Strategies to Effectively Use Your Time & Maximize Performance

As a fellow small business owner, the pressures of seemingly never having enough time to accomplish *all the things* is well-known. Especially as a female entrepreneur, the to do list seems never ending, especially with the pressures put on us by society and ourselves to achieve 6- or 7-figure business status while caring for children and pets, maintaining households and friendships, enjoying a clean bill of health, and looking ready to step onto a runway within a moment’s notice. Many days end in self-defeat, the white flag raised with more to-do’s at the day’s end than at its beginning.

The forgoing said, while life can be busy, messy, unpredictable, and challenging, there are actions you can take to make it more manageable. For suggestions about how to reclaim control of, and maximize, each day’s twenty-four hours, consider the following suggestions.

Determine Your Purpose

Prior to forming Spread Your Sunshine, I was a victim of the “yes factor,” often accepting all opportunities that presented themselves, spreading myself too thin. I had no guidepost for evaluating new proposals, often accepting them for fear of missing “something great.” Forming Spread Your Sunshine eradicated such fear (or FOMO).

Spread Your Sunshine was created to expand my mentoring capabilities, particularly on behalf of women and girls. Once such goals were established, those objectives were my polestars for determining when to accept a new position.

For example, soon after founding Spread Your Sunshine, I was asked to co-chair a local charity walk. The proposed position presented the chance to help a good cause while schmoozing with top regional leaders and philanthropists. Pre-Spread Your Sunshine, it is a role I likely would have accepted to “grow my business,” while at my core, knowing my heart was not committed to the project. Post-Spread Your Sunshine, I asked myself two questions. First, did the charity involve mentorship? It did not. Second, did it advance the status of women and girls? The answer was again no. Knowing these two answers, I easily declined the role.

Although the charity at issue was a wonderful cause, working on its behalf would not allow me to achieve my true purpose - mentorship and female advancement. Every moment invested in co-chairing that walk would have been time invested in someone else’s dream, not mine. Given the audacious goals that I’ve set for our community, I could not afford to give away my most precious commodity – my time.

Applying this logic to your life, once you identify your unique talents that you will contribute to the world, it is easy to shed extraneous involvement that does not contribute to such mission, liberating your time for the activities that truly bring you joy.

Set & Achieve Daily Goals

Many workers are busy, but not effective, because they exclusively respond to others’ needs instead of accomplishing their own tasks. For example, employees oftentimes start their day by checking email. Critically analyzed, such communications are broadly tasks assigned to you by others, not projects you intentionally undertook. Given the volume of communications exchanged in this fast-paced technological world, you may spend your whole day tackling your inbox, never reaching the mythical “zero messages” goal so that you can move onto your own objectives. This is especially true given that generally, the more emails you send, the more you receive, increasing the number of communications to which you must respond.

High-functioning entrepreneurs have a different approach to the workday. Before its start, they determine, for example, the top three things that they must accomplish. Throughout the day, they are laser-focused on those priorities, minimizing and avoiding all distractions that might prevent them from achieving such goals. Applying this best practice to your workflow, before you open your inbox or log-into social media, consider whether the top things that must get done on behalf of your company have been accomplished. If not, to the extent possible, ignore interruptions that do not advance your agenda.

Be Realistic

A few years into my career, it was realized that I “failed” every day because I set myself up for failure. Each morning, twenty-five items were crammed on a to-do list, when realistically, a fraction of those tasks could be completed. Being realistic about what is humanly possible not only boosts your self-esteem, it also indicates whether you should take on an additional role. If you doubt your capacity from the beginning, that feeling is unlikely to change. And, if you do pass on a role and find yourself with additional time, enjoy the opportunity to relax. As discussed next, not only are breaks good for your mental health, downtime to recharge improves your performance, maximizing your long-term work product.   

Take Time for Self-Care

One of my clients sold her business at the height of success in her industry. Perplexed, I asked why she made such decision. Her response changed my life, “work can be an unhealthy addiction.” Prior to that statement, I thought of addictions as involving drugs and alcohol, not work. She further explained that after the sale, it was six weeks before she could watch a half hour of television without constantly thinking of the work she “should have been doing.”

Reflecting on my friend’s experience, her words rang true. If boundaries for our workloads are not intentionally set, technology will guide us towards 24-7 workdays that are not in our best interests, do not foster joy, and prevent us from achieving our highest and best performance. Rather, over time, we will experience burnout, minimize productivity, and worse, damage our well-being

To avoid such a situation, self-care must be a daily priority. Whether it is a wine night with friends, kayaking solo down the river, a challenging workout, or curled up with your favorite book, doing something for *you* at least once a day is essential to leading a happy life and staying at the top of your business game.

Conclusions for Time and Performance Management

The forgoing tips are by no means exhaustive. Rather, they are simply a starting point to help you create a simpler and happier, and thus more productive, lifestyle.

And, do YOU have additional tips that will help the SYS community?! We’re sure you do, so please share your advice by emailing Melanie at Melanie@SpreadYourSunshine.com or by sending Spread Your Sunshine a message via FacebookInstagramLinkedIn or Twitter. We love hearing from you, as together we are strongest.

© 2020 Spread Your Sunshine, LLC