Let me start by saying “you aren’t alone”.
In any of this!
The struggle of work/life balance is real. Quite frankly, to stay afloat as a small business, you must live & breath growth. But how do you do this and balance a family life too?
The answer wasn’t very apparent to me from the start. Let me give you a little back story.
It was 7 years ago.
I was working for a Fortune 500 company developing databases. I received a phone call that I would not need to come into work Monday because I was being laid off. What the hell?! This was a complete blow (to me and my ego). I had just gone through a divorce, had two kids at home and no idea how I was going to come out of this standing.
You see, when the economy dumped it fell right on top of us (and maybe you too). The company I was working for had to lay people off. They were people who were close to retirement, single mothers, bread winners and hard workers. There was no rhyme or reason other than it was time to reduce heads and mine was one of them.
So I did what I had to do. Find another solution.
I looked at who I was. What my talents were. What I wished I had always done & never did. And I picked up a camera.
Not for some sexy reason like “I was drawn to it.” I picked it up to feed my kids (and my ego).
But now I had another problem.
To grow I must work … All hours of the day. Right?!
Because, as an entrepreneur there are no set hours. You have no one else running the company. You don’t have a marketing department. You ARE the marketing department. The assistant. The finance department. Hell … You’re even the janitor.
The point here is, there are more roles and not enough hands. So what do you do? Because you still have that life that you are desperately seeking to make better by owning your own company. Well here’s what I did:
1. Set work hours that actually fit into your life
Sounds easy right? It’s not. You will be drawn back to social media, your emails and phone calls when it’s not scheduled work time. But that will not make you a better business owner, it will make you a burnt out one. So develop a schedule that you know you can be fully present for.
The important thing here though is that instead of saying you work 9-5. choose hours that you know you will be uninterrupted. That may look something like 7am-9am & then pick back up from 8pm-12am.
Why? Because if you are at home, then you probably have distractions. We all do. You are not doing your business, your family or yourself any good by being pulled into a million places. So don’t. Instead dedicate your time to what you can. If family is happening around you then it’s more efficient to go do that instead of be distracted while working.
Give into the world around you. It’s happening. You can’t schedule it. So schedule yourself instead. When you know you might have time with no interruptions then put it down in your planner as work time. If you have a support system then let them know that this will be your scheduled “office hours”. If this means you have to work while everyone else is sleeping (which is me right now) fine. You’ll get more work done when you can fully concentrate on the task at hand.
The takeaway here is to ensure that when it’s your work hour, you are not being interrupted. That might mean you have to “work” when everyone else is sleeping but it will encourage task completion rather than starting a million projects and never finishing one of them.
We talk about this a lot around here at Colorvale® and for good reason. Automation is a life saver. But where do you start? Simple. Buffer. Without a doubt you need to run right now to Bufferapp.com and create an account if you don’t already have one. Immediately connect all your social media accounts and start thinking of posts you would otherwise publish on a whim … This time you are going to “schedule” them. Why? Because there is no reason to ever post without an automation app!
You heard me right. No reason.
You can still be engaging. You can still have your voice. You can still be your brand. You simply will plan it all out for at least a month at a time.
Once a month I pull out my photographer’s planner, flip to the social media schedule I have drafted & then I go into Buffer and begin scheduling.
Step 1: Choose what time slots work best for your audience. Make sure you choose a time that they are most likely surfing social media. Many times this is before a meeting or lunch and after dinner such as: 11:43am & 7:37pm. Make the defined schedule in buffer so that when you add the posts to your “queue” they will properly drop into the times selected.
Below screenshot is of the Buffer schedule you can create.
Step 2: Here is a sample list of posts to create for one month:
- 12 engaging questions
- 4 ads a month
- 6 tips
- 10 of your blog posts
- 4 inspirational quotes
- 4 outside resource blog posts that will help your target market
And done! This takes me about 2 hours once a month. But think about the efficiency of this task … Now I do not have to do ANY social media posts for an entire month. Isn’t that much more efficient than worrying about whether you posted to Facebook or G+ every day?
The kicker? Buffer allows you to select which profiles you want your posts to go to. That means less work for you. Write a post once and select all your platforms – bam! The work is done for you. I currently have 200 posts in my Buffer queue for my Facebook profile alone. That technically means I have more than 2 months scheduled. Whoot Whoot. Now I have time to do the other burning business stuff.
Below image reflects the social media slot & category planning in the Lights. Camera. Take Action. Planner for photographers.
3. Plan out your daily responsibilities
Where do you start the day without direction? If you have a list of a million things to do, and I know you do, then clearly you will have 33 tabs open on your browser, a bajillion sticky notes and will have started 45 tasks and finished none. This is because you have not defined your daily responsibilities. This isn’t a chore list love. It’s blocking out time for certain tasks with absolutely no other project interrupting it.
What do I mean exactly? Take all the tasks a business owner has – the repetitive ones, and delegate a day for them. That day, or time slot, is uninterrupted. Not a phone in sight or another browser open. Sound crazy? Like you couldn’t possibly do it? Then don’t. Stop right here, close this browser, because you aren’t open to change. Otherwise, stick with me babe because I’m going to show you business efficiency. And it’s easier than you think, once you get into the habit.
Create a schedule of Sunday thru Saturday (we have one for you in the photographer’ so planner). And block out a time each day with a special task category. Here’s an example:
- Sunday: Family (no work) hahaha you didn’t think I work every single day did you?
- Monday: Answer emails & clean up inbox – 1 hour
- Tuesday: Write a blog post or plan posts – 1 hour
- Wednesday: Product Development / Editing – 3 hour
- Thursday: Ship out planners – 1 hour
- Friday: Schedule sessions, send reminders, revisit past clients – 2 hour
- Saturday: Office cleanup – 1 hour
Now of course I have way more tasks each week than this but what this does is ensures that for 1 hour a day I get done the necessary things so that I am never falling behind. The efficiency in it comes from devoted time. I’m not doing 9 other things making a 1 hour task turn into a 4 hour one.
Does this seem feasible? I hope so, because it will truly help you get more done in a shorter time.
4. Draft up canned email responses
If you know that you get the same question over and over such as inquires, then why not create a script for them? Hell, there are even great ones on the market. Honestly, it’s not hard to take an hour once a month to write out some canned responses to the most common emails you get.
Here are just a few common emails you could draft up to have ready for next time.
- Pricing Questions
- Payment Questions
- Email with contract
- Gallery introduction with passoword
- Session reminders
- What to expect
There are great apps like Freshdesk that allow you to draft these canned responses and then apply to emails where appropriate. But you could also just save them as “draft” in your email app and refer to them when needed.
As you can see there are simple tasks you can do to free up time & allow you focus on what can drive revenue rather than keep you at a computer all day duplicating efforts.
Will you incorporate any or all of these suggestions?