When people first think of starting a business, one of the first things that pops in their mind is the idea of freedom. The main attraction of being on their own is that they do not have to be at the office by a certain time everyday, and they do not have to answer to anyone about how they use their time. They have power and authority over their schedule, their activities, what they work on, where they do it, etc., etc., etc.
With that freedom, though, comes responsibility. Even though no one will tell you what to do and when to do it, the problem is, no one will tell you what to do and when to do it. You have to be the one who is motivating yourself and keeping you on track. The flip side of entrepreneurial freedom is entrepreneurial responsibility. A lot of people struggle when they first go out on their own because they are used to having external motivation (eg "I have to be to work by 9 or I'll lose my job") and without that structure done.
After the buzz of new-found freedom wears off, and your initial energy and focus is spent, it's incredibly important to find other ways to hold yourself accountable to using your time effectively and efficiently. This becomes even more important if you work out of a home office, because there is always the allure of "puttering around" the house – such as doing the laundry, walking the dog, watching a few minutes of daytime TV.
One of the best ways to create accountability for your time is to create structure for yourself. Just because you do not have a boss does not mean you can not make yourself "go to work" at a specific time. In many ways, because you are your own boss, one of your jobs is giving yourself those guidelines, ie, making a schedule. The biggest advantage in making your own schedule, though, is that you get to decide how you want to structure your work-time around the other parts of your life.
There are a few reasons why creating time structure is so important. When you have a set structure to how you work, you do not have to reinvent the wheel everyday. If just deciding how you are going to organize your activities is something you have to do every day, it can be draining; it's much more efficient to have regular, consistent guidelines. Also, you can ensure that the most important activities are in your schedule, ones that you may otherwise brush over because they do not seem as urgent or you just do not like doing them.
That being said, there's a big advantage to being a new entrepreneur when you are structuring your time. You get to decide how you want to create that structure. Because you are your own boss, you get to decide the when, where, and how of your schedule. Do you prefer to do your email correspondence from home or at a local coffeeshop? Do you want to start early in the morning or sleep late and work into the night? This is especially attractive for NEs who are parents. Many of them will structure their day around their children's schedules, working during the day when they are at school and at night when they are sleep.
When making this structure, do not feel that you have to be constricted by what is "typical" or "normal". If you meet with clients, you do have to be available at times that they are – other than that, you have a lot of freedom. If you work best at 4 in the morning, then wake up at 4 and start to work. If you find that you are more productive in the evening, take the afternoon off and come back to your work after dinner. Do not feel that you have to be limited to the workweek either, many people find that Saturday mornings or Sunday evenings work well for them.
It's often effective to organize a schedule on a weekly basis, and for that reason, it's best to have somewhere that you can record this structure, whether it's a paper planner, a Blackberry, or a calendar on your computer. Planning the week works best if you take 30 minutes on a Friday or Sunday to map out the next week – in effect having a weekly planning session for the next week. Simply walk through the week and put in your most important activities first, then continue to fill in activities in descending order of importance. Then, when you wake up in the morning, you'll know what you have to do for the day.
Source by David JP Fisher
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