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There are a lot of ideas circulated around time in the business world. People offer “hacks” for productivity while also preaching that we should naturally be able to focus on something if we care about it enough.

“If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way — not an excuse.”

To a degree, this is true. And maybe it was more true prior to the life-changing challenges of a worldwide pandemic.

The truth is, as a business owner, you’re still restricted by the confines of a 24-hour day. You still have personal priorities and needs to attend to. You still operate with a human brain that’s uncertainty-averse.

No matter how important something may be to you or your business, it’ll take effort (and habit-building) to create time for it. Here’s what that effort might look like.

Make a Habit Out of Routine

For starters, let’s unpack your aforementioned uncertainty-averse brain. The Harvard Business Review offers some great insight into what this means.

When things become less predictable — and therefore less controllable — we experience a strong state of threat… [threat] leads to decreases in motivation, focus, agility, cooperative behavior, self-control, sense of purpose and meaning, and overall well-being… Threats of uncertainty literally make us less capable, because dealing with them is just not something our brains evolved to do.”

Predictability is probably the opposite of what most business owners experience, especially in the early years of growth. But isn’t that also what drives entrepreneurs to do what they do in the first place? Taking the leap knowing that the possible reward is worth the risk?

To manage inevitable uncertainty and stay the course in growing your business, habits and routine come in handy. Schedule both personal and professional tasks into your days. Be consistent with your wake up and bedtimes. Work to make your activities instinctual so you’re stressing less about the actual doing.

Outsource the Time Sucks

Of course, you’re going to reach moments when no level of habit-building or time-blocking can add more hours to your day. As one person, you can only tackle so much and still be able to recharge with a good night’s rest.

When internal doubts start to get the better of you, take a step back and ask yourself if it’s time to let go. In other words, is it time to delegate the tasks you’ve outgrown as a business owner and restructure your time?

Start by making a list of the activities you don’t enjoy doing (e.g., finance, marketing). Then make a list of the activities you should be doing more of. If there’s an overlap between the two, that might be a good area to start with for bringing in outside help.

Keep Perspective

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell emphasizes the importance of small moments, actions, and ideas that can lead to long-lasting change. Sometimes it’s not about the big and flashy — it’s about what sticks.

“We have, in short, somehow become convinced that we need to tackle the whole problem, all at once. But the truth is that we don’t. We only need to find the sticky Tipping Points.”

If you’re constantly worrying about what you’re not doing, explore some ways to do more, of course. But also, maybe you should take a few deep breaths and view your actions relative to the bigger picture. 

You don’t need to become a productivity pro or hack your time management skills overnight. Make small changes, fail, learn, iterate, and succeed. There’s power in progress, no matter how small.