for the next month, or designing a new logo.
Maximize Your Commute
I have a one-hour commute into my office and I love it. Reason being: It's uninterrupted time to do some learning for my business. When I'm walking, I listen to podcasts on content marketing and business development. When I'm on public transport (the bus, ferry) I'm taking micro-classes through LinkedIn Learning (formerly known as Lynda) to sharpen skills or write (like these Inc. articles) which I record using Evernote.
Book a Workcation
If you're in a full-time job, it can feel impossible to pull together enough hours to focus on a big task for your side hustle. Schedule a full day "retreat"--away from your day job, away from home--to fully immerse yourself in one or two high-priority tasks, like an RFP for a huge client. Some co-working spaces offer a day pass option--and it can be inspiring to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs.
Take a Creativity Walk Break
It might sound a bit counterproductive but a Stanford study found that walking boosts creativity--which may clear your head and boost your productivity. I know that when I' m stuck writing a deck, getting a little air can help me refocus fast, which saves me time in the end. If you need a little bit of juice for that afternoon meeting brainstorm, go on a 20-minute walk to boost creative inspiration during the stroll and afterward.
When you're running your small business, your time is extremely valuable. If you can delegate smaller assignments to others (like a virtual assistant from Upwork), you'll have more time to do what you love. This also goes for personal errands. Going out of your way 30 minutes to pick up dry cleaning, standing in line at FedEx, or waiting for a repair person might do can be taken care of using a personal errand running service like Task Rabbit.