Whew! We’ve talked about some heavy stuff regarding the work we have to do personally before we can be successful in business. I know it seems like we aren’t getting to the good stuff yet, but these lessons I’ve learned over the years have been the things that have held me back the most. Hopefully they will keep you from making the same mistakes I have. This brings us to time management.
Your time is so valuable. Whether it’s time that you’re spending with your family, or it’s time that you’re putting in work - it all matters. Remember when I talked about squeezing in moments between our kids naps or when waiting in the school parking lot? The key to making that all work out is knowing how to manage those small increments of time.
Give yourself time limits for tasks, even the ones that you really enjoy doing. It can be so easy to get swept up in work that you lose track of time. If you have to set alarms on your phone or even a kitchen egg timer, do it! When I’m really crunched for time and have a lot of essential tasks that need to be finished I like to take my task list and notate how much time I need to work on each task.
Batching your tasks can help you complete multiple goals and projects at one time. It is one of my favorite tricks for time management. Say you need to research some topics to blog about. Take your task list and set aside just 10 minutes for keyword brainstorming. In those 10 minutes - pull up google and type in a keyword. As you see the google search bar self populate with longer versions of your keyword, jot them down!
These long phrases that populate are called long tail keywords. These are the kinds of words and phrases that people are actually searching for, which makes them extra valuable. These are the words and phrases that you’ll need to use as your keywords. Go through a list of words that are related to your product or service and run them through the same process. In 10 minutes time, you will have curated an extensive list of keywords that will help you to be found online when people search.
HOW I USED BATCHING
Batching can even help you streamline the product creation process. In the past, I used to sell handmade felt owl ornaments in my Etsy shop. The owls were each cut by hand, stuffed and then stitched together with a good old fashioned needle and thread. The task that I hated the most was cutting out the felt pieces. It was boring and by the time I was done cutting, my hands were in a cramp. Because it was my least favorite task it was always the last thing that I wanted to spend time on. I realized that if I sat down and cut out a bunch of pieces at one time - I could take a break from the task I hated and have more time for the parts that I enjoyed. Time management win!
When I sold handmade crochet items it was a little more difficult to batch pieces for projects. That was one product that really needed to be completed one part at a time. However, there were other things in my business that I could batch process. I could sit down and arrange all of my packaging for orders, the product tags and my product listings. Just because you may not be able to batch process some parts of your product creation doesn’t mean you can’t apply that routine to other aspects of your business.
TIME MANAGEMENT ON THE GO
You can categorize your tasks by time to complete or by mobility. What things can you get done if you're away from your home office and only have access to your phone? There are lots of things that you probably need to research for your business that can be done anywhere! Think of how often you’re waiting in line somewhere. You can be a time management rockstar if you have access to your task list on your cell phone. Most of my content was written completely by batching the topics. I used the notes app and sometimes Google Docs to type up ideas in a blog post style. Whenever I had an idea come to mind I opened the app and started jotting down whatever came to mind. When it came time to put blog posts together, I had almost all of the content ready to go!
LEARN TO SAY NO
This was one of the hardest lessons that I’ve had to learn. You will always struggle with time management if you aren't able to say no. It's essential to your success, so I hope that you can put it into practice early on in your business as well. You are only one person even though you wear many hats. The wife-mother-sister-daughter-friend-business owner in you quite literally cannot do it all. There is not enough time in the day. You must simplify and narrow your focus down to the bare essentials.
Sometimes our plate is full and we have a lot of orders to fulfill, and then we get a request for a custom or rushed order. This is when it’s best to evaluate where you are in your fulfillment queue and see if you can fit another order in. There is nothing wrong with having a wait-list, sometimes that encourages customers to do business with you because they can see that others are buying your products.
PUT IT INTO PRACTICE
It’s extremely important to be upfront and honest with all customers, even potential customers. That can mean posting a message on your website, or in your e-commerce store notifying customers that new orders are on hold. You don’t have to give them details about why you can’t take new orders, just state that new orders won’t be processed until a specific date.
If a customer asks if you can create a large custom project, and it’s not something you have the bandwidth for at the time - or it’s a task that you’re not exactly sure how to implement; it’s ok to say no. If you don’t have the skills or the project is out of your realm of expertise, there is no shame in turning down the project.
COMMUNITY OVER COMPETITION
My advice in that situation is to have a list of artisans that cover a broad range of products - and refer that potential customer to someone on your list. Not only will you ensure that this customer is being taken care of, but you will also gain some good karma points for referring them. Remember, if you value community over competition, the benefits come back to you ten-fold. This is a time management win, and a way to build relationships in the industry.
Saying no in your personal life can be a bit more challenging. This requires you to have a firm grasp of where you are in your business, and what tasks take priority. Earlier, I talked about having to-do lists or keeping notes on my phone this is exactly when those lists come in handy.
If you have a constant pulse-check on what currently needs to be done in your business, you'll find it much easier to know when you can can squeeze in extra free time with family and friends and when you need to buckle down and get some important work done.
SAYING NO IS A STRESS RELIEVER
Learning to say no is an amazing way to immediately reduce your stress. It may feel uncomfortable the first few times that you decline an invitation or refer a customer to a colleague, but over time it gets easier. It can be as simple as saying your calendar is full. It’s your business, and you set the guidelines for when and where you want to work. You'll appear more organized and professional if you show that you have a firm grasp on your availability, and aren’t taking on more than you can handle. This will build trust with your customer base. They will see that you won’t simply allow work to pile up and then fail them when it all becomes too much to bear.
Allowing your customers to see that you understand your limits will lead them to respect you as a business owner. You won’t feel like a creative doormat that is expected to pump out orders 24/7.
THE BIGGEST BENEFIT OF SAYING "NO"
Most importantly, by learning when to say no - you free up opportunities to say YES! What if the opportunity of your lifetime comes up? A fully paid dream vacation, or a marketing conference that could take your business to the next level - and your schedule is jam packed with a bunch of extra promises that you’re struggling to manage. If you say no strategically you can free up valuable windows of your time. That free time can be filled with tasks and appointments that can make your life more enjoyable and your business more successful.
Can you think of ways that you can squeeze in little bits of work? How about times that you probably should’ve said no? I know there are things that you wish you could've said yes to, and if you practice saying no, you will free up more time for yourself and your business. I have a free time management worksheet for you HERE, if you want to get started ASAP.
We’ve done a lot of self-work over these last few posts, and in my next post we'll dive right in and start discussing how to set your business up legally! This is a crucial step, and I’ll explain all of the reasons why you can’t skip it. We’ll also go over tips on branding your business and how to stay authentic and true to yourself. See you there!