Over the last couple of years, I’ve really been leaning into anti-hustle culture. In fact, I’d argue that I started talking about building a business the supports your LIFE and not building a business that takes over your life eons ago. For so long, it was “cool” to work yourself around the clock and never take breaks, and somehow our culture ran with that notion and busy-ness became a source of pride and a badge of honor for so many people. We as a society began to believe that rest was equivalent to being lazy and a calendar that wasn’t jam packed was a waste of time.
I hope that now, after so many people have experienced burnout in some way, shape or form, we realize the immense value of rest, margin and using our time wisely so that we can have more of it to just BE. And when I say “using your time” wisely, I don’t mean meticulously planning and filling every minute of your day with productivity from the time you wake up to the time your head hits the pillow.
Instead I mean prioritizing what is most important to spend your precious time on, whether that’s work, play, family, rest or recreation —because ALL of these things are important and valid and worthy of your time and if time is life and we want full lives, then we need to be the keepers of our time and how we’re spending it.
So we’re going to talk about 14 ways to maximize your time, specifically when you ARE working, so that you’re able to fully unplug, relax and spend QT with yourself or your loved ones whenever you’re not on the clock.
There’s a Season for Everything
When it comes to hustling, I think there are seasons where it’s appropriate and even necessary to push the gas pedal down and get running, but I also want to preach that working that way only works in short bursts. It’s not sustainable, it’s usually not life giving, and you have to proceed with caution to avoid burnout. These are all things I learned the hard way in my decade of entrepreneurship.
I’m literally walking through this this year with launching my book: it’s going to be busier than I’ve been in the last four years, things might get a little crazy, BUT I am doing everything in my power to anticipate what needs to happen, prepare what I can in advance, and stick to my values when things try to pull me out of my life.
When I became a mom, I went from working full time to working really part-time and instead of working around the clock I found myself basically working during her naps or after she went to bed those first several months. I mean, that was a BIG transition for me! And I know I’m not alone. There are so many naptime work warriors or side hustlers listening who want to be able to get a lot done without a clear chunk of time or cutting work time in half without impacting results dramatically!
Maybe you’re in the season where you’re working full-time and building a side hustle whenever time allows… or maybe you’re in the season of parenthood and working whenever your cute little sidekick lets you log in for a little while… or maybe you’re in an entirely different phase of business and life where your time is just more strapped for any other reason and you need some relief, like, yesterday.
First start with working smarter with the time you do have. That means building out a few things first that will take time on the front-end but then save you massive amounts of time later on! Trust me when I say, time passes anyway, so this upfront work is worth it.
1. Create email templates for anything that you find yourself writing more than once.
It can be new client inquiry responses, frequently asked questions in your inbox, a follow up email, or anything else that you type out from scratch all the time. Bonus thought is that you likely have an email in your outbox that you can just tweak and save in a google doc as your future template! Templates are life, imagine the feeling of creating a thoughtful or intentional email once and using it over and over and over again without the thought or time needed.
2. Create an autoresponder that sets clear expectations.
Autoresponders can change the game! Let recipients know in the message when they can expect to hear back from you, whether it’s within 3 business days or 10, remember to under promise, over deliver here! On top of that, you can share links to things they might need in the meantime, like resources, an application to work with you, your products, or anything else someone might be looking for.
And, if your email is constantly getting flooded with messages you just can’t prioritize responding to right now, it’s totally okay to share that! Say something like “while we appreciate and love getting notes from the community, at this point in time we’re working on some big projects for you and unfortunately can’t respond to every email that comes in. If your note is urgent, we will get back to you within X business days. Otherwise, keep up with us on social media for announcements on what’s to come!” Set both expectations and boundaries using an autoresponder that will do the serving for you!
3. Create a pricing guide.
Create a guide that walks someone through the features of your offer and explains what your offer is and how much it costs so you don’t have to book tons of consults with people who might not be the right fit. A well thought out pricing guide can help someone qualify themselves as a potential client and can keep the award money discussions at a minimum because you’re up front and sharing what they can expect.
