By Charlene Walters, MBA, PhD
Let’s face it, women working remotely during the pandemic, are more stretched than ever. We have to balance our families and our professional obligations, too. This means that we must get more done in less time. As such, I’m providing some time management tips excerpted from my new book, Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur. I hope that you will be able to use them to maximize your productivity (whether you are a traditional employee, or an entrepreneur) and use that extra time for other areas of your life that are meaningful to you.
Female entrepreneurs often understandably have a difficult time with scheduling due to a heavier load. As revealed by the Pew Research Center, they must balance issues related to managing their family while juggling all of the household obligations they are responsible for as well as those tasks and commitments related to running their startups. Time management is certainly challenging, but you can make adjustments. Some of the things that you can do to maximize your time as an entrepreneur include minimizing disruptions, slowing down to take a breath, incorporating small breaks throughout the day, improving focus, setting weekly review time to clarify business objectives, tracking progress, and reducing time-sucks and avoiding the urge to do everything flawlessly; done is much, much better than flawless, so aim for 95 percent amazing vs. 100 percent impeccable.
Focus on your personal productivity first and foremost, and pay attention to your daily work habits. What throws you off track? Notifications on your phone? Place it across the room. Emails coming in? Sign out. Googling things that come to mind randomly? Learn to thwart this type of behavior. You can even come up with a mantra that you repeat to yourself when you catch yourself getting off track, like my favorite, telling myself, “Charlene, get back to work!” The more you focus, the more productive you’ll be, and you’ll actually be able to get more done in less time. And, ding, ding, guess what? That means more time for you and other important people in your life. Did someone say virtual girls’ night?
Taking breaks is critical, as counterintuitive as it may seem. The reality is that when you leave your workspace for a moment, you are resetting your mind and focus, and you will come back to your desk with a more refreshed and attentive outlook. So, get up from time to time, stretch your legs, grab a glass of water, or step outside to get some air for a minute. Sit on the patio and soak in the day. Play your favorite song on YouTube and do a little dance in your office—you’ve still got the moves. It will help you maintain your focus, and as I’ve mentioned, focus is the name of the game when it comes to being productive.
Work hard to declutter your workspace. By streamlining, you will be able to physically get items off your desk and/or tackle your mental checklist more quickly. This applies to both your work area as well as the files and organization on your laptop. Have you ever wasted an hour trying to find a document you misplaced under a stack of papers? Or had trouble locating a file you knew you’d already started? The tidier your work environment, the less time you’ll waste moving from task to task and trying to locate things. So, clean up your entrepreneurial act (so to speak)!
Again, you will need to train yourself to really focus and eliminate interruptions. Do this by silencing notifications on your devices and resisting the urge to surf the web or talk on the phone. Strive to complete things quickly and with your full concentration, and using this method, you’ll get more done in less time. If you know you should be able to accomplish more than you are right now, look at your entire schedule critically. Identify areas that are sucking time away from you; Netflix-binging perhaps? (That new series can wait!) Spending hours on social media? (Schedule time after hours to catch up on Insta and TikTok instead of during work time. Maybe limit it to Tuesdays and Saturdays from 6 to 8 p.m.) The best way to find out where your time is being spent is to track yourself for an entire week. You may be surprised at how much time you’re wasting without getting anything in return.
You Can Balance
The temptation to overwork will always be there for you, but working too long will actually cause you to be less productive. Instead, make sure that you make the time for other areas of your life that are important to you so that you can enjoy them while growing your company.
And balance can be achieved—I’m living proof! I’m a single mother with two girls. I have a full-time job, work a side gig, and write books in my free time. (What free time?) I know a thing or two about being stretched, pulled, and feeling guilty. I’ve been at this for years. I’ll be in the middle of something I’m working on for a client when someone throws something extra on my plate at work, my daughter screams for me to break up a fight she’s having in another room with my other daughter, all while I’m thinking about my dad’s birthday (I need to call him, send a card) and remembering that I also need to reach out to my friend whose father passed away last week. Shoot, and I haven’t worked out yet today either. It’s okay.
Think about all of the steps we talked about and take control of that schedule. Look at each item in terms of its priority and where it fits into those daily plans. You can make it all work. Get creative with it and never allow yourself to feel bullied by other people’s expectations of you, or worse yet, those placed on you by yourself. You are an amazing business owner, mother, friend, spouse, and strategist!
The most essential thing to remember about work-life balance is that no one is going to do it for you, so you have to make it a priority and talk to the other important people in your life about your schedule. The more in balance you are, the more successful you will be!
“Excerpt from Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur: 10 Mindset Shifts for Women to Take Action, Unleash Creativity, and Achieve Financial Success by Charlene Walters (McGraw Hill, February 2021).
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