As Entrepreneurs, one of the things that draws us away from the 9 – 5 is the rigidity of the work hours. The continual grind, the same thing day in and day out. And sometimes we get so caught up in this idea that we forget the benefits of having set hours – we think that if we create our own work times, that they have to fit the 9 – 5 profile. But that is so far from the truth.
Setting ‘work hours’ doesn’t mean working the same times each and every day. It means being able to work your hours around your life, create flexibility. If you have a yoga class on Monday mornings then roster yourself around that, if you have the school drop off or pick up, work around it.
It’s so tempting to work on our business all the time. A quick check of the emails here and there can easily turn into hours of additional work each day – which means there’s something you’re missing out on, whether it’s family time, time for yourself or even sleep.
Here are just some of the benefits of setting yourself actual ‘work hours’.
1 – Predictability for your clients.
While we may live in a world where some people expect to be answered immediately, the reality is that most people don’t actually expect a response to an email or request at 10pm at night. If you work across different timezones this can be a little more difficult.
If you set yourself ‘work hours’ and outline predicted response times to your clients, you’ll stress less about the need to respond to every email immediately and likely to stop checking your inbox so often, and you clients will know when they can expect to hear from you.
This is also the case if you offer one on one or coaching services. If you are trying to book appointments with clients, outline the hours you are available first, then let them decide where they fit into that. Working your life around your clients means you’re prioritising them over your family and yourself. Your business will never run smoothly if you’re always sacrificing your own needs.
2 – Easier to create a schedule you’re more inclined to stick to.
Rather than trying to complete bits and pieces of tasks here and there, setting yourself work hours means you can outline a schedule for yourself. If you know on Mondays you work between 5am and 8am, then start working again and noon through until 4pm then you can schedule in your tasks. Perhaps you write better of a morning – therefore you can say that between 5am and 7am is your time to write.
7am until 8am you check your emails (meaning your emails will arrive during office hours) and you don’t have to touch your emails again until later in the afternoon when you are back into your working hours.
Setting a schedule for your work hours means you can play to your own strengths and have some structure to your business.
3 – Less guilt for the times you’re not working.
How often have you said to yourself ‘oh I really should be working on that proposal’ or ‘I should be scheduling some social media posts right now’. You may spend 70 hours a week working on your business but if you don’t have set business hours, chances are you’ll still feel guilty for the time you don’t spend on it.
Setting work hours can certainly help with this. When you’re away from work, you’re away from work. This is even harder for those of us who run our business from home. It can be difficult to differentiate between ‘work space’ and ‘home space’.
I’m not really one for setting up a designated space do to my business work – I like to just be wherever I’m comfortable and feel productive. Sometimes it’s on the lounge, other’s the kitchen table and some days I even leave the house and venture outside. Not having a clear space means having clear hours is important to keep ‘work’ and ‘home’ as separate as possible.
4 – Ability to have family time.
This is the second most important point (second only to #5). Think about why you started your business? If you’re anything like me, at least one of the reasons will be to enhance your time with your family. Have more time, make more money to spend with your family, able to work from home with your family… family time is a massive motivator. But, if you’re not setting your work hours then you’re probably not setting your family time either.
This was a major wakeup call for me recently. I had asked my two year old son to do something and he said to me ‘no Mum, I’m busy’. I had no idea where this sass came from, nor did I know where he got the idea of ‘busy’. The next day it clicked. He asked me to go with him and I responded with ‘In a few minutes, Mummy is busy’. I hadn’t even realised I had been saying it to him.
While spending all day, every day with your family is impossible when you run a business, it can be made easier by setting clear work hours. Especially if you can manage those hours around your family.
5 – Gives yourself time to recharge.
Remember how I said family time was the second most important point? Well this is the most important point out of this entire article. You need time for yourself. You need to give yourself time to recharge. Burn out is real and happens so quickly if you’re not careful. If you burn yourself out, if you’re constantly doing, doing, doing, then you aren’t going to be productive.