I know many photographers and designers have pricing guides, but honestly I believe any service provider can and should have a PDF they can easily send to prospects that explains the package and value of what someone will get by booking with you. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, so being transparent with pricing can save you time and build trust!
4. Begin to create regular content that serves, explains and teaches…
And build up a library of resources you can direct people to about your offer. My blog? This podcast? Massive resource libraries that we point people to daily. While you don’t need thousands of posts or hundreds of episodes, creating a few key content pieces that can serve as resources can massively help you!
It can literally be ONE blog post a month that leads someone to more info or even an Instagram caption that teaches something that you can then send to people asking about certain topics. A quick way to get started with this is to look back on old content you’ve created and see ways to expand and repurpose it in a fresh way, or to take questions your audience commonly asks and build content around that.
5. Build a website that does a lot of the question-answering and pitching for you.
You want to have some sort of homebase on the web. Not only does it build credibility, but it provides searchability, and it allows for people to qualify themselves as a potential fit for your offer. Obviously this is a larger undertaking too, but if you sign up for things like Flodesk for email marketing or Kajabi to create courses, platforms like those provide the ability to build out websites or landing pages within their platform so that you can get your info live quickly.
To check out my favorites, head to jkfaves.com, that’s jkfaves.com and I list out my favorite places and resources to help you get started here.
6. Have a hub for your transactions!
Having a system or a CRM or some sort of a simple way to send contracts, collect invoices easily and coordinate sales and client interactions online so it can all be stored and tracked in one place is life-changing. This will keep all of your important payment information and correspondences in one place which makes it easier and faster to interact, and you don’t have to deal with snail mail or a bunch of separate platforms for managing various backend tasks. A lot of times these systems can save you time on things like taxes and they can also do automatic follow up for things like payments that can save you time and streamline your workflow.
I used to do everything with filing cabinets and snail mail and then I joined Honeybook and it was a game-changer for things like contracts, invoices, and workflows. Head to jennakutcher.com/honeybook to check out how it works and how I use it in my business and you can save 50% your annual subscription.
7. Incorporate a “big three”
Establishing your big 3 tasks, or even your big 1 based on how much time you have. This is defining the action steps or tasks that need to be completed that will make the most significant difference or make the biggest impact.
When you have limited time, it’s easy to feel like you didn’t get anything done or the work you did, didn’t actually make a difference, but if you get good at looking at your list and starting with the one thing that can actually be tied to a result vs. things like social media or getting stuck in the inbox, you can finish your day feeling accomplished, even if it’s just one thing that’s a needle mover.
8. Using a project management system.
This is something that became a necessity for me after having Coco. I found myself logging in and not even knowing what I needed to get done so having a project management system not just for myself but for my entire team changed the game.
We use monday.com for project management and it allows us to look at big picture projects and break it into more digestible pieces. I can not only look at my own to-do list but follow projects my team is working on and it keeps everything in one place. Not only does it give you the satisfaction of checking off things as done it allows you to mentally release tasks that are taking up brain space since you know you have everything in one spot. Taking the time to break down a big project into micro-tasks helps you keep moving forward and doesn’t leave you feeling like you have unfinished business. If you want to check out Monday, go to jennalovesmonday.com!
9. Focus on the “need to haves”…
In terms of things like content or frequency of posting, sharing or outreach. Start super simple and then expand your efforts once you get the flow or hang of it. There’s no point in shooting too big and then feeling guilty and shame when you can’t follow through.
Maybe it’s most realistic for your time and needs to start small like one email to your list a month, and then work your way up to more later on. Look at how you can really make sure you’re doing the things that make you an actual business and not just things that help you look like a business. Focus there FIRST, with real needle movers, and be brutal in cutting anything out that really isn’t tied to a result.
