The day you decided to stop working for anyone but yourself was probably glorious. No one to tell you what to do and how to do it. Life suddenly had promise, imagining yourself spending every day doing the work you’re passionate about. Until… until the day you realized that instead of your boss dictating how you did one thing, now you had a dozen things coming at you that you weren’t counting on and, frankly, didn’t know how to do: sales things, customer things, employee things, money things, production and delivery things. And, the saddest thing is that you found yourself with as little control over your time as you had before you went into business for yourself.
Despite your best efforts, your typical day probably hasn’t changed much since then. Not essentially anyway.
Perhaps it looks something like this...
|6:00-6:30 a.m.||Shower, make coffee, get dressed.|
|6:30-6:50 a.m.||Make lunches for kids while reading emails on the phone, answering the two easiest ones while ignoring the big one because it’s too long to type with your thumbs.|
|6:50-7:15 a.m.||Catch up on morning news while getting a quick bite to eat.|
|7:15-7:30 a.m.||Answer comments on your blog, most of which are people trying to promote their own service not yours.|
|7:30-8:00 a.m.||Morning commute: try to listen to an inspirational TED talk so nobody at the office realizes how exhausted you are.|
|8:00-8:45 a.m.||Clear out about 40 email messages that are garbage, answer the most important one, answer the six that you can answer without having to think.|
|8:45-9:30 a.m.||Call with one of your biggest clients who wants to understand why his email from last week wasn’t answered.|
|9:30-10:00 a.m.||Read an email from a client who loved how your team solved her problem. You’ve made her day. And now she’s made yours.|
|10:00-10:15 a.m.||Morning check-in with your staff. Everybody has 10 hours of work to get done in 8.|
|10:15-Noon||Check in with your Sales Director about some people on the sales team who are really struggling. You suggest some ways she could manage these people better, but as the words come out of your mouth, you’re really wondering if it’s you who’s dropped the ball in inspiring the team.|
|Noon-1:00 p.m.||Eat some lunch. Meet with your staff about a new marketing campaign for your core service and realize that they don’t really know what you do. Explain to them how your service is different from any other out there and wonder how it’s possible they didn’t know this already.|
|1:00-2:30 p.m.||Eat some lunch. Meet with an employee who’s got an amazing new concept for an internal system that would automate dozens of manual processes. Thank him for his initiative and creativity and help him craft a plan to implement his idea.|
|2:30-4:00 p.m.||Review reports from your team about financial performance and key metrics. The numbers all look good, but you know that business is shrinking. How is this possible?|
|4:00-4:30 p.m.||Talk to an employee whose manager delivered some feedback in a way too critical way. Help the employee understand the intent of the message and apologize for the manager’s delivery. Make a note to discuss this with the manager and promptly lose it among the piles on your disorganized desk.|
|4:30-5:00 p.m.||Eat lunch(?) Realize that you’ve done two of the fourteen things on your to-do list today, while adding eight more.|
|5:00-6:00 p.m.||Work on a critical document to express the new strategy you’d like to set for the quarter—with less focus than it requires.|
|6:00-6:30 p.m.||Get out the door. Get stopped by an employee who’s not sure where the company is going anymore. Can you just explain that?|
|6:30-7:00 p.m.||Get out the door. Decide that if you don’t answer the most important email from the morning, it will probably never get done. Push yourself to do it.|
|7:00-7:30 p.m.||Evening commute: Try to listen to some music to drown out the 20 things you should be doing at work as well as the things that are waiting for you as soon as you get home.|
If this kind of day is all too familiar--and unsatisfying--consider that it doesn’t have to be this way. Really, it doesn’t. Hard work is one thing, but not this. It definitely wasn’t what you signed up for when you decided to go into business for yourself.
If you’d like to to share with me what your typical day looks like, I’d love to hear from you. You can comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re interested, we’d be glad to share with you what we’ve learned over three decades about what your typical day would look like if you were leading your business rather than it leading you.