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How CEOs Make Time to Work ON Their Business

by | Last updated: Aug 14, 2022 | Focus & Productivity, Podcast

Nearly 20,000 entrepreneurs have participated in the Fired Up & Focused challenge over the years. I’ve noticed that one of the biggest struggles for most entrepreneurs isn’t that they don’t have amazing ideas to grow their businesses… it’s that they don’t have the TIME to work on the big picture!

I get it.

The day-to-day of running any business is full of things to do. Working with clients. Answering emails. Posting on social media. But all these tasks that fill most of our workdays fall under the category of IN your business.

What about working ON your business? Do you have time to…

  • Write that book that you’ve been thinking about for years?
  • Create the group or online program that synthesizes everything you’ve learned working with your clients… and finally allow you to scale beyond your 1×1 work?
  • Implement the systems in your business that would automate or allow you to easily outsource everything from attracting new clients to making regular consistent sales of your products, programs, or services?

You know that these big picture ideas would be game-changers in your business… suddenly you’d open up new revenue streams, reach and serve more people, and finally be working smarter.

But how do you get more dedicated time to work ON the big picture? Here are 3 time management tips to help you build more CEO time into your business:

Time Management Tip #1: The Answer Is NO!

When most of us start our businesses, we say YES to everything. Want to speak to the local social media club? YES! Want to connect over coffee? YES! Wanna attend every networking event in town? YES!

And at the beginning – YES is essential. It gets you out there, talking to real live people.

But YES to everything is a scattershot approach to growing your business. When you say YES to everything, you have no strategy to decide what does or doesn’t make sense for your business. You’re like an octopus on roller skates, trying to do everything at the same time, but getting nowhere fast.

Struggling to work on the big picture for your biz? NO is a CEO's favorite word! Click To Tweet

You don’t have to say NO to everything right away – but start paying attention to where you are saying YES too much.

A perfect example – my friend Denise Duffield Thomas found herself overwhelmed with interview requests that just weren’t a perfect fit for what she was creating in her business.

The solution? She created a dedicated page outlining her interview requirements, including preferred topics that fit into her zone of genius. Talking about money blocks? YES! Anything outside her scope as a Money Mentor – NO WAY. Brilliant.

Ask Yourself: Where am I saying YES too often that just isn’t leading to results in my business – and how can I create clearer guidelines to what is a YES and what is a NO?

Time Management Tip #2: Don’t FIND Time – MAKE Time

If these big dreams have been sitting there for years because you just haven’t found the time to make them a reality – here’s the truth bomb: You have to MAKE TIME to work on your business.

It’s not any different than committing to a healthier lifestyle! If your goal is to eat better and walk 10,000 steps a day, you don’t wait for the time to magically appear. You block out time to plan your meals and do some meal prep on Sunday afternoon. You schedule reminders on your iPhone so you get up from your desk every couple of hours to take a walk around the block.

Struggling to find time to work ON your business? It doesn't happen by default - it happens by design!Click To Tweet
model calendar

It’s time to DESIGN your days and weeks to help you make that shift from overwhelmed to fired up! That’s where the Model Calendar comes in. A Model Calendar is my hands-down favorite strategy of all time to consciously design your week around what matters most, to you. And I’m not the only one who believes in this approach – Pat Flynn and Michael Hyatt share their experiences using this strategy to create more balance between the hours they dedicate to their business and the time they prioritize for themselves, their families, and their health.

Get the entire tutorial on creating your own model calendar here.

The biggest key to designing a model calendar that works for you is keeping it structured enough to create a container for your work hours and flexible enough to adjust to the needs of your business and your life.

Building a biz while working a job? You can easily find 20 hours a week when you replace 3-4 hours of TV every night with a few hours of biz building plus 5 hours on Saturday mornings.

Busy mamapreneur with littles under 5? I found my work hours by waking up an hour earlier than my family, enrolling my twins in preschool for 3 hours a day, and asking my husband to take them to the park for a few hours when he got home from work.

Work better at night? You don’t have to be an early bird to be successful – adapt to your own creative rhythms by working from 11-2 on your most creative work.