10. Getting help.
Whether it’s a contractor like a VA or hiring someone short-term for a one-off project on Fiverr. I used to absolutely suck at asking for help but over the years I’ve realized that in order to do the things I do and also be the kind of mom I want to be, help is required. Hiring my integrator Marisa three years ago actually came out of my frustration of trying to navigate naptime warrior life after Coco was born and not having the bandwidth to even know what needed to get done or where to start.
When I realized that I am the visionary and not the integrator and when I hired someone to BE the integrator, everything changed. I I knew if someone else could manage the prioritization, I could stay in my lane of getting things done that were needed from me and check them off so much faster.
11. Getting crystal clear on the things that only you can do.
This one is tricky because a lot off us start as solopreneurs so we learn how to do all of the things. Yes, I can edit a podcast episode and create graphics and design webpages, but just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. There are actually very few things that only I can do and I hinted at this in the last one, but you are likely the visionary of your business, the voice and probably the face of your brand, too, and so in order to to be able to stay in that high-level position as much as possible, you have to be able to pass off some of the nitty-gritty things that you can potentially outsource either now or in the future. Start with the things only you can do FIRST because that is usually the most important work as the business owner.
12. Tying every effort you’re doing to real results.
Chances are, a lot of the work you’re doing isn’t actually moving the needle in a measurable way. We have to look at ROI, return on investment with our investment being our time, money, and energy. Anytime you’re spending one of these, you have to tie it to something tangible. How do we do this? This will require a more birds-eye look at the business and honestly, it’s so important to do a little inventory or time audit once or twice a year to make sure you’re not just on autopilot anywhere. You want to be able to ensure that every effort you’re putting into your business is actually reaping some kind of reward.
Sit down and write down your tasks, projects, launches and action items and then next to each one, write down the benefit or the direct results it brings to the business. So for example, one of our ongoing tasks is putting out podcast episodes, which is obviously a free service and resource we offer up to anyone, but we often are able to promote launches or affiliates through certain episodes. If you realize someone you’re spending time on isn’t moving the needle anywhere, it’s time to pivot, strategize, or maybe take that off your list for a little while.
13. Getting in solid focused work.
Setting a timer for 20 minutes or using an hourglass timer to tackle something you’ve been putting off OR to help you focus. Truth corner: I need this a lot to be able to quiet my mind or outside distractions and just crank out some work, and there’s nothing like a timer to motivate you.
As someone who is fairly certain a person who has ADHD, I struggle with actually focusing on my work which is tricky when you only have a small amount of time to actually do the work. So trying to get distraction free work done is so important for me. I usually do shorter increments like 20 minutes and then when the timer is done, I’ll walk around or get outside for 5 minutes before restarting it and jumping back in. Try it and repeat these short work spurts for as long as you are given to work, and you might be amazed by how much you get done!
14. Changing the way you create!
Whether you have an hour or three hours, try to work on ONE task and get as far as you can whether it’s writing a batch of emails for your list or making a batch of social posts or recording a batch of podcasts. This type of work allows you to focus in but it also helps you to see the strategy because you’re not just creating one-off content, but being able to look at things like the flow, the sequence, and the strategy. As a bonus? The more you can schedule ahead, the less urgent you feel about things, giving you more peace and flexibility with the time you do have.
The Big Picture
Wheew, that was a lot but these are all micro and macro changes we’ve implemented into my business and into our systems over the past three years. As I navigate this season as a mom of two, my goal truly is to work part-time so I can spend time with my family and the best way I can do that is through working smarter to save time that can be spent with the ones I love!
Like most things that are rewarding in the long run, there’s no magic switch that will let you get a bunch of your time back. Instead, it’s small, consistent actions and a touch of planning ahead in order to set up systems that work WITH you instead of against you. By incorporating some or all of these actions into your daily routine, you’ll get hours of time back that allow you to work on the important work matters or spend time doing other non-work things that you love, which to me, is a sign of a beautiful and fulfilling life. Here’s to managing our time well and preserving our peace of mind as we go, you got this!