I first “ran into” Hagar a couple months ago on the Etsy-preneurship Facebook page. She became a Thrive Member within the first week from its launch. We’ve interacted some in the Thrive private Facebook group, but one day something caught my attention.
The topic of time management was being discussed among Thrive Members and Hagar shared some comments myself and other Thrive Members loved. I reached out and asked if she would like to share her experience and lessons in time management with the greater Etsy-preneurship community.
And without further ado – practical, keep-it-real, simple, and really visual time management concepts that I can’t wait to try incorporating into my current time management techniques. Regards, Jason
Aquariums – firemen – Shiva goddess – frogs: What have they got to do with time management?
I left my day job about four years ago in order to become an independent alternative jeweler. I was designing Gilgulim fabric jewels for about a year before taking this step. I am not sure whether I was aware of the huge transformation that was about to come my way and change my life.
I actually had to learn how to run my life like a baby making his first steps. I had to become, not only the designer but also the CEO of my small enterprise including all aspects: designing, producing, marketing, selling, photographing, writing commercially, dealing with customer service, packing and shipping. Moreover, I had to learn everything about selling on the internet, social media and above all what is Etsy.
Very quickly I figured out that without clear and disciplined time management, my plan to become an independent designer would never materialize. If you wish to learn more about me, have a look at my About Page on Etsy.
I am a great believer in sharing knowledge and therefore I wish to share with you a few of the tools I use in order to handle this challenge.
You are an aquarium designer.
Imagine you had to design an aquarium. First, you would place rocks, then pebbles, sand would come next and then you would pour water and there would still be room for some fish…What would have happened if you poured in the water first? No rocks, pebbles or sand would ever fit in.
Our time management is just like an aquarium.
When you start planning your time table – rocks come first. What is a rock? Pebbles? Sand? Water?
- A rock is any activity which cannot be changed or rescheduled such as a meeting, a doctor’s appointment, picking up the kids from the kindergarten, OR activities you wish to commit yourself to, such as daily designing time, exercising, meal hours, resting or spending time with your family.
- Pebbles might be any regular activity such as changing your Etsy posts, preparing materials, shopping for materials, initiating a new design, packing and posting items or making treasuries.
- Sand is all the bits and pieces of your business, as well as daily routine required of you; shopping for food, washing, arranging your working space, phone calls, Email…You name it!
- And what is water? For me water is to take the cat to the vet, picking up my youngest daughter from the nearby town, preparing a light dinner for my family (we only eat homemade food), calling a sick friend and being active in a women’s peace group as well as running a local group for sustainability and last but not least going for a walk in the woods.
As you can see, all of this is a question of priorities. Each one of us has a different set of priorities, but what we all have in common is the need to be aware of our very personal set of priorities. One must write down the different chores and decide which comes first and what can be postponed or can be spread over an extended period of time.
(Note from Jason: I try to put everything I want to accomplish in a day in a time slot. I make lists and write a number next to them for the order I want to take them on. I try to know the ‘why’ underlying an action I take. I can’t wait to look at my life from this perspective by calling priorities rocks, pebbles, sand, or water. This might help reveal some hours where I’m the most tired are often the most important…family time for me).
Want to learn more about priorities and time swallowers?
You are the master of your time.
I know, with all the unplanned events that always pop up, we cannot always be the masters of our time. These unplanned events will always be a distraction for us, so let us try and control what we can.
Remember, an unplanned day is a lost one.
- The best would be to plan ahead your month, your week and each day of the week. As mentioned before, start by putting in the rocks including holidays, special events and whatever long projects you would like to advance. Schedule your project progress. Schedule EVERYTHING, not only your business time table! Exercise, rest, have time for leisure, for spending with your family and friends as well as anything else that is important for your wellbeing. EVERYTHING is part of your life – not only your business.
- Free your head from all chores on your “to do list”. Make a list of each and every item – big or small. Make a rule not to load your memory but to add every meeting into your timetable, just like as an additional rock in the aquarium. Also, mark down a specific time to call your mother… (I have a weekly reminder to phone my beloved elderly aunt!) Remember that a free mind makes your life less stressful!
- Decide, ahead of time, how many hours you wish to work daily. Being an independent entrepreneur does not mean you are a slave.
Using these rules got my Gilgulim shop to nearly 500 sales on ETSY. Please come visit my shop:
(Note from Jason: This summer, my wife and I took a lot of time to start working on daily schedules. With my transition to being a full-time entrepreneur, my son starting kindergarten, and moving back to Texas – we had enough change going on in our life that we wanted to try to make things more simple in our scheduling. We broke out our waking hours into 15 minute increments and got a rough idea what we would be doing each day of the week.
We set the timer in our kitchen numerous times per day. It reminds us to leave for school. It reminds us its time to start snack time before the kids go to bed. It tells the kids they need to go pick up their room before school. It tells us it is time to turn the kids lights off for bedtime. I know what time I’m going to work out during the week. I know what time I have 30 minutes to veg out on the internet. I know when we leave for church on Sunday morning.
