Time Poor: The Day to Day Running of a New Business

You were probably working for someone else when inspiration struck. “I can do this myself and make more money! I’ll have more free time and no boss.” A year later you don’t sleep, worry about paying the bills, and haven’t been outside in over a week.

Where did it all go wrong? Was there a day when it all fell apart?

It didn’t fall apart at once. Business owners fall behind one day at a time, become overwhelmed and often give up their dreams.  But that doesn't have to be you. The irony of reading a long article to save time is not lost on me but hopefully you find this worth it.

First, let’s jump into about the problems you are facing.

Problem 1: You’re responsible for everything

running every departments

This is every solopreneur’s nightmare organizational chart and how it recently looked inside my SEO agency. You know what needs to be done but you are stuck doing it all. I became a photographer years ago because I loved taking photos but the actual taking of pictures was less than 5% of running a photo studio. Have you felt the same? You love cooking so you opened a restaurant or you loved gardening so you became a landscaper? Our passions are why we start the business.

Now, you’re also the sales representative and the receptionist. You are the office manager and the custodial services. Need something from the office supply store or the post office? Get in the car because you’re driving.

Problem 2: Endless tasks pull your attention and time

too many things to do

With so many things to do, what should you do next? Regardless of whether you use Trello for time management, Asana or a pen and paper you will need to prioritize your tasks each day.

But there are so many tasks that need to be done, especially when you first start. Do you work on your website design or call back a potential lead? Should you write a guest blog post or setup your Mailchimp automation?

You may even create a list the night before and think you’re getting a jump on the next day. Then the phone rings at 8:45 am and all your plans for the day go away in one extended phone conversation with a client.

Problem 3: Multitasking slows you down

Multitasking does not work.

You know this yet you can’t stop, right? It’s been proven over & over that multitasking during important or difficult work slows you down, makes you less productive and you produce inferior work. Yet you can’t stop.

It’s the endless tasks and the responsibility for everything, right? All of these problems tie into each other.

Problem 4: You set unrealistic expectations for your day

It’s a random Tuesday so today you plan to launch your website, write 3 blog articles, call back two leads, follow up on a meeting you had last week, do a bit of clerical work, buy new ink from the store and come back to print off your completed tax forms.

No, you’re not. Sure, your to do list looks like 300 hours of work and it all needs to be done by Friday. This is a crushing list of problems. Let’s get to work on solving them so you can get back to work.

Solution to Problem 1: Outsource what you dislike doing

Growing your business means you will eventually hire others to help you do some pieces of the business. Many of us envision this as “making enough to hire someone” but that’s rarely the first step. I suggest three steps: freelancers, contractors, full timers.

Freelancers: find freelancers who want infrequent and occasional work. Plenty of people want to fill in their spare time now and then by helping your business. You may not need a full time writer but having a professional edit your sales copy will make you much more money.

Contractors: people who want a significant amount more money but not the commitment of a full-time job will be open to contracting. Set a limited number of hours or tasks and you won’t feel limited by the jobs you dislike. You can take on more work and gain valuable clients and experience by having a part-time member of your team do big chunks of work.

Full time: when you can afford it and the work requires it, you will bring on a full time employee. This saves you a huge amount of time as it means someone you can give top-tier training, understand your whole business and grow with you. You start to create a culture and understand who you are as a business.

Solution to Problem 2: Set boundaries and break big tasks down

When sports teams get badly beaten early in a game they tend to try and come back by overplaying. They “try too hard” and make the situation worse. We see our colossal task list and do the same. You want everything done at once so you’ve make it worse.

First, set clear boundaries. Don’t check email every 5 minutes. Don’t answer the phone every single time it rings. If you work from home and can set aside a space, time and no interruptions you will get more done and get back to your family that much faster.

 

Break your projects down into manageable tasks. “Design, build and launch website” requires a mammoth effort and days of time. “Sketch out website layout” doesn't take as long and you’ll feel better for getting things done.

