Monday, May 21, 2012

Smart Time Management - Fitting a New Business Into Your Daily Life – Part 2 of 2

In the first part of this series on Smart Time Management, we discussed the planning and organization side of time management to fit your new business into your daily life.  In part two, we cover the actual ways to fit it in on a daily basis.  If the first part was the warm up, this is where you hit the ground running!  So let’s get started!

Setting Time Aside

Time - Yep, it flies.
The first and foremost part of time management when trying to fit a new business venture into a busy life is obvious and common sense – Set the time aside.  I know this one can be difficult, but it really is one of the most important things you need to do.  Block out time that will be dedicated to nothing but your new business.  Tell the kids and other family members that you are “at work”, and pay attention to your business.  The rest of this article describes how to integrate your new work tasks into existing daily activities, but if you don’t dedicate uninterrupted time to your new business venture, you will never be able to get off the ground.  Whether it is an hour or three on a week night before you go to bed or a block of time on a Saturday morning before everyone else wakes up, you will need to prioritize this new business as a factor in your life.  One way to help others in the household understand and respect this work time is to have a dedicated “work space”.  This can be as involved as a home office, or as simple as a desk in your bedroom.  Family needs to know that, when you are at the desk working, you are at your job.  Of course interruptions will happen, but it’s okay to lean on your spouse or older children to play some defense for you here.  In my previous blog on “Taking A Shot”, I mention leaning on family members to help get your business off the ground.  There are so many things you need to get going when starting a business, but they are not always about the business itself.  If you have to get a grandparent to keep an eye on the kids for an afternoon so you can order inventory and work on your web page without distractions, it doesn't make you a bad parent.  Quite the opposite, it brings the kids closer to the grandparent, and lets you work on the business that is going to have a great impact on your kids’ future.


Most business owners like to do things themselves because they know it will be done correctly.  This is great, but there really only are so many hours in a given day.  And, quite frankly, no matter how good you are, you can’t be good at everything.  Finding things that you can pass on to others, whether just to free up your time or because they are better at it, is critical to smart time management.  This may mean hiring someone to clean your house so you can focus your time on the business, or getting one of the kids to cook dinner.  Household chores are only one thing.  So many aspects of the business itself can be (and often need to be) offloaded.  Tasks such as accounting, web design, marketing, newsletters and email mailing lists can be outsourced if you budget that in during your planning stage.  You may see that saving this time will pay off in other ways, allowing you to spend more time in product development, inventory management, operational duties, etc.  Time management is a give and take issue.  Make sure you are spending time on what you are most qualified to do, and find ways to offload some of your overload.  Here are a couple of real examples from our business.

In our business, Andrea and I are working together.  We've been dividing up tasks between the two of us.  For overall planning and getting our business started, Andrea is responsible for writing the business plan and performing market research, while I am in charge of product evaluation and setting up operations (equipment, processes, software, etc.).  Since we’re a married couple starting this together, we are not really “delegating” to each other, but we are still sharing the load.  As for the design of the products we are going to sell, I am focusing on engraved photography and frames while Andrea is working on engraved glassware, crystal and wine products.  We talk constantly about the business and share our ideas about our products, but sharing this workload is a great way for us to each take a direction, do research and offload certain aspects to each other.

On the photography side, we will be selling customized, personalized picture frames (along with some other cool products you have yet to see!).  Personally, I love woodworking.  I’d love to hand-build all of the frames we sell. But I also have to consider the time involved and decide if this is really worth the time.  If I can order a high-quality picture frame in bulk that makes our customers happy, I can’t necessarily justify the time it would take to custom-build each frame.  Smart time management includes considering what your time is worth.  In this case, the smart decision is to delegate the making of picture frames to a company that provides me with a great product for a great price, so I can spend my time on such topics as focusing on the product design (what will be engraved on the frame and how), marketing, and fulfilling our customers’ orders.

What I Learned Watching The Firm

In the movie The Firm, based on the John Grisham novel, Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is a lawyer fresh out of law school being trained by a large law firm.  During his orientation, they discuss billing.  The senior lawyer explains how any time that is used to work on a case is billable to the client, even time spent thinking about the case, even if McDeere is driving or taking a shower.  While our company will not be an hourly-billable business, this movie brings up a great point regarding time management.

