In Search of Lost Time

Follow these techniques to find workday efficiencies and strike a healthy work-life balance


Running your own business can be all-consuming. But managing time wisely and achieving a healthy work-life balance is critical to mental and physical well-being—and to the success of your business. Recently, Comcast Business sponsored “Work Life 2.0: Tapping Innovation to Take Back Your Time,” a moderated virtual discussion hosted by Fast Company and Inc.; in it, three entrepreneurs discussed avoiding burnout, identifying inefficiencies, and finding the right tools to work smarter. Here are four key takeaways from the event.

1. Strike the right balance.

Starting a business is, by nature, time-consuming as you develop products and services, establish systems, make hires, and serve your customers. “At the beginning, it’s the hardest,” says Lindsay McCormick, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Bite, a sustainable personal care company. “You are trying to build momentum and build something out of nothing. It takes a lot of self-discipline.”

Balance, however, can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s a hard line between work and home life; for others, it’s a hybrid approach in which business and personal tasks are fluidly managed. Striking the right balance can involve a nuanced approach for you and your workers.

“Employees are different every place you go,” says John Hall, cofounder of scheduling software firm “As a result, I focus on what is going to bring the best out of each person. We’re going to create goals on what elevates you and what elevates the company.”

2. Manage burnout.

Over the past few years, the conversation about burnout has changed, largely thanks to the pandemic and the forced mixing of work and home life.

“I think COVID brought burnout to the forefront, because there were so many things coming at us at one time,” says Amanda Freeman, founder and CEO of SLT, a boutique fitness studio with locations throughout the Northeast, and cofounder of Stretch*d, a one-on-one assisted stretching and recovery studio in New York City. Freeman says she notices that employees are now quick to report feeling burnt out, especially among younger generations.

Avoiding such feelings can start with identifying the things that trigger them and proactively seeking solutions. For Hall, burnout comes in part from spreading himself too thin. “It’s my job as a leader to help identify triggers like that in others, get ahead of them, have open conversations, and then put solutions in place so that the people don’t get to that burnout point,” he says.

Solutions may be simple, like setting aside time for self-care or making a handwritten list of priorities. “I actually have a notepad by my laptop at all times, and I’ll write down the three things I have to get done that day,” McCormick says. Or they might be more complex tools, such as customer relationship management software, designed to help you better manage your time.

3. Audit your time.

Identifying and addressing inefficiencies is important to avoiding burnout and hampering your business’s ability to grow. Areas that are causing burnout are a great place to target first, as are processes that are feeling sticky or consuming too much of your time.

“I am a huge fan of time audits,” McCormick says. “I think what gets measured gets better.” Take careful stock of where you spend your time every day over the course of one to two weeks. You may be surprised where your biggest time sinks are, so get granular, down to things like how much time you’re spending on activities like social media. “I have to be on social media for my business, and I get sucked in,” McCormick says. “Now I’ll set something that gives me an alert I have to bypass [in order] to stay on.”

Hall is a proponent of time blocking, a technique in which you divide your time into small blocks dedicated to specific tasks. “You can be very deliberate in how you spend your time,” he says. The technique can help increase focus and avoid inefficient jumping between tasks. Plus, it can help you understand where you’re spending more time than expected.

4. Make automation your friend.

Once inefficiencies are identified, a key way to address them is automating tasks whenever possible. Doing so can give you back time to focus on other important parts of your business, such as managing employees, interacting with customers, or developing new products and exploring new markets.

Hall noticed that he was spending an inordinate amount of time monitoring his company’s email marketing. As a result, he started using a platform that tracks and automates email outreach and offers insights into marketing strategies that are working well. “Now,” he says, “I’m not going to get insecure and be like, ‘Did they open it?,’ which I used to be.”

Be mindful that the tools you choose work well together—and don’t end up requiring even more of your time to manage. “I think the key is to find tools with the most applicable features for you but not to have too many different technology systems going,” Freeman says. “Streamline, and make sure that everybody is on the same systems and using them for the appropriate things.”

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Originally posted on Fast Company,

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