I used to feel that there were never enough hours in the day, until I started looking at the actual capacity of my business. This is not as easy as people think. When you are a small business owner, you are wearing multiple hats at one time. You are your business's marketing, accounting, human resources, customer service, CEO, etc. in addition to being a bookkeeper or accountant! You are so many of your business’s employees it is difficult to accomplish anything. You are constantly changing hats!
Have you ever reached the end of your day and thought, “What did I do all day long?” You're exhausted and know you were busy all day, but you really did not get anything accomplished. You instantly thought, I will get more accomplished tomorrow but tomorrow never comes.
This is the way I used to feel before I started looking at my capacity and time differently. There are only so many hours in a day and I would always, unintentionally, plan way more than I could ever possibly accomplish. With constant interruptions from my bookkeeping clients and my team, at the end of the day I would just feel defeated. I was so drained by the time I got home, and I did not want to deal with my family. I just wanted everyone to leave me alone so I could have some quiet time.
My most productive time was early in the morning, late at night and on the weekends. You know why? No one was demanding my time during those times. No one was asking me questions or interrupting me for this or that. The issue with this is that it is not sustainable forever. I realized I was just an employee of my business, not the owner, and I was trapped by it.
I figured out that the problem was me! I was over planning my capacity and time. I packed too much on myself because if I did not try and do it all then I would be letting everyone down. I have since learned that there is a better way to do things.
I now use a prioritization list to keep me focused on what I need to focus on. Our brains can only focus on so much at one time. If you are focused on being creative, then you need to stay in that mindset until you are ready to shift. If you are working on customer service, then work on things in that mindset. When you jump back and forth between being creative and task oriented, you will pay a toll for it.
I also found that putting everything that I need to do in a system is GOLD! That helped me with capacity planning for my business and not only for me but also for my team. My team was doing the same thing I was. They were planning on doing way more than they could actually do. They did not want to disappoint me and say they could not get a task completed as quickly as they “thought” it should be.
Once I adopted the system to brain dump all my tasks, it made planning much easier. I had my team do the same thing and they realized that we were planning on more work than we could possibly do. All the one-off bookkeeping and accounting tasks that clients request was killing our capacity and having a system shined a light on that. We also found this was how scope creep happened. If it is not in the system, then it should be questioned if it is in scope of the engagement. This has been huge for us catching scope creep.
We found when analyzing capacity in the firm that we needed to restructure what our days look like. When looking at how long things really take and counting interruptions, you can plan for what you can actually do. Also, putting in guardrails on your time has also helped us control our capacity. For example, I return phone calls at certain times of the day. I check my email twice a day, once before lunch and once before I leave. Both of these simple steps have dramatically reduced how often I am interrupted.
I also started looking at what I was spending my time on, and I asked myself, "Am I doing what I need to be doing to bring value to the business?” When I started asking myself this, I found I was working on the wrong things. When I looked at why I was working on the wrong things, it was because it was easier for me to just do it than putting it in a documented (written or recorded) process for my team to do it. I was never going to get out of that if I did not start putting time into my day to document processes. I had to get control of my time back if I wanted to transition from employee of my business to entrepreneur.
Even though making changes in my behavior was difficult, it was well worth it. I used to think I had to respond quickly to my clients and as long as I answered their questions or concerns then they were satisfied. What I discovered though, was when I gave myself time to think about their request instead of a quick response, it provided more value to them. I was part of their solution and they value the advice we give.
Having my time back has given me more time to focus on myself and my business. I have started scheduling time to go to the gym in the middle of the day during the week. I get off work at a reasonable time and I do not work on the weekends. I am able to look forward to going home and spending time with my family. I actually get more work done now than when I tried to do it all! I was my worst enemy! It is hard to break the habit of “I have to do it in order to make sure it is done right," but I am proof it can be done. Not only does it free you, but it actually frees up your entire team.