Insights from Dana
5 Secrets to Finding Time You Didn’t Know You Had

As business owners, entrepreneurs, and even just as human beings, we are so busy! We constantly say, “I’m so busy. I have no time. I can’t find the time.” 

It’s time to make the clock work for you instead of against you.

Number 1 is Make Your Calendar Your Boss.

We’re terrible bosses to ourselves as business owners, so you’re going to infuse your calendar with “BOSSNESS.” Give it a bossy name. My calendar’s name is Gertrude. 

You’re going to promise that whatever is in your calendar, whatever your calendar tells you to do, you’re going to do it. 

I know this sounds bizarre, but if you do this every single time you put something into your calendar, you’re going to get in the habit of doing a quick calculation in your head about what you’re actually saying yes to. Because if you say yes to it, then the deal is that you’re doing it. It gives you some separation between blindly scheduling yourself into the crazy.

Number 2 is Assess Your Current Schedule.

Before you can change anything, you have to know what is actually happening. 

I was talking to a client yesterday, and she discovered that she had trained herself to switch tasks every two to three minutes.  It showed up first thing in the morning when she read her emails. She would think, “I’ll just do that one thing the email is asking for,” or “I’ll just respond to that one thing.” And she found herself hopping from task to task till all of a sudden, the day had gone by. 

It turns out that where we lose the most time is in the process of switching our brains from task to task, thing to thing, thought to thought. Every time you switch, you lose time while your brain recalibrates to the new task at hand.

That’s what my client discovered. You may discover something completely different – maybe you are getting sucked into distractions like scrolling your phone or being sidetracked by laundry, food, kids. 

Once you know where your time is currently going, you can remedy the problem by creating blocks of time dedicated to specific categories of what needs to get done, both for your business and your personal life. Categories like Sales, Marketing, Networking, Client Delivery, Financial Stuff, Admin, Workouts, Journaling, Reading, Kids, etc. 

Then, download a blank weekly calendar, divide each day into 90-minute intervals, and fill the blocks with a particular category of tasks. Some categories need multiple blocks a week, while others need one every other week, once a month, or even once every 6 months.

I’ll give you an example in my life.

➨ My client days are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I am a mid-morning person, so I get up and need a cup of coffee before I am coherent. Then, around 3 pm, I start losing it. Not that I’m not awake or that I can’t get stuff done. It’s just not the best of me. And I feel like my clients deserve the best of me. So I only work with my clients between 9 am till around 3 pm. 

➨ After 3 on those days, I do any admin, paperwork, planning, and project work. Or I take time to read, cuddle the dogs, and cook.

➨ Thursdays are when I do all the other stuff. I have my money date, which means I’m having a date with myself about my finances, or I’m having a date with my CFO about finances. I have meetings. I network. I do sales calls. 
➨ I don’t work on Fridays. In my life, I’ve decided that I want to have Fridays free so that when the weather’s great, we can just take Vanya and go play. There’s n-o-t-h-i-n-g calendared. Nobody can schedule time with me on Fridays. If I put something on a Friday, it’s just because I want to do the thing, but generally, Fridays are off-book.

Watch for invisible time. Invisible time is something you take for granted, so you forget to leave space for it to happen. Like eating. Don’t forget to schedule lunch, and don’t eat lunch in front of your computer or at your desk – get up and eat something! Invisible time can also be travel time or, if you’re an introvert, the time needed to refill your bucket after networking or a meeting. Make sure your invisible time is in your calendar!

Number 3 is to Decide How Much Free Time You Want.

We often behave as if we’re at the mercy of time, as if it happens to us and we’re just along for the ride. That’s not true. You decide how much time you want, for what purpose, and then you go about making it happen.

For instance, I cook dinner at my house every night (and not because my husband isn’t a good cook). We’ve gotten into this routine during a pandemic: he makes me breakfast in bed with coffee every morning, then makes me lunch, and I make dinner. So, I need time to cook, because that’s important to me. I made the decision to do that. You have to decide what you want out of your hours because we all only have 24 in a day. 

