Owning and running a small business is full of daily stresses. Your workload probably far surpasses a 40-hour job. In that environment, it’s tough to be able to disconnect.
At the same time, you want to be healthy. You need to take care of yourself, while also making sure that you have the energy needed to run your business to the absolute best of your abilities. How do you connect the two?
The secret, in more ways than one, is a productive daily routine. Set it up, and you’ll be surprised by just how much better you feel at the end of every day. Even better, some simple changes in your routine can save you 60 hours or more every year!
To get there, all you need to do is some planning. Building a routine means building habits that are easily repeatable every day. Yes, that day likely looks different from the previous one just by the nature of running a small business. But you can still put habits in place that help you succeed.
That’s because we all have habits. Think about your typical morning, and you can probably come up with some examples (like turning on the coffee pot) that you don’t even think about because they’re so ingrained in your routine. The key is switching that routine to one that optimizes your time, health, and productivity.
What Your Daily Routine as a Small Business Owner Should Include
Let’s start with the basics. As we’ll discuss below, every daily routine is just a bit different. A mompreneur will have very different needs than a workaholic. If you want those specifics, keep scrolling. For now, we’ll begin with the basic components every morning routine should include.
- Enough sleep. Research shows that we’re most productive, not to mention the most healthy, when we get between seven and nine hours.
- Dedicated cell phone, social media, and email times. They help you make sure that you don’t constantly check your phone, taking away from your productivity.
- A regular exercise routine, even if it’s just stretching, to keep your body in shape and make sure you move enough.
- Regular breaks. Most experts recommend taking a break of at least 15 minutes in-between work at least every 90 minutes, if not more frequently. Any more, and you tap into your energy reserves, which can come back to hurt you.
- Enough time for regular meals, snacks, and hydration. A water bottle at your desk can help. Avoid binging on food or water for if you can, and instead, distribute your consumption evenly throughout the day.
- A daily morning time to set goals, and a daily evening time to review your accomplishments. This can be as little as 5 minutes each. It helps you stay both focused and positive.
- Some dedicated time for a personal passion. Don’t let work consume you. Time management coach Carl Pullein, for instance, sets aside 45 minutes every morning to learn Korean.
- Enough time for your family. Don’t go to bed regretting that you didn’t spend more time with your kids, significant other, or even calling your relatives. Instead, plan in enough time to make sure you can do it.
- Focused work times for decision making as well as other time-consuming tasks, ideally in multiple increments throughout the day.
Put it all together, and you get the answer for what makes a good daily routine. Of course, that list (as helpful as it might be) can also be daunting. Can you really fit all of these tasks into a single 24-hour day, then repeat it all the next day?
Absolutely. You just have to make sure you develop a routine that’s right for you. That’s what we’ll talk through next.
How to Develop the Best Daily Routine for You
Let’s get personal. Google the subject, and you’ll find plenty of articles on Daily Routines and Habits of Highly Successful Founders, Morning Routines of Highly Creative People, and more. Each of them has some valuable nuggets to learn from. But they all tend to contradict each other in some spots, which makes them just a little confusing to learn from.
As much as sleeping in late might make sense for famous artists, you might have to open your storefront at 8am. And sure, learning Korean makes sense if you’re a time management coach. But does it also make sense when you’re just trying to build that online store?
That’s because all of those generalized articles fail to mention a simple secret: there is no simple, perfect daily routine. If there was a magic formula, others would have already solved it. Instead, there are plenty of general tips (like the ones mentioned above) that can help you get started.
The key, then, is turning these general tips into a daily routine that actually makes sense for you and your situation.
As mentioned in the intro, some of your routines are just habits. You don’t have to break them if they are within your comfort zone. If you’re already taking a morning run after waking up, no need to shift that run to the afternoon just to follow some magic formula.
The same thing is true with coffee. Some experts recommend it, some don’t. But if you’ve come to live with it, and enjoy a hot cup every morning, there’s no need to stop. Instead, make sure that no matter the specific routine you build, you include at least some activities that are perfectly within your comfort zone.
