For entrepreneurs, the quest to find more time to enjoy life is akin to searching for the holy grail; sadly, you will only search in vain. Yes, there are only 24-hours in each day. However, it's entirely possible to become more effective at work so you can claim more personal time. You may think it's about managing the clock, but it's more about the choices you make. It's about personal values, priorities, and boundaries.

What's most important to you?

You may believe that work is the most important thing in your world, but is it really? Of course, you want your business to succeed, but at what cost? If you are missing out on life, it's not doing you or your business any good. I find that entrepreneurs who place an emphasis on family, friends, self-care, and activities they enjoy do better in business.

When I ask entrepreneurs about their personal values, the relationships in their life come up as a top priority, along with financial freedom. Many believe that the financial freedom their business will someday offer must come first. When, in fact, prioritizing what you value the most can be a catalyst to success. With the right mindset, smart choices, and proper boundaries in place, this does not have to be true.

List and define your top three values. In order for you to feel happy and complete, what needs to be in place in your life? I'll bet that freedom is at or near the top of your list; that's why you became an entrepreneur in the first place, right? Offering yourself frequent tastes of that freedom, with or without money involved, will help make it a more permanent fixture in your life.

Carefully review your priorities and choices.

When my clients express disappointment over the lack of time in the day, there are three things we immediately explore: the type of work they choose to do each day, the fears or concerns that keep them from doing what they should be doing, and the habits they've formed around how they spend time between their productive action points.

Identify your priorities and lose bad habits.

How much time in between tasks and appointments do you spend thinking about what you should do, only to become overwhelmed and/or confused? Or, perhaps you push away thoughts of what you should be doing. How much time do you spend gazing at emails or sinking down the social media rabbit hole? Perhaps you get lost deeper in research or planning than necessary. If you're honest with yourself, you're most likely wasting more time than you spend being truly productive. These poor habits are usually a means to feel busy but aren't productive. This is a result of a lack of clarity, feeling overwhelmed, and procrastination out of fear.

Keep a time diary.

This study compared workers' estimated workweeks with actual time captured in time diaries. The findings show that those who claimed their "usual" workweeks were longer than 75 hours were way off. On average, they overestimated by about 25 hours. These people probably weren't lying; it can feel as though you're working 75 hours when you don't prioritize. Non-productive activities fill unnecessary gaps and before you know it, you've missed dinner time and it's dark outside.

A time diary is valuable in that it will reveal time-suckers, as well as the amount of non-entrepreneurial work you take on. If you can hire someone to take work off of your plate, do it. The money will come back to you ten-fold (or more) if you spend the time you've freed up properly.

Set realistic boundaries.

Do you create boundaries around your time? Strong boundaries will help you free up a lot of time, during which you (hopefully) sleep, eat, groom, run errands, and have some fun outside of work.

Limit your personal calls, set specific times to meet with employees, clients, and vendors, rather than allow constant interruptions. Turn off notifications and don't check email all day long. Rarely is it necessary to respond ASAP. Also, make certain that you are absolutely clear on your vision, goals, and next steps. This clarity will guide you through the process of making productive choices.

Make choices that honor your values.

We all have 168 hours available to us each and every week of the year. When you think about it, that's a lot of time. If you create your schedule around the things that are important to you, instead of living in hope that you'll magically find free time, your life will instantly change for the better.

This is not about banning work entirely during the evening hours or on weekends. Let's be real, you're an entrepreneur. It's about healthy prioritization, the elimination of time suckers, and being flexible with your schedule.

Too many entrepreneurs choose to live in chaos because, when they do, it feels like they are working hard to achieve their dreams. Instead, choose to work smart. Yes, there will still be sacrifices, but you will not be constantly sacrificing. There's a big difference.

Published on: Jul 24, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.