Ask Yourself: What time to I have available to work on my business? What time makes the most sense given my lifestyle, my family and my own creative rhythms?

Time Management Tip #3: Take Yourself on a CEO Date

One of the biggest reasons we never seem to find the time to upgrade our CEO habits is many of us – as overachieving perfectionists – tend to think in very ALL OR NOTHING terms.

We tend to think that if we want to write a book, we need to wait until the right time magically appears when we won’t have any other distractions and nothing but writing is on our calendars.

It just doesn’t happen that way. You’ve gotta carve out the time to map out your big picture projects so that when you do have an hour or two, you can make some decent progress towards your goals.

That’s exactly what a CEO Date allows you to accomplish. At a minimum, you should have a weekly CEO date to not just plan all the regular day-to-day tasks in your business, but to work on the bigger things that will move your business forward.

Your CEO Date is the perfect opportunity to map out that big launch, outline your new program, make a plan for an interview blitz. It’s so much easier to actually write the book when you start by mapping out all the chapters, then outline the chapter, then start filling in the gaps. Suddenly an overwhelming dream project becomes a manageable task that you can make time for!

Ask Yourself: What is a big picture project you want to focus on for the next 90 days? Schedule your CEO date to map out all the steps and tasks to help you bring it to life!

I hope this inspired you to begin growing your business by DESIGN, not by default, by making time each and every week for the ideas that will move your business forward.

And if you loved this conversation, you’ll love joining me for The CEO Retreat – a 1-day strategic planning event focused on perfectly planning the next 90-days for your business.

If you know that you need to get your plan on paper, if you know that you need to surround yourself with other amazing supportive and intuitive women entrepreneurs, if you know that you need to turn your big picture into check-off-able action steps… then you will want to join us! Find all the details (and Early Bird Enrollment!) at RachealCook.com/CEO-Retreat.

Over the last 10 years, we have had well over 40,000 entrepreneurs participate in the Fired Up & Focused challenge. It's amazing. I've noticed that one of the biggest struggles for most women entrepreneurs isn't that they're running out of ideas for how to grow their business, it's that they don't have time to work on the big picture. I get it, the day-to-day of running any business is full of things to do. We're working with clients, we're answering emails, we're posting on social, and all of these tasks that fill most of our work days, they fall in the category of working in your business. But what about working on your business?

Do you have time to write that book that you've been thinking about for years or create that next-level program that brings together everything you've learned working with your clients and finally allow you to scale beyond your one-on-one work? Or what about time to implement the systems that you know would allow you to more easily streamline everything from attracting new clients to making more consistent sales?

You know these bigger picture ideas would be game changers in your business. They'd open up new revenue streams. They'd help you reach and serve more people. You'd finally be working smarter, not harder. But how do you find the time? Well, listen in. On today's episode, we're going to talk about my favorite time management tips to help you build more CEO time into your business.

Are you ready to grow from solopreneur to CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook. I've spent the last decade helping women entrepreneurs start and scale service-based businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

Hey, CEO. If you have not heard, the Fired Up & Focused challenge is back. We will be kicking off on August 8th for five days of looking at how you can be smarter, not work harder in your business, looking at how we can boost your productivity and your profitability by truly stepping into the role of CEO of your business.

If you have taken the Fired Up & Focused challenge previously, you know that this originally started as a 28-day challenge, who knows what I was thinking when I first created this thing? I really went above and beyond and overboard on it, but we have continued to refine it down to the key lessons that I know make the biggest impact for women entrepreneurs. We are doing a five-day challenge this time.

We want to keep it short and sweet, and most importantly, doable. We don't want to be adding more to your list, we want to be making it easier for you to get through your list and easier for you to determine what is and isn't truly a priority for you and your business. Join us for this challenge starting on August 8th, firedupandfocused.com

Now if you are listening to this episode and you are trying to find the time, you're trying to find the time to work on the bigger picture for your business, this is a good primer of what we talk about in the Fired Up & Focused challenge. Because today I want to dig into three time management tips to help you create more CEO time in your business.

Yes, create the time, because at the end of the day, we all have the same 24 hours a day, the same 168 hours a week, and too often, I see people who are struggling year after year after year because they're hoping the time will magically appear to work on the bigger picture things in their business.

