I basically spent the entire first year of building my business in Quadrant I.
You remember Quadrant I, right? It’s that space where you can only work on Urgent and Important matters, and it has you wanting to delete all other calendar appointments other than Happy Hour. We have all been there, hammering out work just hours before the deadline, akin to graduate school all-nighters. While this may have been okay for term papers, it certainly does not create a sustainable solopreneur lifestyle. And it’s definitely not happy. So how can you avoid the anxiety of urgent/important/need it right now? By adding a little structure to your life, of course!
Humans are creatures of habit. No matter how much you disliked your 9-5, it carved out a routine for you to live by and get your work done. We like routines. We really like routines. And for some funny reason, it’s the first thing we ditch when we become our own bosses. It’s fun for a week, and then you find yourself in a panic because of the number of things to do and the intensity that lack of structure brings. Luckily, we are here to help you add some hard edges without the dredge that made you hate structure in the first place.
1. Morning Routine
What do you do first thing in the morning to get yourself ready for a day of building your empire? While some people swear by a tea, yoga, meditation ritual, others feel best suited to start the day by getting right to work. For example, because I am a writer, I like to take my coffee and read first thing in the morning. It helps my brain wake up and warms up my writers’ voice. My husband, on the other hand, is an artist who always begins his day sketching a character of his choice. Before he starts any client work, he always works on his personal projects for at least an hour. Some major executives say that they won’t even touch their phones until they have exercised first thing in the morning. While there is no perfect routine that all people will connect with, the most important detail should be on finding something that helps you best feel prepared to rock your day.
2. Calendar Appointments
After you’ve had a chance to fill your cup with your morning ritual, you need to open up your calendar and get clarity about your time commitments. This will help you create a realistic work strategy for the day, and often, when we are our own bosses, there are many, many meetings, phone calls, working lunches, networking events, and other business-driven events that occupy our calendars. Know what you have to do and be clear on the time blocks that they require. For example, you and a peer are going to have lunch and strategize about a potential collaboration. Be clear that you will only be there for an hour, and don’t forget to prepare an agenda.
Now that you’re clear on what time obligations you have, you can realistically craft your daily goals. Sometimes those daily goals will just be making it through the three meetings you have. Other days, you’ll have wide open windows for big productivity behind your computer. While I understand that you have a lot of ground to cover, I advise you not to be over-the-top ambitious in setting your daily goals. Momentum is created from accomplishment; frustration hails from failure. And, being the critics we are, we often internalize not finishing our goals as failure. Use the SMART method to help you craft these goals, and get your happy on when you knock them off the list!
4. Work Blocks
Almost there! Your calendar shapes your daily goals, and your daily goals shape your work blocks. Yes, I want you to plug them into your calendar. If your goal is to finish designing a tee-shirt, then schedule that as a specific work block for an hour in your day’s agenda. Eventually, you will need to learn to divide your time between creating, branding, marketing, and bookkeping (this can be a future post- did I cover it all?), but having simple blocks of time dedicated to your work goals is crucial and powerful. Do it.
5. Rest Blocks
Finally, rest. Ahhh. I know it’s part of the American dream story to say you’ll rest when you die, but I think you probably should rest before then, too. I’m not talking build a nap into every day, but I am saying give yourself strategic breaks throughout the day to recharge your batteries. What does that look like for you? Taking 20 extra minutes at lunch for a leisurely walk? Is it vegging out for 10 minutes on social media? Maybe you even like to schedule in a daily meditation session to remedy or prevent burn-out. Whatever it is, build it into your day just like you do work. It’s important, and happy solopreneurs know the value of rest.