If you’re a business owner, it is REALLY important that you have an entire 24 hours every week with no work. When you’re two or three years in, it can be pretty hard to go from working six or seven days a week to taking a full day off. Or you realize that you’re pretending only to work 5 days but then find yourself answering emails or hovering on your laptop on the weekends. 

Your brain needs a break. 

The first decision to make is, which 24 hours are you going to 100% take off? I actually insist on 48 hours off every week, plus regular vacations for my clients. Whether you’re going to stay home or you’re going to go somewhere, you need to decide when you are going to take time away from work. And then take it! 

It can take a while to get there, but you need to make these decisions so you can start to make time work for you. 

Deciding is really the first step to making anything happen in your life, period.

Number 4 is DELETE and DELEGATE. 

Deleting is saying no. What have you been saying yes to when you really should be saying no?

As a business owner, we are invited to do many, many, many things. Many of them sound fantastic and fun. But saying yes to everything is what got you into this time crunch in the first place. So you have to be judicious with your YES. 

Ask yourself:

In business: 

What is your intention in terms of what you’re trying to accomplish in the long run, not just today? 

What is going to get you there fastest? Or really just at all? 

What is essential to reaching your goal? What is simply important and what is a meh?

In your personal life:

What is essential? What keeps you sane, takes care of your family, supports your mental health, gives you joy?

Now go through your calendar and evaluate each commitment based on these priorities. Then delete the ones that don’t serve you anymore.

In the future, each time an opportunity comes up to either say “yes” or “no,” before adding anything to your calendar, check your priorities and make a conscious decision r. (Remember, your calendar is your boss, and if it goes in there, you’ve promised to do it.)

Whenever you say “no” to something, you’re saying “yes” to something else. Every decision has a front and a back that you can’t separate, just like you can’t separate your palm from the back of your hand.  

I’m not sure if you’ve caught on yet, but the entire conversation about time is a conversation about boundaries, both in terms of boundaries around external commitments and boundaries with yourself and internal commitments.

Delegating is taking a really good look at the things that you’re doing and making a distinction between the things you’re doing that only you can do and the things you’re doing that somebody else could do instead.

That doesn’t mean going out and hiring somebody or paying somebody right away, but it does mean getting clear for yourself that there’s a difference between having to do something and choosing to do something.

Delegating is saying yes, but not doing it yourself. 

Effective Delegation Means…
➨ Delineating the role and responsibilities
➨ Determining the ideal fit
➨ Hiring
➨ Onboarding and Training 
➨ Ongoing Support. 
There’s a lot more there, but just for today, start by determining what you’re currently doing that someone else could do.

Number 5 is BLOCK YOUR TIME! It is crucial to block out the time you want to protect

In my office, I’ve got this big dry erase calendar hanging on the back of my door that shows the whole year. The absolute starting point of calendaring is consistently blocking out my most important periods of time, both personally and business-wise. In December 2021, I marked out the days I knew I was traveling for business: conferences, speaking engagements, my trip to Portugal, and periods I’ve already committed to my family – camping, a month in Vanya, and wedding dress shopping. These commitments go in my calendar first! They’re more important than anything else. 

I recommend that you open your calendar right now. We’re at the beginning of February, which, if you’re like most people, is already fully scheduled. So flip ahead to March or April, look at the rest of the year, and block out everything that you’re going to protect to the end of the year.

I protect my weekends because when I first started making sure I took weekends off, something else would fill that spot if I didn’t block them out. That’s just the way it goes. 

If you don’t take your calendar by the horns and actively insist that specific time is sacred to you, then you will whittle away at it until you have nothing left.

So, to recap The Five Secrets to Finding Time You Didn’t Know You Had… 

#1. Make your calendar your boss – and do what your boss tells you to do. 

#2. Assess your current schedule. Track your time so you know where your time is going. Identify your categories of work, and block the categories into periods throughout your week, so you stop switching from one task to another. 

#3. Decide how much free time you want in your calendar. 

#4. Delete, and Delegate. Delete the things you’re doing that are no longer serving your intentions and priorities, and delegate the things you’re doing that someone else could do, so you’re only doing the things that only you can do.
#5. Block the time you want to protect in advance.

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