There’s a lot of talk on the internet these days about living the laptop lifestyle. Online fitness coaches are posting pictures of their poolside “offices”, bragging that they only work a few hours a week while still earning more than enough to support their lifestyles. Moreover, the rise in “Life Hack” articles, and books like The Four Hour Work Week, make the idea of cutting back your work schedule even more enticing.
But maybe you don’t want to run your business from the beach. Maybe your dream schedule involves a normal work week with two or three week-long vacations scattered throughout the year. Maybe you want to have evenings at home to spend with your family, or simply to be able to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee in peaceful solitude before beginning the day.
But when you’re with clients 20, 30, maybe even 40 hours a week – all while trying to work on growing your business – optimizing your schedule might seem impossible. But whatever your dream work schedule may look like, it is entirely within your capacity to make it a reality. Ready to find out how?
Step 1: Get clear on what your dream work schedule looks like.
Do you dream of living the laptop lifestyle while traveling the world and coaching your clients from the lobby of swanky hotels? If so, great. If not, that’s cool too. Far too often we get pulled into working towards someone else’s dream. Living in the age of social media, we are constantly being bombarded with messages about the best ways to live our lives. And we might start working towards them without considering whether or not we actually want that kind of lifestyle.
So before you rush off to figure out how to run your coaching business from the other side of the world, consider the following things:
- In your dream schedule, what time are you waking up at each morning? What time are you going to bed at?
- How many days are you working each week? How many hours are you working on those days?
- Are you working with clients in-person, online, not at all, or a combination of the above?
- What are you doing with your free time?
- How much vacation time are you taking during the year?
Write down your answers, and don’t be shy! If you only want to work 10 hours each week, admit that to yourself. Similarly, if you genuinely want to work 40 hours every week, say so! Review your answers and see how they make you feel. If you feel a sense of constriction, go back to the drawing board and try again. If you feel excited, move onto Step 2.
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Step 2: Get clear on your “why”.
You’ve probably walked your clients through defining their “whys” when they started working with you, but have you gone through this process yourself? Having a clear understanding as to why you want to make this dream schedule your reality is essential. In order to make it happen, you’re probably going to have to set some boundaries, have some difficult conversations, and do some extra work upfront. However, having a clearly defined “why” will help you power through the more challenging moments.
What’s the real reason you want this work schedule? Likely, it’s actually not because you want to work fewer hours or sleep in past 4am…it’s what those circumstances allow you to do that you’re desiring. WiIll working fewer hours mean you’ll be able to spend more time with your family? Does three days off per week free up time to work on a passion project? Would sleeping in past 4am help you feel more recharged and invigorated?
Get extra clear on why this work schedule is important to you, and find ways to remind yourself of this importance! I’m all for making vision boards, but if that’s not your thing, you could simply make a picture that reminds you of your “why” the background of your phone or computer. Once you’ve got your reminder in place, proceed to Step 3.
Step 3: Streamline your systems and processes.
Before you tell your clients they can no longer train with you on Mondays and Fridays or before you make the announcement that you’re no longer working with clients in person, get yourself organized. If the foundation of your business is a mess, it won’t matter how many extra hours you give yourself in a week; you’ll still feel like you’re always one step behind.
Make a list of all the things you do during your work week. Include all of your work schedule (client work, travel between clients, administrative work, sales and marketing activities, etc). Give a rough estimate as to how much of your time each of these activities takes. If you want to take this one step further, track your time for an entire week for a more accurate look.
It’s important to be honest with yourself here. Are you really spending an hour working on programs? Or does it become 90 minutes because you’re getting distracted by your phone? Do you have downtime during the day where you chat with your colleagues when you could be catching up on administrative tasks?
Once you’ve got an idea of what you do each week and how long it takes you, seek out the inefficiencies. How can you cut down the time of some of these tasks? Can you batch your content creation or program writing? Can you respond to emails when you’ve got a 15-minute break between clients? Automating your fitness business will help cut back some time.
Taking it a step further, can you find tasks that can be delegated? If you’re spending hours each month trying to stay on top of your accounting, can you hire an accountant? Could a virtual assistant help with your social media management for a few hours each week? Or even better…can you find tasks that could be completely eliminated? It’s easy to get caught up in “busywork” that feels productive, but isn’t actually necessary. I’m looking at you, website tweaks.
Once you’ve cleaned up your business, you can progress to Step 4.
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Step 4: Begin introducing your schedule changes to those who will be impacted by them.
Depending on the changes you’re making, this is where the challenging work may begin. You might need to tell long-time clients their training time is changing, or that you are only offering semi-private training moving forward.
When you’re having these conversations, it’s important to reiterate how these changes will impact them, and what the benefit is for them. If you have a strong relationship with your clients, they’ll likely be happy you’ve decided to make life a little easier for yourself by no longer working 50+ hours each week. But they’ll also be wondering what’s in it for them.
Being selective about how you choose to communicate these changes can make all the difference. Letting a client know they’re losing their current training day but will be given first priority for their chosen time slot on the remaining available days will reinforce how important to you they are. Letting them know semi-private training will allow for greater accountability, a smaller financial investment, and the same level of coaching can also make the switch seem more enticing.
During these conversations, it’s important to stay rooted in your “why”. You might get some pushback from your clients, understandably so. People don’t always like change. It’s important you stand your ground as firmly as possible, as gently as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of giving into what your clients want (which can mean catering to many different wants, depending on how many clients you have), leaving you feeling resentful in the future.
Once you’ve worked through the challenges of Step 4, it’s time to wrap it up with Step 5.
Step 5: Reevaluate.
Test out your new work schedule for a few months. Assess your energy levels, your mood, and your passion for your work. What’s working? What’s not? What needs a slight adjustment? This is a short and simple step that can easily be accomplished with a little self check-in. Make a habit of asking yourself on a regular basis “how am I feeling about my work?”. Depending on the answer, you might be able to continue operations as they are, or you may find you need to return back to Step 1.
Making big changes in your work schedule can take time. It’s not an overnight shift, as many online entrepreneurs leave you to believe. Give yourself time and space to make these adjustments, and maintain a sense of gratitude for the things that are working well within your schedule in the process.