Time is of the essence when you are a small business owner.
Meeting deadlines, managing employees, filling orders and revising business plans can take up a lot of time, resulting in long hours, exhaustion and even burnout.
So… is it possible for a successful small business owner to work just 40 hours per week?
“It is absolutely possible,” said Frank Pucher, owner of Fitness 121 Personal Training, based in Roseland, N.J. “Remember, you don’t have to be the victim of your schedule, you can be the master of your schedule.”
J.T. O’Donnell, founder and president of CAREEREALISM, an online career coaching service, agreed.
“The number of hours you work is a choice,” O’Donnell said. “It is definitely possible to only work 40 hours per week. We can all choose to define our career on our own terms.”
Here are 10 ways to maintain the elusive 40-hours:
“Make a journal of how you spend your hours each day,” O’Donnell said. “Document how long tasks take you and how you spend your time. After a few weeks of doing this every day, you will realize where you waste time and then be able to fix it.”
“Stop drowning in drama,” advised Janice Taylor, a career and wellness coach based in New York City. “In business, you have projects, plans and details, but under all of that, you often have problems that can lead to drama. You may think that if you don’t meat a deadline, a client will fire you, the sky will fall or a vendor will call screaming.”
“Instead of buying into this fear, push up from the bottom of the pool and gasp for air. Remember to breathe. If you are running in circles, you won’t be working efficiently.”
“Know your strengths and know your limitations,” said Beverly D. Flaxington, principal at The Collaborative, a business development consultancy based in Medfield, Mass. “There is a propensity in small business owners to try and do it all. Instead, get smart about what you are good at and what you like to do. Keep the stuff you are good at and delegate the rest.”
“We all have a tendency to check email constantly if it is open all day,” said O’Donnell. “A lot of times, we will spend one or two hours looking at emails and not responding. Instead, designate specific times in your day to look at email and carve out time to answer on the spot.”
Just say no
“Not every client is a good client, and not every project is a good project,” Flaxington said. “Be able to say no to things that aren’t good for you and focus on things that will bring you to a desired outcome.”
Invest in yourself
“In order to perform at a high level professionally, you need to take care of yourself,” Pucher said. “Try to exercise daily. Having better health will lead to a better life. When you feel better physically, it affects your mindset.”
“You can’t just get up and wing it,” said O’Donnell. “At the end of the day, define what you want to get done in the next day. The following morning, spend five minutes focusing on how much time will be spent on each task. If you don’t plan, time can just slip away.”
“If you want to stop working 80 hours per week, empty your mind onto a page,” Taylor said. “Putting things down on a page will eliminate some of the mental fog and increase clarity.”
“Write a list of your priorities,” Flaxington said. “Keep that list on your desk and refer back to it. When you are making your to-do list, go back and make sure the tasks align with your priorities. Is quality of life your first priority? Is a specific revenue goal your first priority? Make the list and stick to it.”
“Find a way to reward yourself for sticking to 40 hours,” said O’Donnell. “If your idea of joy is to sit quietly and read a magazine with a cup of coffee, give yourself that luxury if you leave by 5 p.m. Own your actions and set up a motivation structure.”
Katie Morell is a Chicago-based freelance writer, specializing in small business concerns.