But, friends, that's just not how it works. We have to prioritize the time. We have to make the time proactively instead of waiting for it to magically appear. Let's get into my top three tips to help you make more time.

Time management tip number one: The answer is no. We recently talked about why CEOs need boundaries, why boundaries are CEO's best friend, and the answer is usually yes when we get started. The start of our business, we say yes to everything. Want to speak to the local social media club? Yes. Want to connect over coffee? Yes. Want to attend every networking event in town? Yes. At the beginning, yes is essential, it's what gets you out there talking to real life people.

But saying yes to everything is a scatter shot approach to growing your business, and when you say yes to everything, you have no strategy to help you decide what does or doesn't make sense for your business. You truly are like an octopus on roller skates trying to do everything at the same time but feeling like you're busy but not getting anywhere. If you're struggling to work on the big picture for your business, no needs to become your favorite response.

Now, you don't have to say no to everything right away but start paying attention to where you are saying yes too much. A perfect example, my friend Denise Duffield-Thomas of Lucky Bitch found herself overwhelmed with interview requests that just weren't a perfect fit for what she was creating in her business.

More specifically, she was getting invited to a lot of these online summits where it was just a ton of different speakers, they were asking for people to email multiple times for that specific event, and she just was like, “You know what, this isn't a fit. This isn't a fit for me and my business.” Her solution was she created an entire dedicated page on her website outlining her interview requirements, including the topics that actually fit into her zone of genius.

Talking about money blocks? Yes, that was her whole focus for her business. But anything outside of her scope as a money mentor was a no. Brilliant. I loved it. That clarity helped her to protect her time and energy and make sure she was truly staying in her zone of genius as a CEO of her business.

I think it's important to ask ourselves where are we saying yes too often and especially where are we saying yes too often that is not leading results in your business? How can you create clearer guidelines for yourself on what is a yes and what is a no? Look through your calendar, look through your journal, your planner, whatever you might have, and think about what was not really a fit and next time we need to decline.

The next time management tip: Don't find time, make time. If these big dreams have been sitting there for years because you haven't found the time, the time hasn't magically appeared for you, then here's the honest truth, you have to make time to work on your business. Honestly, this isn't any different than committing to any other big goal that's a priority for you in your life. This isn't any different than that.

If you wanted to commit to a healthier lifestyle, if your goal is to eat better and walk 10,000 steps a day, you don't wait for that time to magically appear for that to happen. You have to block out the time to plan your meals, to do your meal prep, to make sure that you have everything on hand to set you up for success.

If you're trying to hit 10,000 steps a day, then you make sure you're getting out there every single day to take a walk, you're scheduling reminders on your iPhone so that you get up from your desk every couple of hours to take a walk around the block. You have something to help you track that you are hitting that 10,000 steps a day.

Something I'm doing right now, I am really focused on drinking more water, especially it's summer here in Richmond, Virginia, it is hot-hot-hot and it's always humid, so I have this one gallon water bottle that actually has little time marks on it to help me track where am I in my water consumption for the day. It helps me see like, “Where should I be at nine o'clock, at twelve o'clock, at three o'clock?” and holds me accountable.

I'm setting myself up for success because just saying “I need to drink more water” isn't enough. I have to make sure I have made the system that will make that happen. If you're struggling to find time to work on your business, it's not any different. It doesn't happen by default, at times not going to magically appear. We have to design our time. We have to proactively make time for those things.

That might mean we have to say no to a few other things, going back to the first thing I mentioned. Let's make sure we're designing our days and weeks to make that shift from overwhelmed to fired up and focused. That's where the model calendar comes in. Now, you've heard me talk about this before. We talked about it when we talked about boundaries, a model calendar is hands down my most favorite strategy of all time to consciously design your week around what matters most to you.

The best part is this can adapt and adjust as you go through different stages of your life, for different stages of your business. If you are in a stage of life where maybe this summer you really wanted more family time, you wanted to have a lighter work week, cool, you can make that the priority. But if you're in a period where you know there are some big things you want to go after you're in your business, your model calendar can help you carve out more dedicated time for that.

