I spoke with a friend (and small business owner) who is ready to pull out the little hair he still has left in his head. He is a solopreneur with a rapidly growing business (great) who keeps saying yes to new projects (not so great) and is operating consistently on four hours of sleep, suffering from guilt for not spending more time with his children and has a sticky nagging feeling that he has forgotten something significantly important (bad). He has “Yes-itis,” my new unscientific word to describe the somewhat prevalent inability to say “no.”
Although there are a myriad of psychological reasons behind yes-itis, I’m not a psychologist and I’m not going to tackle them. Here is a more practical (and easier to correct) reason – we underestimate our available time. I noticed this in myself as my brain translates open calendar spaces as “free” time to squeeze in more appointments. I squeezed in a lot and fought to regain control. I thought I’d share some of the tricks I use which have helped me be more realistic about my commitments and my availability for new projects:
1. Personal Comes First
If it’s not scheduled, it’s not going to get done. Now realistically, there are going to be periods of time when all you do is work, such as during a launch or if you are building after a down period. But when working constantly becomes a lifestyle, you’ve lost balance. You may not agree, but one of my core business philosophies is that our businesses should be supporting the life we want to live. Yet too often, we allow our business to take over and we squeeze “life” in whenever we can. So step one is getting all your personal appointments on your calendar.
- Working out
- Picking up your kids from school
- Schlepping children to piano, drama, soccer or football
- Golfing, shopping, pedi/mani’s (or whatever you do for down time)
- Date night
Start with the things that happen weekly, then monthly, then quarterly, then yearly.
2. Admin & Project Time
Most entrepreneurs wear multiple hats. We need to balance keeping our pipeline full with actually accomplishing the work we have committed to do. I have two days each week that are my catch up days where I don’t schedule appointments. It’s my time to respond to important but non-urgent email, snail mail, project planning, blog writing, returning phone calls and completing whatever projects are on my plate. I do this Monday and Friday of each week which allows me to plan out and close out my week. I especially enjoy Fridays as non-appointment days. I get done what needs to be done and I’m able to relax more on the weekends. These days may not be practical for you, but find two days that are.
3. Client Time
I block out the time I need to meet with clients each week: coaching appointments, delivering training (like Sanera Camp) or facilitating strategic planning. It’s all on the calendar. *Tip: After a new client signs with me, we schedule as many appointments right then as we can so their time is reserved at the beginning.
When you’ve got these three categories blocked out on your calendar, I guarantee that you will (at a glance) be able to see how much free time you have to take on new clients. I think you’ll be surprised.
- When working with a client, schedule your meetings for the same day/time each week. It makes it much easier for both of you to remember.
- Skip face-to-face meetings whenever possible. Some of your clients need face-time, but not all. What you can discuss over lunch or coffee, you can usually discuss over the phone or via Skype. You save yourself the drive time which adds up quickly.
- Carefully evaluate the networking meetings you attend. Is your target market there? Have you received business from the group? Are you one of many in your industry or the only one in your industry that attends? Networking is essential to business growth, but a lot of time (and money) is wasted by going to meetings that don’t yield business results.
So this is the system that works for me. What works for you?
Photo courtesy of helgasms! via Flickr.