Perhaps the scarcest commodity the new home-business owner just starting out has is time. This is particularly so if you are also working a traditional, full-time job and building up your business "on the side" in your spare time. So how do you go about burning the candle at both ends without burning yourself out in the process?
First off, let's think about priorities. Working a full-time job while developing a business requires stamina and endurance if other areas of your life are not to be neglected. This means being fit and healthy. Make time to exercise at least three times a week. Four or five is better. I know how hard it can be to commit an hour to working out when you've got an endless (and I mean ENDLESS!) list of things you need to be doing NOW for your business. But make the time. It pays BIG dividends in terms of stamina and endurance.
Second, eat right. Don't just grab a McBurger on the way home from work and scoff it down as you're driving. Take the time to cook a proper meal and relax for a half hour or an hour before getting down to business. This gives you a break and time to unwind from the pressures of the day, making you much more productive when you do get down to work. Eating proper meals will keep you in good health and, coupled with a regular exercise routine, will help keep your energy levels high.
OK, so you're physically in shape and taking care of yourself. The next major thing to think about is time management. Every weekend, before the working week starts, prepare a business plan for the coming week. This is nothing more complicated that writing down the various business-related activities you must do over the course of the coming week and then scheduling them according to how much time you know you are going to have on a particular day.
By planning out your time this way, you can schedule your business activities alongside your other activities. Take care of as many of them as you can through the course of the day. Whether you are able to do this depends on the nature of your 9 to 5 job but if you have even a little autonomy you should be able to squeeze out a little time here and there. Not huge chunks, just 10 minutes here and there.
The nature of your job may mean you don't have the luxury of that sort of autonomy. If this is you, then there's nothing for it but to free up time before and after work. This may mean getting up an hour earlier every day, for example.
Whatever your personal situation, by planning ahead you will at least have the peace of mind of knowing that time has been allocated to all important business-related tasks. By eliminating the "scatter gun" approach you will find that the limited time you do have will be much more productive.
There are going to be some activities that you have to do day in, day out. Decide what time of the day is best for you to attend to these routine tasks. The more you can integrate business activities into your daily routine the more efficient will be your use of time. Let's take email, for example. Anyone running an online business has to deal with email on a daily basis. I use the time between when I get up in the morning and when I leave for the gym for this. It gives me time to wake up before I launch into my day and is a relatively undemanding task that does not require precision concentration.
Make use of autoresponders for as much of your email processing as possible. This will further reduce the amount of time you have to spend on this aspect of your business.
Other routine activities include things like site promotion and search engine position monitoring. Now there are a lot of great tools to help webmasters with this part of their business. For example, WebPosition Gold will automatically review your position in all the major search engines and report back to you with the results. It can also be programmed to auto-submit at appropriate intervals. Be sure to use quality automated tools wherever possible. They can save you literally hours of work every week and as we all know, time is money in this business.
Keep a journal for a week. Record in it everything you do during the day from the moment you get up in the morning to the moment you go to bed. What activities can you eliminate in favour of freeing up some time for your business? Maybe it means getting up an hour earlier. Maybe it's forgoing the sleep-in on the weekend. Maybe it means giving up those two hours of TV every night. You will find even 15-20 minutes blocks here and there can add up to a sizeable chunk of time over a week or a month.
If you travel, keep a copy of your website on your laptop and work on it while you're in the air or waiting for a flight. Or answer your email ready to send it when you get plugged in again.
As you can see, the trick is to practice the "nibble" technique. If you wait until you have a great chunk of time in one block, such as the weekend, you'll only waste all of those little bits of time you could have put to good use during the week and fritter away your "quality" time on routine tasks rather than business development.
One final piece of advice. Take time every week to just relax and do something you want to do. Although the pressures of a new business are demanding, failing to take time out will only lead to burn out.
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Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online ... practical business ideas, opportunities and solutions for the work-from-home entrepreneur. http://www.ahbbo.com