Beyond that, follow these tips to start building your own, ideal morning routine as a business owner:
- Write down the non-negotiables. What do you absolutely have to do every day? You can’t forget about these essential tasks. Write them down, including the time they need to get done (if applicable), to make sure you’ll incorporate them into your routine.
- Find the universal best practices that you absolutely need to include. The list above gives you a great start. At least some exercise, regular meal times and breaks, and focused work times are about as non-negotiable as the tasks you know you have to do.
- Start drafting a schedule. The examples of typical business owners below can help, but you can customize them to fit your needs. Outline exactly what you want to get done, and when.
- Split your schedule into three sections: morning, midday, and evening. That helps you more easily manage every section and makes the process (from building out the schedule to actually executing it) much more manageable.
- Get as specific as you’re comfortable. Do you need to write down every time you take a break? If you find yourself forgetting about it, probably. If you know you’ll be able to sit down and take a breath, maybe not.
- Schedule in flexibility time. That 15-minute slot to check your emails? Maybe one day, you’ll need 20 minutes instead. The flexibility in your schedule almost always evens out—and even if it doesn’t, you’ll be glad for the extra time gained at the end of the day.
- Test-drive and make adjustments. If you think you have a good schedule, try it out. Don’t set it in stone yet. Instead, test-drive if for a few days, and make notes of what works and what doesn’t. Then, make the adjustments you need. Over time, you’ll get to the right spot.
Getting to that point takes some time. You might be able to benefit from a simple to-do list app that helps you keep track of your successes every day. Because that final time, the reflection time when you recap what happened, is best when you consciously drive it through the things you were able to achieve.
3 Daily Routine Examples for Typical Business Owner Personas
Within the above tips and parameters, there are countless potential daily routines that might benefit small business owners. The combinations are almost infinite. That can be helpful because of its personalization capabilities, but it can also be intimidating. After all, how can you even know where to start?
If you’re in that situation, this section might be able to help. Use these examples of daily routines as guidance, depending on which persona best matches yours.
1. The Fitness Buff
This small business owner is active. But they also have a problem. How can they combine what’s largely desk work with their innate desire to get outside, get moving, and stay fit? The right morning routine, of course, is the answer. It might look something like this:
- 5am: early wake-up time, after about 7-8 hours of sleep the previous day.
- 5:10am: No time for breakfast or getting ready for work yet. Instead, a quick morning run to get going.
- 5:45am: Time to balance out the morning activity with some relaxing time. That’s about 45 minutes for a personal passion like reading, learning something new, or other similar tasks.
- 6:30am: A nutritious breakfast, complete with an (optional) cup of coffee.
- 6:45am: Time to get ready for work, including a shower and anything else needed. We’ll plan 45 minutes, just to be on the safe side.
- 7:30am: Some stretching work before the day begins. That ensures a relaxed body before sitting down at a desk.
- 8am: The workday starts. Crucially, this is the first time the Fitness Buff checks his/her email and gets into the work mindset. The focus is on routine tasks, not major decision-making tasks.
- 9:30am: The first break, which means 15 minutes of standing up, stretching, and maybe a few exercises. Time to refill that water bottle, too.
- 9:45am: The next level of work starts with some strategic planning that includes deeper thinking than the first slot. Depending on the type of business, this might (with breaks) last until noon or be interspersed with more routine/tactical tasks, as well.
- Noon: Lunch time. 30 minutes to step away from the computer and have a nutritious meal.
- 12:30pm: time for some more exercise! Another run, or perhaps some weight lifting or cardio, depending on what works best.
- 1pm: Back to work, again starting with the more routine tasks. This block might also include some time to check personal social media, taking no more than 15 minutes for that task if possible.
- 5pm: after regular work blocks, hydration, and enough breaks, it’s time to close it down for the day. Consciously decouple from the computer, perhaps by going outside or watching some TV.
- 6:30pm: Let’s face it, business owners don’t just work 8am to 5pm. This might be another hour to check on any urgent business or get any final tasks done.