I'm not the only one who believes in this approach. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, Michael Hyatt of Full Focus, they have shared their experiences using this strategy to find more balance between the hours they dedicate to working on the big picture of their business and the time that they prioritize for themselves, their families, and their health.

Now, this strategy is something we do dig into in the Fired Up & Focused challenge. If you've ever purchased one of our CEO planners, I have a whole training on it, but I'm including the full tutorial on how to create your own model calendar in the show notes to this episode. I'm not going to walk through it right now because I do feel like it's helpful to see the video and actually see it visually laid out.

But the key to designing a model calendar that works for you is keeping it structured enough so that you have a container for your work hours, you're actually giving yourself some constraints. It's flexible enough to adjust to the needs of your business and your life. Maybe you are at a stage where you are building your business and you're also working a job. I know a lot of people who are in this stage, whether they're working full-time or part-time in their business or at a job, if you can find 20 hours a week, then you can continue to grow your business.

I only work 20 to 25 hours a week and I've had that kind of schedule pretty much since the beginning of my business. I'm here to tell you, if you can find 20 hours a week, then you can grow your business, you can work on the big picture of your business. How can you do that if you're still working a job? Well, the most important thing I have found for people who are working a traditional job is you have to have a model calendar, you have to give yourself some clear guidelines of when you're going to work on your business.

I know some people who their job only takes them four days a week, and that's becoming increasingly more popular. When they're only working four days a week, that means they get a whole day to work on their business, there's eight hours, and then they get the other 12 hours by working a couple hours at night the rest of the time.

Maybe you are someone who you can work in the afternoons or evenings and work your job earlier in the day. Maybe you're doing a couple hours every day, so two hours every day, and then two to five hour stretches on the weekend. It’s totally up to you. There are so many ways you can carve out 20 hours to work on your business.

What if you are a mom and an entrepreneur and you have young kids who require just, let's be honest, a lot of time, energy, and attention? When I was in this boat, when my kids were really little, I wrote a whole article on this on getting child care because I just was not the type of mom who could stay focused while also trying to take care of my kids. That just didn't work for me at all. I needed help.

I think there are some people who can stay focused while their kids are around, I just wasn't one of them. I'm going to include the link to how to find child care while you're growing your business. For me, it looked like waking up earlier. I actually woke up earlier than my family for several years so that I could get a couple hours of work in before my kids woke up.

I enrolled my kids into preschool, into camps, or into whatever I could enroll them in so that I could have three hours a day to work. When my husband got home, he was a school teacher when my kids were really little, he would tag in to take on the kids at 3:00 PM, because that's when he could get home from school and I would have them off of my to-do list for three whole hours. I would ask him to take them to the park, take them to the library, take them to the splash pad, take them wherever.

I carved out that time, I communicated what I needed, I figured out a way, whether it was paid help or unpaid help. Again, I've made a whole article about how to help find child care because I know everybody's situation is different, I wanted to brainstorm a ton of ideas for you. I know this is a major challenge for a lot of women who are also juggling kids at the same time.

What if you are someone who just works better at night? I want to say I don't think anybody's model calendar needs to look specifically like mine at all. I am an early bird. I want to wake up early and be done early in the day. But I know so many people who are on an opposite schedule to me. In fact, they do their most creative work at like 10:00, 11:00, 12:00 at night and they can just create so much amazing content or do so much work for their clients in those late hours.

If that is you, then make your model calendar match that, how can you set that up for yourself? I think the biggest question is analyze your calendar, go back and look at it. Go back and look at the last couple months of your calendar and ask yourself, “What are the times I have available to work on my business? What are my normal working hours? How do I want to make my schedule so that I am able to work on my business when I am the most focused, the most creative, the most in the flow?”

What makes the most sense for you given your lifestyle, your family, your creative rhythms? Practice using that time. Practice blocking that time out and instead of letting that time get away from you, go ahead and make a commitment to showing up during those times.

My third big time management tip: Take yourself on a CEO date. A CEO date, yes, I love this strategy so much we put it in our planner and we talk about it all the time. One of the reasons I find we never seem to find that time to upgrade our CEO habits is many of us, especially as overachieving perfectionists, tend to think in very black or white, all or nothing terms.

