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FINDING A WORK/LIFE BALANCE

When mining the Internet, it appears the greatest problem facing retailers today is the lack of time. Twenty four hours simply do not allow enough time to do all that needs to be done, let alone those things that want to be done—like sleep. But there is hope for some.  Without exception, every expert said anyone can be successful and accomplish their goals, but they must learn to plan and to commit to flexibly in following their plan. I am not an expert on this topic and I, too, frequently need more hours in my day. The following article is comprised of items found when searching the Internet for ideas to solve the dilemma the lack of enough time creates.

Without a plan goals are quickly buried in the muck and mire of life. Without a plan each person becomes a firefighter and will not accomplish their goals in their personal or professional life. Plus, constant firefighting adds stress to any life. Following are suggestions from Web MD, Manta and several other “experts” to help small business owners get a handle on the best use of their time and getting done what needs to be done. In other words, tips for focusing on the important instead of the urgent.

No one can do it all and no one can have it all, but you can have a balance between work and life. According to Kitty McConnell, Manta Content Editor, work/life balance is the quality time you spend running your business in equilibrium with the quality time you spend with family and friends, or on personal enrichment or leisure activities. It means you make the most productive use of your time to achieve your goals. It does not mean that you spend equal time in the personal and professional lives. Rather, it means you maintain a general equilibrium, with time for the store, family, sleep, and recreation.

Maintaining equilibrium requires completion of a four-part plan. The parts are: defining goals, eliminating non-essential jobs (i.e. those tasks not related to accomplishing a goal), automating anything done repeatedly that requires little thought and delegating what you can.

Defining Goals:
Write down your goals both personal and professional. Don’t separate the goals into personal and professional goals. Make one list of all your goals.

Much time could be devoted to a goal list; however, the object of this article is life balance. Let me say that a goal list needs to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based. (https://www.mindtools.com/page6.html).

It is necessary to write or print out the goals and place those goals in a prominent place that allows you to review your goals frequently. Goals are easily lost as you shuffle through computer tabs so print it out and tape it up. The mind is a goal oriented machine and it will work to achieve your goals once they are defined.

Now, look at your goals. Do you have a plan or a series of steps for achieving each one? If you plan to exercise each morning, but can barely pull yourself out of bed in time to open the store by 10:00 a.m., you will have to make some personal changes to achieve that goal. What are those changes and are they reasonable for you?

Eliminating:
In order for you to achieve your goals, you must eliminate items that do not serve any purpose of helping you to achieve those goals. For a couple of weeks write down each thing you do and the number of minutes (or hours) spent on each item. What items can you eliminate? Does a particular acquaintance use you as their personal life’s dumping ground? Maybe it’s time to put a time limit on that person. You can’t fix the acquaintance; you cannot change them nor should you try to, but you can change the way you react to their patterns. Set a time limit and stick to it. Additionally some jobs are done because “we’ve always done it that way!” Look at each thing you do. Could it be done differently? Faster? By someone else? Let go of the unproductive (Refer to your goal list. What goal does this task help you complete?)

Automating:
Next, look at what you do. Which of those tasks are frequent, manual and repetitive chores that could be automated? A couple of tasks come to mind instantly. Do you use email advertising? Do you always start at zero with a clean page, and then drop in your logo, etc. Use an email template. A blank template will speed you along your email marketing goal to get more done in less time. Also if you use an email service, they usually have those items available to help you. Social media can also enjoy automation. As you consider several posts, write all down including pictures and save these for later use. Then when you wish to update social media, your post is already written.

Delegating:
Perhaps the most difficult to accomplish is delegating. It is very difficult to let go of a job and give that job to another. However, as you work toward fulfilling your goals, it is necessary to give up some minor control and to give some tasks to others to complete.

If you are doing the store’s bookkeeping, think about what you could be doing instead to bring in more customers and/or increase sales. The store owner should be doing these things that only the store owner can do and should either delegate to other employees or hire someone part-time. Other jobs that the store owner should delegate to others include, sweeping the front walk, cleaning windows, cleaning dressing rooms or re-dressing mannequins.

Train and teach employees and family to do some of the repetitive tasks that cannot be automated or eliminated. For example, instead of you spending an hour each week totaling hours worked for your staff, appoint a trusted employee to complete that task. For security and if possible, train two staff members. Switch them at will so each can check up on the other. Your time will then be spent in review and spot checking rather than in performing the entire task.

Delegating involves training employees and family to respect our scheduling. Employees should know you are approachable, but things that can be handled in batches should be. Do not check email throughout the day. Rather, set aside time in the morning and afternoon to check email. Work until the allotted time is used and move on. Remember, you don’t have to read the emails in the order they show up in your in-box so check and move on.

You are the heart of your store. Your employees are depending on you for their jobs and livelihood. You need time to sleep and get regular exercise so build your schedule, budget your time and achieve your goals. Schedule time for family, friends and leisure activities. When you leave work, leave it (at least as much as possible). If you are currently running your store and/or your life in firefighter mode, it will require extra time while you work to change yourself first, but it will be time very well spent.

Throughout this article, I have stressed planning. This is difficult for the carefree spirits who prefer to “see where the wind blows.” I will remind you a gentle breeze can become a mighty hurricane or simply stop (from time to time they do). It’s too late to change course in a hurricane and . . . what direction would you choose without a breeze to guide you? Chart your own course now. You may change directions, but you will have a plan in mind for you and your business. In other words, be firm, fixed and flexible.

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