Creating Your Ideal Schedule When You’re Self-Employed

Even with the fluidity of self-employment and the unique demands of your personal life, there are four things everyone should consider when structuring the workday.

Self-Employed

Running your own business is full of challenges.

From creating a business plan to interacting with customers to making financial and strategic decisions, there are so many things to decide. And when you’re the boss, they all fall to you.

Yet somehow, the thing that seems to trip people up the most? That creates the most stress and prompts the most curiosity and leaves us all looking at other small business owners out of the corner of our eyes, trying to figure out how they do it?

Creating a balance that allows you to be productive at work and present in your personal life without also feeling completely overwhelmed.

Seriously, is there any way to do that?

Having done this self-employment thing for more than a few years now under various circumstances (while moving around the country, while caring full-time for a four-month-old, while being my family’s sole breadwinner, while growing a tiny human), I’ve learned a lot about the good and the bad of the daily juggle.

I can definitely say that there is no one-size-fits-all (or even one-size-fits-every-week) solution for creating an effective schedule.

But there are a few things I’ve learned that, no matter you life and your business, will help you stay both productive at work and present in your personal life.

Creating Your Ideal Schedule

When you don’t have a 9-5 job and a boss who expects you to be in the office during regular, scheduled hours, figuring out when to work can be a bit of a challenge.

There are outside factors to balance:

  • when other people are working
  • when you need to be available (to respond to emails and send products and answer the phone)

There are personal factors to consider:

  • family obligations and childcare
  • classes and hobbies
  • time with friends
  • household responsibilities

There are your own personal rhythms:

And then there’s just the plain fact that the 8-hour workday does not have to be your default.

THE REALITY OF THE 9-5 WORKDAY

People who work 9-5 don’t actually work 9-5.

They work between 9 am and 5 pm. But they also take lunch breaks, check Facebook, look at their email, talk to co-workers, attend meetings, and leave for doctor’s appointments. The average 9-5 worker only spends 60% of their workday actually working, and sometimes less. That’s only about 4.8 of those 8 hours of office time.

When you work for yourself, you will probably not have a regular, 8-hour workday, and that is okay.

Some days, you will have three incredibly productive hours, and you will spend the rest of the time taking care of things like errands, chores, and working out. (Or, my favorite occasional perk of self-employment, napping.)

Other days, you will work five hours, meet a friend for lunch, attend an event at your child’s school, and squeeze in a few more hours in front of the computer before bed.

And then, yes, some days, you will work 12 hours with barely any breaks because the holidays are coming and you really need to get those orders shipped before the 19th.

The schedule that comes with running your own business is, more often than not, an inherently fluid thing.

In some ways that’s awesome. How better to “have it all” (I know, it’s awful phrase, and I’m sorry) than to have the freedom of being your own boss? But in other ways that fluidity is terrible.

How can you ensure that you actually get things done while still taking advantage of the freedom that prompted your move to self-employment in the first place?

Use these 4 factors to create your most productive and flexible self-employment schedule.

WE ALL HAVE TIMES WHEN WE ARE MOST PRODUCTIVE.

Experiment to figure out when those times are for you. Do you do your best work in the morning? Are you sluggish in the afternoon? Do you have a burst of productivity right after the sun sets?

Try out a few different schedules and find the one that gives you your best results.

WE ALL HAVE THINGS THAT DESTROY OUR MOMENTUM.

If I check my email first thing in my workday, it’s all downhill from there.

Suddenly, it’s mid-morning, I’m browsing recipes on my favorite blogs and checking out product reviews on Amazon, and not a single thing from my to-do list has even been attempted.

But if I start my day with writing a blog post for myself or outlining an assignment for a client, it puts me on track for a day of productivity. My workbrain is turned on from the very beginning, and the sense of accomplishment gives me the boost I need to use my time well.

Pay attention to what boosts your work momentum, then start your workday with that.

You’ll find yourself accomplishing a whole lot more with the same amount of time.

WE ALL HAVE OUTSIDE DEMANDS ON OUR TIME.

Those demands are both personal and professional. The combination of them is going to be unique to you, and that means the solution should be unique as well.

Do you have clients in another timezone that you need to be available for? After-school pickup every afternoon? A babysitter who can only stay until 3:00?

Do you really want to take a kickboxing class every other morning? Do you have store hours you need to work or employees that expect you to be available during their day?

Identify the unique demands on your time and schedule them.

Write them into your calendar, then organize your week. You’ll discover pretty quickly when you need to work, when you absolutely cannot work, and when you most want to work.

Don’t fight that. Embrace it, and your workweek will fall into place much more easily.

WE ALL HAVE UNIQUE PERSONALITIES AND WORK HABITS.

My husband (who is a student) is incapable of being productive at home… unless it’s 11:00 at night and he has a paper due at 9:00 the next morning. He needs the structure of a schedule and a work place that doesn’t overlap with his personal space.

I am perfectly happy and productive switching between the desktop in our living room and any number of coffee shops and libraries, toting my “office” with me and keeping myself accountable with a daily to-do list.

Working for yourself means figuring out how, where, and when you work best.

For some people, that may be wherever and whenever. For others, that may be structured time and a dedicated workspace.

Be honest about which you need, and you’ll use your workday much more productively.

Flexibility is one of my favorite things about self-employment. But it can also be one of the most challenging when trying to balance your work and your life. Being honest about your personal and professional needs will help you be more productive and create a better work-life balance.

Flexibility is one of my favorite things about self-employment.

But it can also be one of the most challenging when trying to balance your work and your life.

Being honest about your personal and professional needs will help you be more productive and create a better work-life balance.

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