Last week, I got a package in the mail that came with a bunch of paper in the box that was used as padding. The paper has been sitting on my living room floor for a few days, and my cat has taken it upon him to make a little bed out of the paper (I swear I'm going somewhere with this -- hang in there, cat haters). I often get annoyed with how my cat tends to prefer boxes and packing supplies over any toy I purchase him, but cats like things they can sit in or make a structure out of, because they prefer boundaries. Wide open spaces can freak them out, and they prefer a safe space where they can feel secure.
And whether we like to admit it or not, humans prefer boundaries as well. It can be difficult to accept, but in creating boundaries and limitations in our personal lives and in our businesses, we can make ourselves more productive, and attract the audience we want.
- Set work hours.
Yes, this includes set email and social media hours as well! If I've learned anything from working for myself, it's that multitasking does not equal being more productive. In order to really hone in your efforts, only work on business tasks during work hours, and set that boundary with clients that you're not available at all hours of the day -- because it will slowly drive you crazy. It's natural to feel like you need to always be available for client work, but it's not the best long-term move.
- Block out your time.
If I didn't block out my time, I would never get anything done. I used to simply make a to-do list for every day, but I would usually only end up completing three or four of my five or six tasks. I now write out exactly how much time I'll spend on each task so it looks something like this:
9-11 a.m.: Project #1
11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Project #2
1-2 p.m.: Break/Lunch
2-4 p.m.: Project #3
4-6:30 p.m.: Spillover time for projects that didn't get done
Through setting up time this way, I a) ensure I only work on the tasks that really need to get done that day, and b) don't spend too much time on one specific task. It also makes sure I stay focused to maximize my time on that task.
- Only accept clients that play to your business core values.
When you're in a lean time of business, it's hard to turn down a potential client. But if they don't align with your brand's mission and values, what good will it do for either of you? They could work with a business more aligned to their needs, and you could find clients that better align to yours. If you're still figuring out what exactly your brand needs are, check out our Branding Your Biz workbook to dig deep into your business needs.
- Take time to create communication templates.
Crafting emails to potential and current clients can take up much more time than you realize. By taking some up-front time to create email templates to base you communication on, you're able to have a solid base to build individual client emails off of. This may feel a little bit impersonal at first, but this creates a boundary that both saves you time and provides that you provide consistent information to every client. I love Canned Responses in Gmail for setting this up!