‘Doing things’ and ‘being productive’ have two very different outcomes.
This comes under the whole ‘feeling guilty if you’re not constantly working’ part too. You are the most important asset to your business. Without you, your business doesn’t survive. And without taking time to recharge your own batteries, you won’t be able to keep afloat.
This doesn’t mean you are slack or can’t handle the pressure. This means that you acknowledge your own importance, your need to recharge and you are proactive in protecting your business.
It doesn’t have to be an elaborate weekend away at a spa (but you know, if you’d like to go feel free to invite me…). It can be as simple as giving yourself a day off work, catching up with some girlfriends or treating yourself to a binge Netflix session.
6 – Down time enables you to embrace creativity.
Following on from talking about recharging, down time and time away from your business also allows you to be more creative.
If you’re mind is always ‘switched on’, if you’re constantly thinking of what needs to be done next, how big you to do list is, how many emails are sitting in your inbox, then you’re always using your analytical and logical side of your brain.
When you ‘finish work’ for the day and step away from your business, you allow this side of your brain to rest up and let your creative side take hold.
Take the time to sit and daydream, draw, write or just sit and watch people pass by. Slow down. Take time to breathe and just be.
7 – Shutting off for a while means you can free your mind to explore new ideas.
And the next step from our previous point is this: allowing yourself to daydream and be creative means your mind can explore new ideas and opportunities to allow your business to grow.
One of the best times for me to have ‘ah ha’ moments and ‘whoa’ creative ideas is when I am driving. I find driving in the country so relaxing and with my day job, I end up driving long distances often. And I love it. I have had so many amazing ideas during this time and it is because I am doing something I find therapeutic.
8 – Able to connect with people without having a business focus.
When was the last time you had a conversation with someone that didn’t revolve around business? Been a while? Having set office hours will allow you schedule in some meet ups with friends and family and have normal conversations!!
When you’re starting up a business (and growing a business) it’s so easy to talk about it all the time. I know it is for me. I love chatting to by BBF’s (Business Best Friends) because I feel like I can talk and talk and talk about business without feeling like I should be talking about other things.
But… it’s a little different for family and friends. If you finish your workday at 3pm on a Friday, you can easily schedule in an afternoon coffee date or dinner with a loved one to catch up on life. This allows you to recharge yourself too and have some time away from all the business chat. Plus it means you’re friends will be reminded that you can talk about things other than business (even though we loooove talking about our business).
9 – Increased productivity during work hours.
If you have a whole day to do something, or a two hour block to do that same task, which do you think will be the more productive time? A common discussion among a lot of small business owners is that when they transition from working on their business part time to full-time is that they are working all this extra time but seem to only get the same amount of actual work done.
Set work hours means you have a general working timeframe and can work within it.
Breaking your hours up throughout the day can actually lead to increased productivity as you’re less likely to be easily distracted. In addition, you can work your hours around your own times of higher productivity – I know that there’s no way I can work well in the middle of the day, it’s just not good for me. But first thing of a morning and between 3pm and 5pm are my sweet spots. Do you know what yours are?
10 – You’ll be more organised by giving yourself goals and set timeframes.
And as an extension of the above point, having these work hours set out means you can break your tasks down into smaller timeframes and be more organised with your day.
You know yourself that if you set a timeframe for a task to be completed you’re far more likely to do it than if you don’t have a timeframe outlined.
Use To Do lists to keep yourself on task and add an expected length of time you believe each task will take. By doing this, you can allot your tasks throughout your day and stay on top of your workload. This is far more efficient than trying to get bits and pieces of work done here and there throughout the day.
Running your own business is incredibly rewarding. Whether you work from home or in your own office, run your business online of with a shop front, setting yourself work hours can make your life more organised and prevent your business from completely taking over your life.
After all, isn’t having more freedom and flexibility the reason you started your own business?