The one where we get smarter about how we divide up our workday
It turns out we aren't actually capable of working 24/7.
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot on my plate. Always. Whether you’re running your own business full-time or you’re testing the waters with a new side business (or even still in the thinking stages), we’re all busy. We’re. All. Busy.
I don’t want you to work 16 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. I tweeted a couple years ago with this joke:
Which, okay, yes, it is funny because entrepreneurs work a lot. But also we don’t *have* to work a lot. And I’m not over here advocating for the 4-hour work week because that’s not my lifestyle. There’s a realistic balance to running your own company and still enjoying your own downtime without stressing about work.
Here’s what I recommend doing:
Log out of your email. No, seriously. An email that comes in at 9 PM does not need to be responded to. Hell, an email at 6 PM doesn’t need to be responded to either. I’m the type of person who will check my email out of habit. You may not be this way, so if you’re not, you can disregard. I have to sign out of my email or else I’ll check it and feel enticed to respond, or even if I don’t respond, the emails are on my mind. If you’re like me, intentionally disconnecting yourself is a necessary move.
Learn when you’re most productive. I tend to do my best heavy-thinking work in the morning, and I’m only good for basic tasks between 2 and 4 PM every workday. Pay attention to your level of focus and productivity levels and shift your work around so you’re doing heavy work when you’re most productive.
Don’t try to multitask. It doesn’t work. You can only dedicate so much of your attention to two (or more) things. If something comes up, add it to your “to be done” list so you don’t forget about it, but keep focused on what you’re currently working on.
Make Do Not Disturb your best friend. We now live in a world where we’re “always on” and always connected with asynchronous conversations thanks to tools like Slack. When you’re doing your heavy focus work, enable Do Not Disturb on Slack, your phone, and your computer. Update your Slack status to say you’re heads down and you’ll check back in periodically. You’ll always get people who don’t respect this, but you set the boundaries and you need to enforce them.
Keep your to-do list to a reasonable size. We all have 900 things to do in a day, but it’s realistically not possible to get 900 things done, despite what we tell ourselves. I like to begin each day with a “1-2-3” list. I only put one item on my “1” list. I get this one item today, it’s been a good day. If I get either of the two items on my “2” list done after I’ve finished #1, it’s been a very good day. My “3” list is reserved for up to three menial tasks I set aside for when my mind and body aren’t functioning at their best. (These tasks might be cleaning up my inbox, updating a spreadsheet, or updating my website.)
Treat your physical and mental health as core parts of your job. Because they absolutely are. I’m not saying “hit the gym at 4 AM every day” – I’m saying it’s important to get up and away from your computer several times during the day to give yourself a short break. You won’t operate well at 20%, so give your battery time to recharge away from work.
Get comfortable with saying no. This is an entire 5-minute conversation on its own, but the tl;dr is you can’t say yes to everything, and you shouldn’t say yes to everything. Prioritize what will help you hit your personal and career goals and say no to the requests that don’t bring you joy.
Don’t try to implement all of these at once. Ease into it. Give yourself grace when you screw up and give yourself time to turn these actions into a habit. You didn’t build your business overnight, and you won’t internalize these actions overnight.