- Evening: plan in time for dinner, family, and friends. Make sure you have plenty of time to go to bed by 10pm at the latest to get enough sleep.
Again, your routine as a fitness buff might look slightly different. But this guide can help you at least get a good idea of where to start, and how to build out your daily schedule.
2. The Mompreneur
Let’s face it: mothers who also run a business essentially have two jobs. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and just fall into bed exhausted at night. Unfortunately, that also makes it difficult to get up the energy for the next day. A daily routine can help:
- 6:30am: wake-up time, and about 30 minutes to just gather your thoughts.
- 7am: the kids wake up, and one needs to get ready for pre-school or elementary school.
- 8:30am: it’s time to get the kids to daycare or school
- 9am: the work day can start. Account for the fact that it might be 9:15am on a given day, depending on how things go.
- 10:30am: a much-deserved break, maybe for some coffee or fresh air.
- Noon: an hour lunch break. Use the time for a personal break, which might be anything from reading a book to doing some exercise.
- 1pm: time to keep working. Make sure you take regular breaks, and hydrate well in the meantime.
- 4pm: it’s time for the bus, to pick kids up from daycare, and/or to start making dinner. Make sure the most important strategic tasks are wrapped up.
- 5pm to 7pm: dinner and family time. Try to disconnect from work entirely if you can.
- 7pm or shortly thereafter: bedtime! A good nighttime routine for the kids helps to streamline this process.
- 7:30pm: time for some more work. That might mean checking your emails, working on a to-do list for the next day, or similar tasks that require concentration.
- 9pm: the work day is officially over. After this time, avoid checking your email (and even your phone) if you can. The rest of the time is for you.
- 10:30pm: nighttime for the mompreneur. That ensures 8 healthy hours of sleep, and plenty of rest that will be well-needed when the next day begins.
Again, this routine is not perfect, and you will definitely need to adjust it for your needs. Still, it offers a good measuring stick to make sure you hit the necessary pieces, get the work done to grow your business, and still spend enough time with the little ones.
3. The Workaholic
Many entrepreneurs are workaholics. They just don’t know how to disconnect. The problem: they also tend to burn themselves out quickly, which can significantly damage their health and hurt their business aspirations. It doesn’t have to be that way, when you follow a schedule like this:
- 6:30am: wake up. Make a conscious effort not to check your work emails or tasks when you do. Instead, spend some time doing something you personally enjoy.
- 8am: start working. Knock as many to-do items for the day out as you can. Take a five-minute break at 9am and 10am to just step away for a bit.
- 11am: Time for a longer break. Go to the gym or do some other exercise that lets you disconnect from work and refresh your mind and body.
- Noon: check back in with work to make sure you didn’t miss anything, or finish up any tasks you were working on before the exercise break.
- 12:30pm: lunchtime. Take 30 minutes to eat, not checking any work as you do.
- 1pm: keep working. Take the whole afternoon, again taking short breaks every hour just to be able to get up, stretch out, and collect your thoughts.
- 5pm: time to wrap it up. Close the day with 30 minutes reflecting on what you’ve accomplished, and what you need to do the next day.
- 5:30pm: dinner and family time. Try to put your phone somewhere you won’t feel compelled to constantly check it.
- 8pm: any last-minute requests or work items that need taken care of? Make a conscious effort to only use this time if you’re working on something that cannot wait until the next day.
- 9pm: close yourself off. Turn off the computer, turn off your phone, and watch some TV or read a book. The less screen time, the better.
- 11pm: curtain call, to get plenty of rest before the next day.
Follow a routine like this, and you’ll be shocked about just how much you can get done in fewer hours than you would have spent otherwise. That’s because your time is more focused, and your brain is more productive during the hours you do spend working.
How to Streamline Your Daily Routine for More Productive Business Management
Ultimately, the best daily routine for small business owners comes down to your specific situation, personality, and preferences. Still, though, you need to find it. A clear definition and schedule will help you stay on track and get stuff done, without neglecting your personal life and family. And for those that are struggling to do it all on their own, consider hiring a virtual assistant to help lighten your workload.