Ask an Anchor: Time Management

We talk to a lot of business owners, and a few questions come up again and again. Each person has their version of these ever-present questions based on their own unique experience. Today we're boiling down a common worry into ONE question.

Hi Sarah,

How do I manage my time?? 

Every Business Owner (Ever)

Dear Every Business Owner,

This is a forever question! Daily, we face our lofty goals and endless to-do lists, and the 24 hours start to seem laughably inadequate. While I can't promise any miracle solutions (I'd be a millionaire if I figured THAT out), I have learned a lot.

When I hear this question, my first guess is that you probably *do* work all of the time! So this is less about time management and more about saying no from the get-go or prioritizing well. Easier said than done, right?

Here are some good questions to ask yourself when you're grappling with the "there aren't enough hours in the day" feeling:

  • What's easy for me? Do more of that. Take the things that make you feel tired and are hard on your heart and energy and shift and minimize them. Also, if something is "easy" but feels hard because it takes a lot of time, it may be useful to see if you can hire someone to do it and buy back some time.

  • What are the A, B, & C plans for my goals? Especially goals that are really big or don't have external deadlines. Think about how you can still work toward the goal even if you can't put as much time into it in a certain week or month.

  • What are the projects that are worth doing last minute? Dream clients might pop-up and be a great thing. But you should be really clear on what you say “No” to, especially if saying “Yes” would wreck your calendar.

  • How do I operate? What is the rhythm of my work and life? Focusing just on a weekly schedule is deeply flawed. We really need to see how our days, weeks, months, quarters, and years function. 

  • What do I want my life and work to feel like? Longterm goals can be hard to pinpoint. For me, it's helpful to ask myself how I want to feel rather than specifics about what I want. How I want to feel usually opens up the doors to the details. For example: I want to feel comfortable and safe. Longterm goal: Own a house in the hills. What does that house look like? Large, but not too large. What else? I want a beautiful and updated kitchen... etc., etc.  

  • What's winning me clients/business? Is it photos on Instagram, or phone calls with people? As an example, you might actually lose clients if your onboarding gets too automated. Maybe a phone call is what gets people in the door. Whatever your answer is, prioritize it.

Time Management, Planning & Patience

We all have a lot on our plates, and burnout is always around the corner. Saying no and really prioritizing planning ahead is going to be the hardest thing to implement in the beginning, but the best thing we can do for ourselves. Making shifts in your work takes time and courage. Be brave as you go forward with change, and remember that sometimes it will move more slowly than you'd like. When I shifted from taking client calls any day to only on Monday and Tuesday, it took months for that to be fully established.

If your months feel like a roller-coaster of slow and fast weeks, your schedule can hold answers. Look back at your weekly calendar and pay attention to what weeks are client-focused, and what weeks aren't (and can be focused on other things, like business development.) This is entirely normal and with a little foresight can feel less frantic.

And if you're constantly feeling overworked and rundown, you might need to step back to take care of your most valuable business asset: yourself. (I wrote a lot more on the topic of taking time off as a business owner back in July.)

Everything Is A Priority (if it has a place to get done) 

Look at your schedule and see what can be done in your week. Keep chipping away, and you'll get there. (And occasionally a sprint may be needed, that's OK.) I’m also not suggesting that you overwork or overload your schedule. We want actionable and achievable goals. 

Be on the lookout for carrot moments (when an opportunity pops up and takes all your attention.) Ask yourself: What carrot am I following or jumping after? Will I ever catch it?

Weighing the decision at the moment is the hard part. When you are in the moment, look for your markers or clues: Is your throat closing up or did your stomach just flip? And then ask: Are these markers here because I'm tired or because it's a lousy carrot?

Just having a goal or opportunity isn't reason enough to pursue it. Question the new goal or opportunity, examine why and how it should fit into your business to find the reasons to go forward or table it. This builds your good decision-making muscles which is a powerful tool in business and life.

And remember, the reason you're doing all of this questioning is this: When you're controlling your schedule, you're controlling how good you are at your job. If you're squeezing things into your calendar against your better judgment, it almost guarantees your time will not be your own.


One last thing I want to mention is that letting go of perfection is directly related to getting stuff done. Abby Wambach wrote an article worth reading on this matter: "You Don't Have to Be Perfect to Be a Great Leader."

Best of luck with this moving target of a challenge! May we all do our best.