Solution to Problem 3: Automate what you often repeat

Small business owners have a tendency to treat automation in one of two ways: never automate anything because you don’t understand it or automate everything because you understand the power of it.

Neither of these approaches addresses the strategic question: why should you automate?

Automate those tasks that you repeat over and over not “once in a while” tasks simply because you can. Some things should not be automated like social media replies and interaction. Don’t auto-spam your new followers. Tools like Zapier & IFTTT will guide you into your first few automations.

If some tasks require human intervention you can still semi-automate those tasks. Canned responses in Gmail let you save a chunk of text to quickly copy into new emails. If you get a lot of pricing requests you can type the response once and add it to emails within a second, saving plenty of time and creating a professional template that requires little to no input.

Solution to Problem 4: Prioritize Your Time via Urgent/Important Quadrants

Study this chart:

time management for business owners

Understanding whether tasks are high or low priority and urgent or non-urgent will save you a lot of headache and time. Urgent tasks that are not important don’t necessarily need to be done immediately even though they’re urgent. Maybe they don’t matter, like buying tickets to a webinar you are considering. It’s time sensitive but if you decide not to attend it was never that important.

Important tasks may be due immediately (taxes) or may be important but due later (signing off on your new office lease.)

Understand that urgent & important tasks are your most valuable and should be done first. These are crises and should be treated as such. You can’t live your entire business life in this quadrant for long but when required you should stay in this segment as long as possible.

Not important and non-urgent tasks are the time-wasters that we spend unnecessary effort on. You don’t need to check Facebook Insights for the 8th time today. It is neither urgent nor important to return a call to the lead you have no possibility to book. And no, you don’t need to check Twitter mentions before lunch.

Conclusion

Most entrepreneurs will become overwhelmed and feel helpless at some point. These problems can send you out of business but overcoming them puts you at a clear advantage to everyone else. While others are struggling with their day-to-day, you can push through and get more done than ever.

Have you experienced entrepreneurial overwhelm? How did you get past the hardest stages?

Matt Antonino

Matt Antonio is a full stack digital marketer and entrepreneur and founder of Stack Digital. He is passionate about building businesses through exceptional marketing.

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30 thoughts on “Time Poor: The Day to Day Running of a New Business

    • Thanks for the comment Sharon! I really think people have good intentions and even a really strong work ethic. But having done the “new entrepreneur” thing more than once, I know it’s hard no matter what your level of experience. Getting systems down, work in order, new hires … it’s a chore.

      Thanks for reading!

  1. Starting out online in business can be confusing and overwhelming at times. Knowing your priorities is a complete MUST. Very well written post! Our technical age contains so much distractions, it makes it hard to stay on task and focus at times. I have learned to just keep then end goal in mind as to WHY I started working from home in the first place and never give up on my dreams!

  2. This article is very helpful to newbies like myself. Distractions are my number one enemy. I’ve learned that the little word NO is a big word when stopping the distractions. Thanks for the advice on outsourcing. The article makes you realize how precious time is. After all time is money.

    • Thanks Deanna! I would go so far as to say time is way more valuable than money. If you think about it, you can earn more money if you don’t have enough. It’s very hard to get more time – you can buy it (outsource) but you can’t use it for yourself if you haven’t created a system that your employees and others can follow. Building out a system others can follow is key to buying more time. So in the beginning of a business, time is way more valuable. I’m glad the article was useful and wish you well on your path to success with your new business.

  3. Drowning in the sea of information is no good. we got to learn do and teach simultaneously..one thing that helps me is to focus on one tast at the time and do what matters in my business..

    • Thanks for the comment Evi and you’re exactly right! Single-tasking helps us but we often think multi-tasking is “faster.” It’s not – it’s not faster, it’s not more productive. We have to let go of the idea that doing two things at once helps. Whenever I find myself trying to explain this to others I say “Usain Bolt is perfectly capable of sending a two sentence text message but if he had to do it while running a 100m race at the Olympics he would fail badly at one of the two.”

  4. Wow! This was an incredibly helpful article. I appreciate how you outlined each problem, and matched the solution. This will help anyone who is trying to start their business to organize their time and prioritize tasks. Well done!