We tend to think that if we want to write a book, we have to wait until the right time magically appears where we have no other distractions and nothing else is going on in our life, and then we'll have the bandwidth to write. We're going to start a podcast, we have to wait until nothing else is going on, and then you can create your podcast. You want to create a new offer, you have to wait until your calendar magically clears for a month before you can create that offer.

I'm just here to tell you that's not going to happen. It doesn't work that way. Unless you're able to truly carve out a whole month or two months to go on sabbatical and work on an intensive creative project or a big picture project, you've still got to figure out how to do this while the rest of your business is happening.

I think that's one reason I love a CEO date. If you need to carve out time to work on your big picture projects, even if you only have a couple hours a week, you can make progress towards your goals. If you only had 2 hours a week and you spent a quarter, so 13 weeks, putting those 2 hours a week into your big picture projects, that's 26 hours, that's not nothing. That's a good amount of time.

That's what a CEO date can help you to accomplish. Your CEO date is a weekly appointment that you have with yourself, yes, you, the CEO of your business, and this allows you to, one, review your overall strategy and goals for the year, for the quarter in your business, and it also allows you to map out your week, to plan out the day-to-day tasks of your business, and make sure you have carved out the time to work on the bigger things that you know will move your business forward.

Your CEO date is the perfect time to map out a big launch, to outline a program, or to make a plan for an interview blitz, it is so much easier to write that book when you start by outlining the chapters. What are all the chapters in your book? What are the outlines for each chapter? Then you start to fill in the gaps. Suddenly, if you can set aside two hours a week over the course of 13 weeks, again, 3 months, 90 days, a quarter, then that dream project you've had on your list forever, you've now had 26 hours to work towards that, to work on it, to make it happen.

You can do that during your CEO date. Your CEO date can be checking in and mapping out your week and it can also be the dedicated time to work on the big picture. It can be that dedicated time to work on the big picture. I want you to ask yourself what is the big picture project you want to work on for the next 90 days? Schedule your CEO date. If it's going to take you 25-30 hours to create that thing, give yourself 2 hours a week for your CEO date so that you can make meaningful progress on it.

You're not going to get it all done at once, you're not going to get it all done that week, but you are going to carve out maybe a few hours Monday morning or a few hours Sunday afternoon, whenever you're setting your CEO date, it doesn't really matter to me when you do it. The most important thing is that you set that time and you do it and you say, “This is the time I'm working on this bigger picture in my business.”

I hope this inspired you to begin growing your business by design, not by default. We cannot wait for time to magically show up for us to work on our business. We have to have clarity on—going back to a few episodes ago—what your role as CEO is for your business because there are certain things that you are the person that makes them happen.

Other people can manage your inbox, other people can help you with your schedule, other people can do your bookkeeping, but very few people can do what you can do. Very few people have your zone of genius, very few people have your experience and expertise, so we have to make sure that, one, we are clear about what we are responsible for in our business, we have to be clear about our job description.

Especially as you're growing your team, you will find that you have to fire yourself from the roles that your team is now occupying. You have to get out of their way and stop being the bottleneck and only focus on the things that you alone can do. Then we need to make sure that we have those boundaries in place to protect our time and energy.

Because if you're not protecting your time and energy and you're allowing every person with a question, every person that emails in, every person that sends you a DM to dictate how you're showing up that week, you are never going to find the time because other people are taking that time from you constantly. Time is the most precious resource all of us have. We have to get used to the idea of fiercely, fiercely protecting it.

We have to make the time. Say no. Evaluate where we should have said no more often. We need to make the time in our model calendar. We need to block out our CEO date. Remember, even two or three hours a week to work on the big picture of your business is going to get you so much further than trying to piece it together 15, 20 minutes at a time. Block it out. Protect it fiercely.

If you want to dig in even more, join us for the Fired Up & Focused challenge. We are going to be making sure that you are optimizing how you are showing up as the CEO of your business so you can be more productive, so you can be more powerful in your business, and ultimately, so you can be more profitable because you are focused on the CEO-level tasks that are going to move your business forward. You can get all the details at firedupandfocused.com.