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You hear it all the time…“If you’re going to start a business, you have to be ready to give up your life, work insane hours and devote every waking minute to your work.”
Now, maybe this is true when you’re first starting out, or when you’re getting ready to launch something new. But let’s be real here. I don’t know a single entrepreneur who started their own business so they could do nothing but work their tails off from now until eternity rolls around.
Yet that’s exactly what happens. Because if you start a business with this mentality, chances are good you’re going to end up building a business that requires you to work ridiculous hours to keep the cash flowing in.
I can tell you from personal experience that, while you might last a few years, this ain’t fun over the long haul. No matter how much you love what you do, it’s a recipe for burn-out.
So, what should you do? You have to proactively take charge of your business and your time. Here are five easy ways to do just that:
1. Control Your Time
If you’re always reachable and available to start work or meet, people will take advantage of your time. It also makes you seem too hungry for work, and therefore not very good at what you do. Otherwise you couldn’t take on new clients at the drop of a hat. It’s okay to say no to coffee meetings and opt for a phone meeting instead. It’s also okay to tell someone you can’t start or meet for two weeks or longer if that’s what you need to keep from being overwhelmed.
2. Set Work Hours and Days Off
No one can be productive and effective seven days a week. Heck, it’s hard to be productive and effective working six days a week. Or even five really, really long days. Plus, if you’re working that much, you’re not giving yourself time to think about the big picture and how you can grow your business. Schedule time to take care of yourself, get exercise, go on vacation or just spend more time with your significant other, kids or friends. I promise you’ll be WAY more productive overall—and happier—if you do.
It’s hard to accomplish anything if you’re constantly distracted by emails and phone calls. Luckily, unless you’re a doctor on call, few things are so important that they can’t wait a couple of hours, or even a day or two. So reacquaint yourself with the wonders of voice mail and only answer your emails 1-2 times a day. DO NOT check email and voice mail first thing. Take care of another pressing project first. Also, turn off the phone and emails from dinnertime on. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done when you aren’t always at everyone else’s beck and call.
4. Take on Critical Tasks Only
When you have more time than money, it easy to try doing everything yourself. The problem is that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. When you’re struggling with tasks you aren’t good or fast at— like bookkeeping or Web design—you waste time and money and typically don’t get the quality result you need. It’s more effective to focus on what you’re best at and what makes you money or grows your business—like delivering services, doing sales and marketing and putting together business growth strategies—then outsource the other tasks. If you use your newfound time wisely, you’ll quickly make enough to cover the costs of outsourcing.
5. Be Choosy About Clients
When you take on anyone and everyone as a client, you’re bound to get some that are a bad fit. These people always cost you more in money, time and frustration than they pay you. Instead, figure out what type of person you enjoy working with, and then prescreen potential clients in a 15-20 minute phone call. And don’t be afraid to fire a client you don’t enjoy working with. Nature abhors a vacuum, so you would be sure to get a new and better client soon.