    • Thanks for the compliments Tamara! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I find a lot of articles present problems or show you a way to do things but don’t ever connect the two. I wanted everyone to know they aren’t alone AND how to solve it. I’m glad you enjoyed the dual approach to the topic. 🙂

  5. I know the feeling of being overwhelm a a entrepreneur. I get that way from time to time, its nice to know that I am not alone in this predicament and also that there are solutions to this problem. Thanks Matt, these are very practical tips that you offered.

    • You are definitely not alone Arron! I’ve had several of my own businesses and no matter how much I learn, the most important thing I have to keep in mind is that I’m *always* swamped. No matter what I’m doing, I find ways to completely fill all the time with more & more to do. Hope the tips help!

    • Very true, Donna! As I mentioned in another comment above, I’ve had my own businesses for years but I still feel all of these at some point. When I recently started my own marketing agency it was “square 1” as far as the overwhelm. Thankfully I have these techniques to start to overcome it. The more we know how to overcome these problems, the faster we can get into the stuff we love doing.

  6. I am learning to prioritize and to stay focused myself here in my own entrepreneurship. I find the information in your blog post will help me to overcome a few of my struggles. Outsourcing is a great way to free up my time and I believe that there are several points of my business I am going to be able to do that with. Automating posts is another issue I feel will help in “Chunking” down my activities during the day. I will be back to reread this I am sure. Thank you for your thoughtful assistance.

    • Thanks for the reply, Karen. I think outsourcing (or in-sourcing by hiring) are great ways to get the passion back as well. I hate doing financial related things so when I hire someone for those tasks, I feel happier in general – which is ALSO good for your business overall.

  7. Man. Thanks so much for writing this. I connected with it alot. Automateing the task that should be automated just makes sense. Its amazing how we can stop and check other things like Facebook and twitter, but man i cant make that video.. Thanks for the tips and resources. Looking forward to seeing more post from you 🙂

    • Thanks Johnny – I’ll definitely do my best to post again soon.

      One thing my mentor says is “What do you want to be known for? What do you want to throw your passion at? Do I want to be passionate about Facebook? Do I want to be passionate about gossip?”

      Whenever I find myself on Twitter but not completing work, I think about that. I’m going to be well-known for my ability to play video games or I’m going to be well-known for my business and my writing. At the end of the day, it’s just a choice, right? 🙂

  8. This article definitely NAILS the essence of every solopreneurs life, where daily distractions make it hard to stay on task and not want to resort to ‘mulit-tasking’ which never works…! It’s tough to focus all day everyday so it’s important to have schedulers and automation for what you can without losing your voice in there…I just say every day “never give up, there’s too many people who want and NEED what you have to offer! Thank you for the great info, appreciate you! ~ Zen

    • Zen, thanks for your beautiful comment and the link back to the article from your site. “Too many people who want and NEED what you have to offer” is completely right. The mentor I mentioned to Johnny above says “You know when you’re doing the right thing if you don’t go do the things you’re gonna do and people’s lives will suffer.”

      On the flip of that, if you DO go do what you do best, people’s lives are improved. Once we get the time we need back, we get organised – well then it’s easier to do the “right” things.

  9. All these things I have known and NOT implemented but I have done all the things you say we do wrong lol Leanring now to prioritise in a more efficient and timesaving way – thanks for an awesome read!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Cheree! I think all of us can be guilty of “knowing what we need to do but not doing it.” Hopefully this acts as a bit of a boost for everyone to go forward just a little bit more. 🙂

  10. Yep. This hits the nail on the head.

    As a solopreneur, I know exactly how daunting the process of starting a new business can be. We’ve got to create products, meet with clients, create content, craft marketing, and deliver considerable value. Not to mention we have to keep our own books and attempt to keep our new venture’s actions within the law.

    What’s the best way to deal with all of these things without losing your sanity? Matt said it best, “Outsource, break down, automate, and prioritize.”

    I enjoyed reading! Thanks for putting this together.

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