One of my major focuses this year is on simplifying and prioritizing my entire life. This also includes my business and blog life. I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur, or a multi-passionate entrepreneur, whatever you want to call it: I have shiny object syndrome and a brain full of shiny objects. I’m quick to jump on the next exciting idea without really taking into consideration that anything extra that I take on will take away from something else. It’s just math. We all have 24 hours in a day. If I’m already pulling my hair out with a million things to do, maybe starting a new business isn’t the best idea. I know I’m not the only one!
Let’s talk about ways to cut back on our commitments and really focus on what needs our attention the most.
What are Your Non-Negotiables?
These are the things that you will cannot compromise. Even though most of us have a ton of commitments, there are usually a top few that are non-negotiable. For me that is family and staying home with my son. Those two things are things that I absolutely need to make time for no matter what. While “family” doesn’t have a set amount of time, I basically mean that I shouldn’t be working every waking moment and need to have some time to spend with my husband. As far as staying home with my son that cuts into the time I have for other things quite a bit because he’s still a baby and needs constant attention.
I’m a big fan of list making and this is the perfect time to write down everything you’re committed to on a regular basis. Work, hobbies, school, activities, working out, etc. If you’re anything like me your list starts out a mile long. Then take a guess at how long you need to spend on each commitment each week (or month). Next, put this list in order of how important it is to you, your family and your life.
Here’s an example of my list (after I’ve pared it down over and over again over the course of over a year):
- AileenBarker.com (Blog & Email List)
- MissTightwad.com (Blog, Youtube & Email List)
- Facebook Co-op Group
Do Some Math (sorry, not sorry)
One of my favorite things to do is to do the math! We all have 24 hours in a day. Ideally 8 of those should be spent sleeping which brings us down to 16 hours a day and 7 days a week. That’s 112 hours of awake time to do your thing. If your list from the above step adds up to 90 hours a week, you might (definitely) need to cut down.
Here’s my list:
- AileenBarker.com: 25 hours per week
- content creation (blog & products), social media, maintenance, email list, etc.
- MissTightwad.com: 5 hours per week
- content creation (blog & youtube), social media, maintenance, email list, etc.
- Facebook Co-op Group: 0-10 hours
- finding products, posting, invoicing, shipping, etc.
My total time commitment: 30-40 hours per week on average. This is a perfect amount of time for me since I’m home with my son full time which takes up most of my day.
Trade Quantity for Quality
One thing I like to remind myself is that spreading myself too thin leaves everything I do half-assed. Seriously. I would rather have one amaze-balls business than three half businesses that I’m always scrambling to keep up with. That was me for a long, long time. I still have to hold back and am still working on focusing even more on one thing at a time.
Try a Temporary Detox
Take a look at your list of commitments and see what you can cut out. These are the things that you’re kind of wavering on, or know you really need to cut back on. Try it for a week or a month. Stick to it and see how you feel at the end. While you’re doing this use the extra time you have to focus on your other priorities and I bet you’ll realize how much nicer it feels to have just a few things to focus on.
The first time I took a real hard look at all of the things I had put on my own plate I pretty much had to chop it in HALF. I’m not even kidding. I think I was attempting to run one business, start two more, go to school and work full time. None of it was working. I had to just stop wasting time and pick what was most important. This is SO hard for me, but it’s super beneficial to the things in your life that you do keep around and continue to do.
Let’s say you do what you can to cut a few things out, but you still have plenty on your plate. Evaluate each commitment and see if there is any way you can make it less time consuming.
Example #1: AileenBarker.com
While this is my main business, I really wanted to swap out the time I spent doing things I didn’t find useful or joyful for things that I think would be more beneficial for the business. Here are some changes I made:
- Rather than scrambling to post 3x a week like I had been, I moved to posting ONE epic post a week.
- Instead of trying to catch up with all the social media platforms, I’ve moved my focus to Pinterest and Instagram for the time being.
Scaling down meant posting less often on my blog, but providing higher quality content. This takes me less time and I stress less about publishing “one more post”. Just these two things have freed up enough time that I can focus more on working on products to help empower others to run business and blogs they love without me adding more work hours to my plate! There are more benefits to these changes, but the time savings alone is worth it.
Example #2: MissTightwad.com
I don’t talk much about it on here, but frugality is sort of an expertise of mine. I love teaching people how to live a full and frugal life, but I feel like I need to cut back on my time commitment to Miss Tightwad so I can really focus on my business. I really love YouTube videos and the interaction I have going on over there so I decided to stop blogging on MissTightwad.com and simply do one video a week which I would post on the blog, mostly just to add any notes, links and to be able to have somewhere to refer people to easily. In addition, I would send out one frugality tip a week to keep providing content to my email list and grow my authority on frugal living.
In addition, I’ve decided that my Youtube channel and my email list are all that I’m doing for MissTightwad for the foreseeable future. I won’t be doing much as far as promotion or social media which will save me tons of time and energy.
Those are just two examples of steps I’ve taken to reduce my commitments and simplify my schedule based on what I already have on my plate. To be honest, I know I should just drop everything except AileenBarker.com so I can really focus, I just can’t bring myself to do that right now because I love the other things I do as well.
Talk It Out
The people who live with you (or that you talk to on a daily basis) have a pretty good sense of your schedule and what might be stressing you out more than is worth it. My husband can absolutely tell when I’m stressed and if I sit down and talk to him he can usually help talk me through decisions by just letting me know what he's observed and asking questions. Sometimes just bouncing ideas off of someone close to you can help you find things you didn’t think of yourself.
Create a “Backburner”
One thing I implemented last year was a notebook in Evernote called my “backburner”. These were ideas that I had that I want to save for later. It gives me a place to save my idea, even write a little bit about what I’m thinking in that moment when I’m inspired. What this does is let’s me push it out of my head instead of having it constantly distracting me. I know it’s filed away for later and there’s less of a chance of me wanting to jump on the idea omgrightnow.
More on how I use Evernote: The Simple Way I Manage To Do Lists with Evernote
Learn to Say No
In addition to filing away ideas for later, sometimes you get presented with opportunities from other people or companies or situations. Learning to say “no” if you’re not interested, or maybe “can we revisit this in a couple of months?” if you’re truly interested and know that you might have the capacity to take on something else later, is an important part of simplifying your schedule.
I'm positive that you if you take the tips I've provided above and use the free worksheet below, you will be able to free up some time and stop being "too busy".
Bonus: Free Simplify Your Obligations Worksheet
The worksheet will walk you through many of the above tips in a way that will help you rethink all of your obligations. You can either print this worksheet or fill it out on your computer!