Being an entrepreneur means devoting time to your business and you won’t have to go far to find a business owner who works long hours. Far from being a badge of pride, however, long hours can easily pull you away from other parts of your life and lead directly to burnout. Neither of these scenarios is good for you, nor good for your business in the long term.
As someone who has both an established business and a start-up, I know my life would be a mess if I didn’t implement some rules and practices to simplify how I go about my work day. Here are five:
Hire an assistant
I outsource a lot of support work to my virtual assistant (VA). There’s a misconception that VAs are only there for low-skilled work, but actually it’s a role that requires a lot of initiative. You’ll find that VAs are usually university educated and have a lot of skills that will help you manage your day and also handle some of the time-consuming elements of your business that don’t necessarily need to be directed by you.
Before you rush out and employ one, understand that if you hire someone who is not physically located with your team it helps if you can spend some quality time in the beginning to train them. Be clear on what you want them to do and how they might handle certain requests or situations, and they’ll become invaluable. Regular communication is also important. We regularly call and use Slack as our internal messaging system to ensure consistency across time zones.
My VA assists me so much she is truly an essential part of the team. Having her as my assistant means our customers can access real-time support and, at the same time, it frees me to spend time on doing things that help grow the business.
Use productivity tools
It might sound obvious, but find out what tools are available to help you become more productive. There are plenty of time-saving and planning platforms like Slack, Trello and Jira, and they all have slightly different ways of keeping a team aligned, whether it’s to focus on weekly goals or to help prioritise tasks in real-time.
Jira, for example, helps us work on our product by tracking issues. We can scope new features and put our development resources to best use. Slack, on the other hand, is communication focused and reduces the need for countless internal emails. We use it so our international team can keep up to date with each other across time zones as well as participate in daily banter, which is important for inclusivity.
Wear a uniform
This might sound strange at first but having a go-to wardrobe for work means one fewer decision to make in the morning. I wear a lot of black and my ‘uniform’ usually comes from a set number of pieces from two or three labels. One fewer decision means more headspace to think about the things that really matter.
Set a routine
Related to wearing a uniform is having a routine. If you have a routine for eating, exercising and other activities, then it moves a whole lot of regular, low-value decisions off your plate so you can avoid decision fatigue and spend your time, effort and headspace on your business and other important things in your life.
What’s important is making sure you’ve made all the right decisions when you set a routine, for example, that if you have prepared meals delivered – as I do – that they are nutritionally balanced, or that your preferred personal trainer is available at the time when you can make it to the gym.
Having a routine is as much about what you’re not doing at certain times as are the activities you have planned for that period. Part of this is cutting down the noise and reducing distractions during the times when you should be focused.
I don’t answer my mobile phone during the day, and I don’t text. If my team need to get in touch with me, it’s via Slack or my VA. I set aside times for checking email and all my meetings are scheduled. This means that when I’m at work I’m fully focused on whatever I’m working on, and focus makes me more productive.
Keeping things simple not only saves time, it helps you do more with the time that you have. Simplicity allows you to focus on the things that matter so you’re more present and productive in your business.