Photo by Peter Merholz, Attribution CC BY SA 2.0

When starting a business of your own, achieving a balance between work and play can seem impossible. It doesn’t matter how long you spend working, there’s always something left to do. It’s crucial for your well being to ensure that you find that balance. When you’re well rested, you work better and when you’re succeeding in your career, you’re better company. These are some common sense tips to regain control of your schedule.

Work Out a Routine

There are plenty of wild and wonderful tips out there, but as with most things, it’s usually the simplest advice that holds the most truth. In this case, the key to success is routine. Successful people from all fields tend to have one thing in common: they are fastidious about keeping to a schedule. Whether it’s the ‘make every day better’ routine of Luis Felipe, a huge player in the poker world, or the frankly ridiculous routine of the nation’s favourite Oprah Winfrey, one thing is for sure: a solid routine certainly helps to organize each one’s life.

Start with the rocks, pebbles, sand analogy and work out what the most important things to fit into your day are; these will be your rocks. These should be comprised of your main money earners, things that keep you healthy, and essential tasks that allow your business to function.

For example, for an architect, these could be drawing up plans, doing a morning exercise routine and updating the website portfolio. Next spend a little time working out what your pebbles are; these are things that need to be done, but aren’t quite so urgent.

For our architect, these could be replying to client’s emails, updating advertising campaigns and organizing the files. Instead of slotting in your pebbles one by one, assign an hour or so throughout the day to address these tasks.

Finally the sand; this does not need to be individually planned for in your schedule, it’s all the little things that will just have to slot around the bigger tasks. Planning out your day in this way means that the important things will always be accomplished and you’ll really see yourself getting ahead.

Pomodoro Technique

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The Pomodoro Technique can revolutionise productivity

Photo by Luca Mascaro, Attribution CC BY SA 2.0

Now that your schedule is in place, you’ll know which are your biggest tasks to tackle. Often we can waste time working on a mammoth task, especially working from home. If you often catch yourself flicking through a social media feed or catching up on that ten minutes of telly, then this technique could really work for you. The Pomodoro technique is centered around bursts of intense concentration, interspersed with short breaks. The most commonly made mistake with this technique is to assign yourself too large a burst of time.

Start with spending 20 minutes intensely working, that means no answering emails or phone calls, just concentrating on the task at hand. Once your 20 minutes are up, spend 5 minutes however you’d like to. If you can fit just 4 of these cycles into a working day then you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

As you get more used to this technique you can start to fit in a few more and maybe lengthen your bursts of concentration to 30 minutes.

Make Time for ‘Me Time’

If you’ve planned your schedule correctly, then you’ll have factored in some time for ‘me-time’. If you’re feeling run down or demotivated then you are definitely not doing your best work. You could think about it like running a car; if you keep driving day and night as fast as you can, in the short term you will get further.

In the long term however, you’ll have a run down car, with an engine that will be shot and you can pretty much guarantee it won’t pass its next MOT. On the other hand, if you keep it well oiled, drive at sensible speeds and top it up with quality fuel then your car is going to last a lot longer. Whilst it might take you a while to rack up those miles, you’ll get a lot further in the long run.

How you spend your me-time is up to you. Perhaps you’re the kind of person who enjoys a relaxing bath, maybe you prefer a movie to get you motivated. Some of us really thrive when we get our exercise quota or find time to explore the great outdoors.

Make sure to factor in an hour of this each day, it’ll keep you feeling happy and healthy. Never feel guilty for taking care of yourself, you are the most valuable asset to your business so look after yourself.

Take Play Time Seriously

This bit sometimes confuses people. We’ve just spoken about me-time, what’s the difference? Play time is your weekend. You need to be planning a little me-time every day of the week, but your play time has to come in big chunks. Working hard without a day (or ideally two) off tends to lead to burnout.

For the first few weeks, or even months, it can be difficult to switch off for whole days at a time, but you’ve got to remember that nobody is expecting you to be contactable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – and if they are, then maybe you don’t want to be doing business with them anyway…

Finding activities to fill at least a part of your weekend is a good way of making sure you don’t drift back to work. Think back to how you spent the weekends before starting your business, how did you most enjoy spending time? Maybe you spent the first hour of your Saturday mornings studying form for the NBA, ready to watch the game later that day.

It could be that your Sundays were devoted to cooking a big meal for friends or family. Perhaps you took the greatest pleasure in just taking the dog out for a long walk. Whatever it was that made your weekend, make time for it again, a proper break each week will do your productivity levels the world of good.