Sole traders are key drivers of the Australian economy, making up two in three (62.8%) of all businesses. But being your own boss is not without its challenges, particularly when it comes to managing your time and resources.
With research from Xero showing that half of all sole traders find “setting their own routine” a major pain point, it’s critical that small business owners get the support they need. To help you plan out a weekly routine — especially with the added stress of shifting lockdown restrictions — here’s a three-step plan that makes consistency easy to achieve.
What to do before you start
Before jumping into the deep end, set aside a chunk of time in your day to map out your bigger-picture plan. Start by asking yourself:
- Why do I need a routine?
- What do I want to get out of this routine?
- What type of routine am I more likely to stick to?
- What needs to be included in my routine?
- Will a digital or physical paper plan work better for me?
Be honest with yourself when answering these questions. After all, the success of any routine relies on your willingness to stick to it. These questions won’t just help illuminate the pathway ahead — they will help you gain a better understanding of yourself, your business strategy and what works best for you.
Next, list out all your non-negotiable weekly tasks. These are the jobs that are not just core to your business functioning, but push you further towards your goals. Also make a list of less time-sensitive jobs that you want to get done at some point.
Use this moment to determine how you work best — do you need lots of structure or would you prefer flexibility? If the former, it’s probably best to block out specific times every week and stick to them religiously. If the latter, ‘theming’ your days by different tasks could work well. For example, Monday might be reserved for building your customer base while Thursday is all about organising your physical stock. Something as simple as creating a dedicated work nook and setting an alarm to start your day right can make all the difference. Future you will thank you for it.
Ready to get going? Here are the three main steps to focus on.
Step 1: Map out your plan in detail
Once the preparation is done, it’s time to start mapping out your weekly routine! The first order of business is to refer back to those non-negotiable tasks and schedule them in — think administrative tasks like emails and phone calls, reporting, weekly client meetings, bookkeeping, stocktakes, social media management and other marketing duties.
It may take a bit of tweaking, but make sure you set aside enough time for each task. Administrative jobs like checking and replying to emails may require at least 30 minutes every morning. You want to ensure you have enough time to digest all the information you’ll need for the day (or week) ahead.
Finally, be kind to your future self. That means being realistic with time allowances. While you will of course want to allow enough time for the business-critical tasks, at the same time it’s not sustainable to assign two full hours to a task you hate. This is a recipe for falling off the routine wagon. Instead, consider breaking down those difficult jobs into smaller, more manageable tasks throughout the week.
Step 2: Organise your tasks to help meet your goals
Now it’s time to look over the big-picture tasks that can help you build towards a larger project or reach certain milestones. Some jobs might need to be tackled every week, whereas others could be slotted in on a monthly or quarterly basis.
If you’re unsure, using a traffic-light system can be helpful. You simply assign jobs as green (non-time sensitive), yellow (jobs that seem urgent but aren’t essential to running the business) and red (priority jobs that should be top of your to-do list). This can provide insight into where you should be focusing most of your time.
Step 3: Set aside time for tasks that will uplift your small business
Finally, it’s time to explore the tasks you’ve always wanted to do but, for one reason or another, have ended up on the back burner. These are jobs that you believe can help your business grow or attract more customers, but you’ve never been able to find the time to complete them.
Think organising your digital space, setting up a business profile on new social platforms, renovating your storage system or finding new suppliers. If your list ends up being complex, it can be helpful to break down each task into a few key steps, and then assign yourself one or two of those steps to complete each week.
Chipping away is a much more manageable strategy than trying to tackle everything at once.
Sticking to your new routine
As a sole trader, you are the master of your own destiny. While creating a robust routine can keep you on the right path, it’s ultimately down to you to stick to it. We recommend interacting with your weekly plan multiple times throughout the week, or at least booking in a mid-week check-in to ensure you are always on track.
But above all, make sure you celebrate the wins. By regularly looking back on your initial plan, you’ll be able to see all the progress you’ve made — even if some days it doesn’t really feel like it! Falling off the wagon for a day or two isn’t the end of the world. Be kind to yourself and the rest will fall into place.
Looking for new ways to take your business to the next level? Xero’s Small Business Guides are valuable resources filled with tips and advice on how to take your small business to the next level.
Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform for small businesses with over 2.7 million subscribers globally. Through Xero, small business owners and their advisors have access to real-time financial data any time, anywhere and on any device. Xero offers an ecosystem of over 1,000 third-party apps and 300 plus connections to banks and other financial partners.