I know you might think I sound crazy, but this type of structure has brought such a peace to our family life, schedules, and household. We say family time is important to us and we try to schedule a 30 minute activity every night. We fail sometimes, but we “make it” a lot more times than we miss it. I know what time my lights have to go out and when I follow that schedule – I’m able to wake up and start my day the right way without getting tired in the afternoon.
Time management is serious stuff. Everyone has to find their way to “do it right”. I focus a lot on this topic, because it is one of the underlying ways you and your business will achieve success or just flounder around for years. I encourage you to focus on your time management – even if it costs you sales in the short-term. Sometimes you have to build good habits before you build a good business.)
You are not a fireman so do not put out fires!
We all have parts of our job which are less liked. I for example, can spend hours designing new jewelry and without having the sense of the passing time. Choosing and combining new materials is a real treat. But cutting and ironing fabrics is plain boring. I used to get to a point where I ran out of fiber beads. I was forced to stand for days cutting and ironing because a peak selling time was coming soon and I was not ready. These cutting days were a nightmare. This is a very good example of putting out fires!
Ever since then, I am no longer a fireman. I decided to stop acting like one. Now, I start everyday by cutting and ironing for half an hour and I never find myself without my basic raw materials again.
I am sure you can identify your fireman behavior in your daily chores and free yourself from this unwelcomed extra pressure.
You are not Shiva the Hindu goddess.
You only have two hands and one brain. Multitasking is not good for you or for your efficiency!
New research proves (as opposed to what used to be a common knowledge for a very long time) that multitasking is not efficient!
– (Pinetribe, The Inefficiency of Multitasking, Angeli Rafer, 20 May 2014,)
Moving from one activity to another requires a sort of resetting of the brain which is time consuming. Design your day according to the different chores:
- Working in your studio
- Phone calls
- Computer tasks such as E-mail, social media, ETSY maintenance and one more tip you probably do not know
- Home maintenance
- Out of home/studio chores- Try to gather a few of these activities or share your
time between in-house and out of the house activities.
Stay away from your phone and PC as long as you work on other components of your activities. Our cell phones beep, ring and announce every action on our social media pages and ETSY shop. This is another distraction we do not need. And YES nothing will happen if you turn off your phone and PC for a few hours a day (including when spending time with your kids or having a conversation with someone).
(Note from Jason: I try to turn off the notifications on my phone. I can run my entire business from my phone at any time, but it doesn’t mean I should. I write my best articles when I close all of my social media tabs and email.)
When you plan your day, plan it by the hour. Have a watch next to you that indicates the time. Once the time for the activity is over, move on to your next activity even if you have not finished the first one.
If you do not time your activities, you do not know how long things really take! At first you will find out that the time you set is either too short or too long. But time and experience will improve your timing.
You are the frog trainer.
FROG activities are done first thing in the morning!
What are FROGS? Whatever we use all our procrastination abilities in order not to face the chore.
I am sure each one of you is familiar (and not keen of) your own ‘frogs’ so make sure to tackle them first thing in the morning!
Make yourself a rule: FROGS activities are done first thing in the morning! And then you are free!
One more thing: If you ask me whether I always manage to implement all these rules, the answer is no. Rules can be broken but at least you are aware of the fact that you have made the decision to break them. Once you have guidelines that you follow which become part of your life, even if you stray away once in a while, you will become a professional, one step at a time.
(Note from Jason: This is sooo good! Just this last weekend, my wife and I had an entire Saturday planned with a date, the kids playing with the grandparents, etc. It all fell through due to unforeseen circumstances. We were bummed! But we spent 15 minutes regrouping and planning out the day while the kids watched a short video. We turned an aimless day into a useful and fun day. We were able to do that, because we practice our time management skills almost every day. Every month we usually tweak things, because things that were working are no longer working like we want them to. If you value something – that value will be shown in how you spend your time. If your time doesn’t look like your values – it’s time to “tweak the schedule”.)
One of the best videos called “procrastination” (one more reason not to get back to work…)
If you are serious about your business, if you wish to learn and become a professional Etsy seller – read Jason Malinak’s article.
Hagar Arnon Elbaz, an Israeli soft jewelry designer. Gilgulim
Final Thoughts from Jason:
I’ve enjoyed getting to know Hagar more and more through our online interactions. A couple of weeks ago we even found ourselves discussing history, culture, religion, school, and life while chatting on Facebook. Relationships matter and help us do better, run better businesses, and make our days happier. Her time management tips have personally helped my business and I hope they have helped yours, too!
Every small business owner needs a community to grow in. I’d be honored if you joined the Thrive community. We’re all at different stages in our business journey, but without a doubt – we are better learning and improving together!
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