When I first started in my business, I was so excited to not be chained to a desk and to have absolute freedom over my schedule. I was so excited to be free that I resisted any type of structure.
No two clients the same. No two days the same. Every day had different challenges and a different rhythm. And it was great.
Freedom, But No Time
But I soon realized that was not an effective way to run a business or a life. The urgencies always pulled at me. I spent a lot of time in my business, but little time on my business.
Before starting my business I always had side projects and passion projects, but as a business owner I never seemed to have time for the work that I wanted to do.
I had so many ideas, but I never made progress toward implementation.
This is the central challenge in a service business. Each day has its unique flavor: different clients, different urgencies, and different schedules.
We can offen feel resistance in getting traction on what matters most to us.
But only if we allow that to control us.
What’s Really Keeping You Stuck?
Many people I speak with tell me that they can’t create or stick to a schedule because “it doesn’t work in my business.”
You don’t understand. Every day brings something different. I need to be available for my clients. I need to respond to their needs.
In fact, I do understand. I felt that way for many years. I always put my clients first. I put everyone else first. I believed I was running my business. But my business was running me. And if you do that for long enough you won’t have a business. Even worse: you’ll run yourself into the ground.
It was tempting to blame my clients and colleagues who demanded early morning meetings or called me with urgent matters when it worked for them. But the truh is that I alone was to blame. I allowed their needs to come first.
In many ways, I felt that I had no choice. If clients need me, and I’m in client service, I must be responsive to those clients. At least, that’s what I believed.
Structure creates spaciousness.
If you want to stop living in reaction and actually have the freedom to enjoy your life, you need structure. You need a set of rules to guide your decisions.
Perhaps you believe that rules will restrict your freedom.
To the contrary: The absence of rules doesn’t create freedom, it creates anarchy. Freedom requires rules.
Rules for how we will run our day give us the freedom to know when to say yes and when to say no, without agonizing over decisions.
I have some fairly strict rules for myself in the morning: no email, social media, meetings, or call before noon. This creates a solid container around my peak creative time. It innoculates me against energy vampires who not only drain my time but can set me off-course for an entire day.
My block of time before noon is not just me at my desk doing “work.” Much of my “work” process doesn’t even look like work. Fitness. Meditation. Creativity Time. Thinking time. Sometimes it looks like me, laying on a foam roller.
Don’t underestimate it. I often get more important work done before noon than I used to do in a week. The big work gets done in spaciousness. And I have found that the bigger the project, the more creative I need to be, the more spaciousness I need.
What gives me that spaciousness is my rules.
When to Break the Rules
Of course, I hate rules. I like to break the rules.
I know I’m not alone.
The struggle for many business owners is that its the inherent nature of entrepreneurs to be rules-breakers. We resist our own rules.
If you want to break the rules, you first must make the rules. You can’t break what isn’t there.
You may feel like every day is different, but it doesn’t need to be. If every day is the exception, then you don’t have rules.
Create the rules. Live by the rules. But allow exceptions when absolutely necessary.
The structure you create will give you something better than freedom: it will give you autonomy.