How to work on your business – not in it

By Siobhán Doran | Apr 22, 13 07:42 AM

Like many of us, I run a business that inspires and challenges me daily – however, my biggest challenge has always been finding time to work on the business instead of in it.

I think I may have cracked this little conundrum (for now!). Here’s how… 

Spend five minutes knocking out a colour-coded daily schedule 

Every morning I review my diary appointments and ‘to-do’ list. Then I write out my day’s schedule on a simple word document – committing chunks of time to each task. Next, I colour-code each of these activities according to five main areas I work across every single day. Finally, I PDF this document and save it as my desktop image for the day.

This entire process takes no more than five minutes, but it makes my day so much more focused and productive.

The real value however, is that a picture instantly emerges as to how you really spend your time each day – and the analysis and future planning that comes from this is invaluable.

Share, collaborate, co-habit, co-create

Despite getting more work done uninterrupted at home (are you listening Marissa Mayer?), I favour the office hands-down.

I need face-to-face time with people, whether over a workstation divide or formica cafe table. My logic being, you may not remember every email that passes your way, but you remember most coffees or office conversations long after they've taken place.

Given relationships are paramount to good business, 'real life' connections rate so highly - despite daily deadlines and pressures to the contrary. 

Schedule a monthly brainstorm 

Once a month our Accounts Manager and I block out an entire day to focus on strategy and the future direction of the business. It’s only one day a month, but it makes an incredible difference.

The day starts with a bit of a formal review. We go over our 2013 objectives, to check how we’re tracking. This monthly measuring stick helps us to see how we’re going - and how far we’ve come.

Then comes the free-flowing part of the day. It’s great to have the freedom to kick around ideas and test out theories that may not see the light of day. This is how translation services came onto our radar, ‘at the desk’ writing training, and our rewrite package. It all started with ‘hey, what if we did this…?’ 

Without setting aside these eight hours every month, the business just wouldn’t have the space - or the wits about it - to grow.

Pick your formal inspiration fix

As business owners, there are certain networking organisations or advisory groups that we naturally gravitate to. For me, the organisations I regularly spend time with are Business Chicks, Women in Focus and Business Masterminds.  What began as curiosity in each instance has created close friendships and great opportunities. 

A handful of well-chosen networks - that you take time to really commit to on some level - can make all the difference to you and your business. 

Reward Yourself

We're (okay I'm...) still mastering this one - but when we get a significant win or complete a complex project, we always try to celebrate. Generally this is enjoyed as some time off work, an unexpected treat, or time to relax in some way. This offering isn’t entirely altruistic – we all know the best business ideas come when you’re not thinking about work. Even our downtime has a hidden agenda...

Hopefully these tips will help fellow business owners who want to integrate working on their business more into their everyday routine. Thank goodness for hard-working businesses everywhere, that from little things, big things grow.

This article was first published on The Writers’ Group blog:

Siobhán is a Premium member of Business Chicks, request her online business card and connect with her here. 

Siobhán Doran is Director of The Writers’ Group, a corporate copywriting and content writing business based in Sydney, Australia. Siobhán and a team of journalists, marketing specialists, and content writers draft content and copy for organisations across a range of industries. You can find out more at:



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