Many creatives balk at the idea of time management, structure and systems. Does this sound like you?
Don’t put me in a box.
Don’t stop my creative flow.
You want me to pick just one idea?
I’ve been thinking a lot about time management and productivity – even before we rebranded our podcast to Structure & Flow: The Productivity Podcast for Creative Entrepreneurs.
Why do we believe we never have enough time?
I had a big aha, earth shattering, light bulb moment when reading The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz say that “managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal.”
What if we stopped focusing on time management and instead start focusing on energy management?
What would my life look like if I paid attention to how I am feeling, not what I am doing or not doing?
In the book they share stories of their work with professional tennis players and other athletes. Built into their training, their life and the cycle of their sport are long periods of rest and renewal. They spend at least 4 months a year recuperating from the intensity of their season.
Sounds like a dream come true, right? But really, who has 4 months a year to rest?
You do, if you want it.
Isn’t that why you became an entrepreneur? To create your own schedule, to enjoy freedom and flexibility?
Sigh… this is my 17th year as a business owner and not once have I taken 4 months off.
Part of my problem is that I adore my work. We are busy building and expanding right now. I don’t want to take 4 months off.
But I appreciate the need for rest and renewal. I recently spent 5 days in Portland, Oregon deepening friendships and making art at a retreat called Tangle U. I returned home feeling completely filled up.
I didn’t work while I was there.
I didn’t worry about work while I was there.
I came home refreshed and excited about what’s next.
Here are my two best secrets to changing your relationship to time so that you can take time off and still grow the profitable business you want.
1. Manage your energy not your time.
My guess is that you are doing too much in your business. With all of the opportunities to be marketing, sharing and creating it can be easy to lost sight of what matters most: YOU!
Your health and self-care are essential to your business success. You cannot serve others from an empty well.
It’s essential to your business success that you are paying attention to when you are working, how much you are working and what the results are of the work you are doing. Are you just spinning your wheels? Are you waiting until too late in the day when you are already tired to do work you don’t enjoy?
You get to decide how much time off you need and how frequently. Managing time is a choice. And a healthy habit.
Are you building a business that will sustain you financially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually?
I am not a stellar example of taking time off. In fact, Brad and I just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary and he wrote me a lovely letter. One of his comments in the letter is that we need more down time. It’s true. I don’t want to wait until our annual trip to Petite Riviere, Nova Scotia in August to relax. Sounds ridiculous when I say it.
Noticing how I felt after my art-filled trip to Portland was a powerful reminder that I need these mental, emotional and spiritual breaks from my work. No matter how much I love what I do, I can’t give from an empty tank.
2. Planning is the secret to managing your time.
Wondering how on earth to start doing less? To build in time for rest and renewal?
You need a plan.
And once you create the plan, you have to follow the plan.
In working with thousands of entrepreneurs over the past 17 years, the biggest mistake I see (and the biggest one I made when running my publishing company for 11 years) was not having a business plan in place that pointed me in the direction of the future I wanted to create.
I found myself working so hard, getting overtired, being grumpy with my husband and kids. For what?
I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to my life or my business to look like. I was stumbling blindly through a forest, not knowing I needed a path.
Planning has become a habit in our current business. And when we don’t spend time planning, we start spinning our wheels and getting overwhelmed.
We have an annual business plan, a quarterly plan and we know what we are working on monthly, weekly and daily. We look at our promotions and make sure we aren’t doing too much. We are learning to slow down in order to speed up.
We are doing more of the right things to create engagement, connection and profit in our business.
What can you do to start managing your energy and making a habit of planning?
- Grab your journal or some blank paper and some fun markers. What would your ideal work week look like? How could you build in some regular time for rest and relaxation?
- Conduct a time audit. Use an app like ATracker or Toggl and track your time every day for at least 7 days. Be honest about how you are spending your time. How close are your to living your ideal day and week? And if your not close, why not? Nothing will change until you get clear about where your time is going.
- Finally, if you don’t have a business plan in place, consider joining us in the Creative Business Accelerator. We will teach you how to design a simple, one-page business road map that will help you to manage your time and your energy. And how to go from your business plan to a step-by-step plan for growing your business every day, without burning out.