~By Rachel Brenke~
Recently, I learned a huge lesson in work-life balance. I was sitting on the floor holding the breast pump to me in one hand, the baby on the other breast, and my 18-month-old was smacking me in the head. All while I was trying to answer a client email on my phone.
At that moment, I knew that wasn’t balance. So I worked quickly to find myself some timesaving measures.
#1 – Evaluate your day
Get out a sheet of lined paper and a crayon, if that is all that is around, and write down what you do for every fifteen minutes during the day. Just one day y’all, that is all it takes to find out where you are spending all your time.
But promise me something; be sure you are honest about this. Don’t cheat and leave off when you spent 20 minutes watching the cat riding the Roomba on YouTube. If you aren’t honest, you are only hurting yourself.
By doing this exercise, you will identify the inefficient tasks that you do every day. Remember my story above; I was trying to do it all. And I wasn’t doing any of it well. I had to get it together. This exercise highlighted what was holding me back from growing. I could and wanted to do most of it, but I had to realize that I wasn’t always the best person, nor did I have the time.
#2 – Ask for help
After going through tip #1, I realized I needed help. For me, I found that in my personal life I was spending too much time cleaning, which was taking away from work. I then evaluated the cost it would take to have someone to come do a deep cleaning for me versus how many clients I could take during that time and the income I would receive. That was a no-brainer.
On the business side, it was a little harder. I realized that email and social media were out of control.
Bottom line? If there was a task that someone else could handle for me versus tasks that only I could do for my business – then that was my decision. I had to ask for help.
And by ask, I meant hire. You might find some friends willing to help, but that will soon end quickly and, as anyone would, they’ll expect reciprocation. But you obviously can’t do that at this time since you need to gain balance, not add more weight to one side.
When I wasn’t ready to commit to a full-time employee, I jumped onto sites like Elance or Odesk to get some quick help. This ended up helping me immediately and long-term. Many of these freelancers became employees for me when I was ready to grow my team.
#3 – Implement a system
Once you’ve gone through the last two steps, it is time to manage this. Yes, it is another task on the pile but if you get efficient you will maximize your time. My team and I, including freelancers, use Slack, an inter-office message system that sends messages in real time and allows us to send and store files. This means I will get an immediate answer, instead of waiting for Employee X to check their email.
Whether you have a team or not, get a system into play. Download the free application Wunderlist, and divide up your tasks. The categories should be immediate, future tasks, and first of the month administrative tasks. The immediate task list is relatively common sense. You go through this list until it is complete. The future tasks list is tasks that you want to do but will NOT look at until you complete the immediate list. This will keep you from flitting from project to project and accomplishing nothing. The last list is the first of the month administrative tasks. This is a list of tasks that you ONLY do on the first of the month — such as updating reports, paying freelancers/employees/affiliates, and writing and scheduling all blog posts and social media for the calendar month.
Further, set times of the day that are dedicated to certain tasks. For example, in my case, email was out of control, and I was spending all my time putting out little fires and responding to little-return-on-investment emails than content creating or having client meetings. If this is you, commit to only checking emails first thing in the morning and then in the evening. Same goes for social media.
You don’t have to tackle it all, friends. In fact, it’s better to be good at a few tasks than mediocre on a bunch with limited time. We all only have twenty-four hours in a day. Going through these tips will “add” hours to your day and put you ahead of your competition that hasn’t yet figured out this balance.
Meet the Author: Rachel Brenke
Rachel Brenke is an author, photographer, lawyer and business consultant for photographers and bloggers. She currently helps creative industry and blogging professionals all over the world initiate, strategize and implement strategic business and marketing plans through various mediums of consulting resources and legal direction.
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