How do you handle the problem of having only so many hours in a day?  Optimize your time.  Starting a business takes a lot of thinking and planning.  Specifically, topics like designing new products to sell, considering which accounting software package is right for you, thinking about the layout of your web page, these all take a lot of time to consider.  I’ve read that the average person spends one third of their time waiting.  Take that waiting time (or time doing other miscellaneous tasks) and turn it into some good, productive thinking time!  Are you waiting in line at the supermarket?  Cutting the lawn?  Driving to work?  Going for a run?  All of these are times when your mind has availability to be thinking and planning out your new business.  I got a great idea for a product we will be selling while at my daughter's soccer game last week.  You never know when inspiration or any great idea will hit you.  A well-planned business has the best chance of succeeding.  Take full advantage of your tasks that don’t require any thinking and put your brain to work on your business!

Family Time

In starting a family business, I have said before that family will come first.  We all need downtime to recharge our batteries and spend quality time with the ones we love.  This is why many of us start businesses in the first place, to have something better for our kids, and maybe even something to pass down to them.  But there are also times we spend with our kids that we can also work in some business as well.

Do you watch TV with your kids at night?  Do you have young children who want you to watch Up with them for the 375th time?  It’s perfectly acceptable to bring a laptop or smartphone to the couch with you and work on some business while doing so.  And having your kids exposed to the fact that you are starting a business is good, too.  They may ask you what you are doing, want to see the web page you are designing, and even throw in some ideas.  This is a great opportunity to bring family into your business and talk about it.

Down Time

What do you do during your downtime?  Do you surf the web?  Watch TV or read a magazine?  Play basketball?  Crochet?  All of these ways you relax also provide ways to simultaneously work on your business!

Any company who wants business today has to have a website.  When you surf the web, think about the pages you see.  Do you like the way they are laid out?  Are they easy to navigate?  Are they too cluttered?  Is the shopping cart feature easy to use?  Do you like an organizations’ Facebook page?  If you are in business, you should be thinking about this regularly, and apply what you like (and don’t like) to your own web page.  When watching TV or reading a magazine, look at the advertisements.  Do you like the way that the products are represented?  Do you see things you can carry over to your own advertising campaign?  If you play sports with others, why not ask your teammates what they think of your business and product ideas?  Bam!  Instant market research!  I know, you’re now saying, “But Jerry, I crochet.  How can I incorporate work into that?”  Well, you go online and to the store to get supplies and ideas, don’t you?  :)

There are always a lot of people who talk about how busy they are.  Some really are, some really aren't.  It really depends on each person’s personal commitments and lifestyle.  Some people spend three hours a night watching TV or instant messaging old high school friends on Facebook.  If that’s what you choose to do, that is your call.  But you have to realize that it will greatly reduce the time you put into your business.  Everyone needs downtime to relax their brain.  We all need time when we’re not analyzing web pages or commercials, when we just want to stare at the TV/computer/wall and not think.  That’s a necessity.  But if you are plugged into the television every weeknight from 7:00 until 11:00, don’t expect your business to take off.  Starting a serious business is a lifestyle choice.  It’s within almost anyone’s reach if they realize there will be some sacrifices.  If the worst that you have to sacrifice on a given night is missing Dancing With The Stars, then you’ll probably be okay.

Really?  Isn't That A Bit Much?

No matter what, you do always need to have time to yourself and your family.  Starting a business, just like all other aspects of life, can lead to burnout and overload.  Just as I said above, we all need time to just stare at the TV/computer/wall and not think.  That’s okay.  And you should always fit that in as well as time to spend with your family, friends and significant others.

Last night, my wife and I went out to one of our favorite Italian restaurants for dinner.  I had mentioned to her earlier in the evening that we could have time without kids to have a business meeting.  When we got there, she told me, “We can talk about the business until the food arrives, and then we’re on a date.”  This made me both smile and feel a little embarrassed.  In my desire to get our business going, there are times when I need to be reeled in.  I spend a lot of time thinking about and working on our business, but I know that I always need to make time for Andrea and I to have together as a couple, as well as time for our four kids.  Don’t let that slip.  We ended up enjoying a great meal, and conversation went back and forth between our business and every aspect of our family life.  I couldn't have enjoyed it more.  But I’m glad she didn't let me monopolize the entire conversation with all business.  Everyone needs some downtime, right? :)

To Wrap It Up…

There are  a lot of ways we can prepare and plan to optimize our time in working on our business.  Smart time management is important for anyone, but for the business owner, it is critical.  Please feel free to share your thoughts and ways that you optimize your time and use smart time management by posting below.  As always, thanks for reading!

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