One of the biggest things I’ve been focusing on lately to eliminate the guilt factor is controlling my day. As Christmas and New Years approach, it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate through my day so that I see all of my family members, attend celebrations, buy gifts, etc while still trying to get some work done and have time for the gym. Unfortunately it’s not usually an option for most young business owners to just step away for two weeks. We’ve got to deal with the normal challenges of balancing life with business, while also giving appropriate attention to the holidays that are important to us.
So wtf does “controlling your day” mean? It does not mean setting rigid schedule and forcing yourself to adhere to it regardless of outside factors. To me it means:
- Setting goals the night before. Each night I make a list of goals for the following day. I use an index card because it forces me to keep it to only a handful of goals. I try to keep the business goals to four at most, and always put a few other personal goals in there so I’m not neglecting the rest of my life. To avoid being stressed, I plan as though I’ve only got about 70% of the time I have in the day – this allows for unexpected issues while still giving me time to meet my goals. At least once a week something happens that screws the whole day, but at least I usually have a positive day 6/7th of the time.
- Limiting phone and email. On the worst of days, phone and email is all I do. – sometimes everyone you’ve ever worked with decides to contact you on the same day and you’ve just got to deal with it. But on an average day it’s OK to only check and answer email every 3 hours or so. This ensures plenty of 2-3 hour pockets to get work done, eat, go to the gym, etc while still keeping on top of things.
- Setting a time that I’m done for the day, no matter what. Even if my goals go to hell, I stop working at a pre-set time. This ensures I have at least some time to myself, and that I always get enough sleep. At least once a week I hit my goals with plenty of time to spare and am able to have some unexpected time to read a book or grab a beer with friends.
Life as a business owner is never going to fit in a pretty 9-5 window, and I think most business owners like it that way. But that means that you’ve got to make the effort to fit in the rest of your life or you’ll go crazy. At the end of most days – particularly lately – I end the day saying “wow, I had a great day today because I accomplished x, y, and z”. I can’t think of a better thought to have after a long days work.