When you’re a business owner, “busy” ends up being the default setting very quickly. As the business grows, so do the number of balls you’re juggling, plates you’re spinning, hats you’re wearing… you know the story.
You’re constantly on the go, and when you do get five minutes to yourself, you end up feeling guilty and can’t relax because there’s always something else on the “should do” list demanding your attention.
As for all the brilliant ideas and projects that you’ve got in mind for your business? They stay tucked away in your notebooks, because you never get time to move any of them forwards.
And after a while, you get to the point where you know that something’s got to give.
What you really need is to create some space in your business.
Why You Need Space in Your Business
In design, empty space or “white space” is the space between. Those gaps between words, images and design elements that give our eyes the chance to rest and help the message to become clear. It’s always tempting to sacrifice the white space and try to cram more elements into the piece… but that’s when you’re in danger of tipping the balance, shifting the focus from what’s important, and losing the meaning entirely.
Building space into your business is just as essential:
For Creativity & Problem Solving
If you don’t have room to breathe, you don’t have space to think. Constantly chasing your tail means that you’ll never have the opportunity to give your head a break, for thoughts to spark, ideas to percolate, and solutions to float to the surface.
To Grow & Develop Your Business
The danger of being constantly busy with the day-to-day grind is that you’ve never got a chance to contemplate, let alone take your next step. Without time to work *on* your business as well as *in* it, you’ll become stalled, stuck and unable to make purposeful progress.
So You Don’t Burn Out!
There’s only so long you can continue at top speed without a break. (Trust me, I know that road.) No matter how much you love your work, for it to be sustainable, you need to build in some buffers for yourself.
How to Create Space in Your Business
If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed and that no matter what you do, there’s just not enough hours in the day, it can be tricky to take a step back and see where you can create space in your business. But you don’t need me to tell you…that’s the time when you need to do it the most. Here are a few simple ideas to help you step out of the weeds and find a bit of room for yourself:
Act with Intention
At the highest level, creating space starts with being intentional about every single action you take in your business.
If you’re thinking of adding a product or service, experimenting with a marketing strategy, hiring a team member… stop. Run that decision through the “values and vision filter”. This is a quick and simple way to make sure that what you’re doing is a fit with your big picture vision. Does the opportunity align with the core values of your business? And will pursuing it get you closer to that vision? If the answer’s “no”, it doesn’t matter how tempting it appears to be, it may not be for you. (And if you tend to get derailed by Shiny Object Syndrome, you might like to take a look at this post for a simple way to nip it in the bud.)
Have a Plan
For your day-to-day actions to stay in alignment with that big picture we talked about, you need a plan. First step? Break your vision down into goals. Then pare back and prioritise – less is more here. Think maximum impact – which are the goals you need to focus on in the immediate future, those that will move you closer to where you want to be? Which are “want to do but maybe not now” goals?
One idea is to concentrate on just one “big” goal per quarter, then break that down by month, week and day into the small steps you need to take to achieve it.
Bear with me, I know that sounds like adding *more* to your already full plate, but if you don’t make a plan, you run the risk of:
- Wasting time each day figuring out what you need to do next.
- Spending an awful lot of time and energy on things that don’t actually need to be done.
- Hopping from task to task, because you’re not sure of the next step, and ending up with a lot of unfinished projects and no real results to show for all your hard work.
Whether you do it on paper, using a project management tool, with Post-Its, a whiteboard, a vision board…doesn’t matter. Planning is your friend.
I know, I know. You’re wondering where the heck you’re supposed to get time to do this. But trust me, making time to get organised and set up some simple systems and processes will make a huge difference to your business.
I don’t mean high-tech, expensive solutions here. I’m talking about taking a good look at those things you do every day, week and month, to see if there’s a way you could simplify, automate, eliminate or otherwise shave some time off the process. Try some of these to get you started:
✥ If you’re posting manually to social media each time, sort yourself out with a scheduling tool and spend a couple of hours loading it with content for your chosen channels. Hootsuite, Buffer and Planoly are just a few of those that have free versions to get you started. You can even use the native scheduler on Facebook and Twitter if you like.
✥ If arranging client meetings always seems to turn into an endless back and forth over email, try a booking tool like Acuity that can be synced with your calendar, so your clients can choose a time that suits them and you to book an appointment with one click.
✥ Find yourself writing similar replies over and over again to client enquiries? Create some canned emails with responses to frequently asked questions. (Here’s a quick way to set this up using Gmail Templates.)
✥ Create a simple content plan with a frequency you know you can stick to. It’s so much easier than wracking your brains each time trying to come up with something to post on the fly.
✥ Organise your digital workspace. Google Drive is great for this and if you’ve got a Gmail account then you’ve got 15 GB space for free. Set up a simple folder system that makes sense for you and start filing!
✥ Swap that scrumpled piece of paper with all your login information scrawled on it for a password app like LastPass. All your info saved safely in one place, with only one password to remember. (Just don’t forget that one!)
These are just a few suggestions to get the wheels turning. They’re all free or inexpensive and relatively quick to sort out, but they’ll have a massive impact on the smooth running of your business.
Create Buffers & Boundaries
Sometimes what you really need is to turn down the noise to give yourself a chance to think, and that starts with setting some boundaries, both for yourself and others.
Start simple, try turning off all your notifications when you’re working on something else – email, phone, social media, the lot. Not only will you be better focused on the task at hand and more in ‘flow’, you’ll also avoid being diverted by the “little fires” that inevitably pop up throughout the day demanding your attention. The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to help you stay focused on single-tasking for a short stretch of time – read more about how here.
Instead of popping online at random times, schedule a block of time each day for your business social media to catch up with what’s happening, reply to comments & questions and start some conversations. This reduces the risk of clicking into Facebook for a second to check a notification and an hour later, finding yourself knee deep into YouTube videos of parrots leading kittens around homemade obstacle courses… (hey, no judgement, we’ve all been there!)
When it comes to client work, set clear expectations around turnaround times, when you’re available and within what timeframe people can expect replies from you. And once you’ve done that, do your best to stick to them! Don’t feel pressured to do “just one more thing” if you’ve arranged to head off for a walk with a friend for the afternoon. Leave the client email you receive at 9pm to deal with in the morning (unless it’s *really* an emergency.) Often times, a lot of the pressure to be always on and available comes from ourselves, so be aware of it and give yourself a break.
Start Clearing Your Plate
As your business grows, you’ll reach that tipping point where you can’t do it all alone anymore. That’s when you need to start thinking strategically about the type of support you need. Remember that it’s ok to start small when it comes to delegating. Whether that’s bringing on a virtual assistant for a few hours a week, or collaborating with someone for a defined project, there are lots of ways to dip your toe into the waters of outsourcing.
This gives you a chance to perfect your processes, solidify your lines of communication and get clear about what team members you really need. It also lets you see the type of person you work best with and gives you a chance to switch from the “doing” mindset to the “delegating” one – a really key aspect of building a team that’s often overlooked.
As your business grows, you may want to move towards the situation where your time is spent on the things only *you* can do, the tasks and projects that really move your business forward. So you need to think carefully about the setup that will allow you to shape your business to achieve that.
Without space in your business, it’s really easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day and for overwhelm and frustration to make things seem like an uphill climb. But small changes really do make a massive difference, and if you keep building on them bit by bit, you’ll give yourself the wiggle room to see a clear way forward and maintain your energy and motivation for the next steps.
And if you’d like some help figuring out how you can reclaim your time and energy, create some space, and do more of stuff you really want to do in your business (and life!), then I’d love to chat to see if I can help. Book a 30-minute consultation call with me here, or head over to my work with me page to find out more about how we could work together.