timebucketsThis article originally appeared on LinkedIn here.

All right-brain entrepreneurs struggle with time management. However, it’s important to pay attention to each of the time buckets that are required to maintain a healthy business and lifestyle.

Time buckets are the allocated timeframes that you spend doing certain everyday things and they may vary slightly depending on your business or the events in your life. For most of the clients I coach, here are the buckets we use, in priority order:

  1. Sleep and Recuperation Time – This time is required for you to be healthy, alert, functional and attentive in all other areas. This bucket is the highest priority because it is important for effective productivity in all other areas. Science recommends 7-8 hours of sleep per night for a healthy lifestyle. If your schedule permits, you may even want to include naps in this bucket because of the many benefits it offers, including reduced fatigue and increased alertness. How many hours a day or week do you allocate to sleep and recuperation?
  2. Self-Care and Regeneration Time – Whether you use this time to meditate, do yoga, run, get a massage, go for a hike, read a book or just “be,” this bucket is often the most overlooked.. This time bucket is required for you to feel good and stay sane, centered, focused and healthy. Jeannette Bitz, the CEO of Engage, a public relations firm in the San Francisco Bay Area, recently took up ballroom dancing at Arthur Murray to reduce stress and improve fitness and now spends 5 hours per week on this activity. How many hours a day or week do you allocate for self-care and regeneration?
  3. Vacation Time – After sleep and self-care, vacation is the next most important bucket of time for a business owner. By taking vacation, you are forced to be more efficient and structure the business to run when you aren’t there. The distance and shift in perspective that vacations provide often generate breakthrough business ideas and strategic insights that are impossible to see when you are immersed in day-to-day operations. I take eight weeks of vacation a year and I recommend four to six weeks for any business owner. How much time do you allocate for vacation? If your answer is none or too little, then schedule at least one week away from the office within the next three months – right now! Put it on your schedule and honor it.

    Notice that the top three priorities center around you. You have to put yourself first, just like you would put an oxygen mask on yourself before you can truly assist others.

  4. Family, Friends and Social Time – Many clients are surprised that family, friends and social time is prioritized before work because they typically fit this time in whenever there’s time leftover. Often, they hire me to help them find a new balance because their friends and family are already feeling neglected. Ask yourself, why are you working? If your answer doesn’t involve enjoying a great life that includes spending time with the people you love, then I would coach you to reassess your priorities. How many hours per week do you set aside for family, friends and social activities?
  5. Strategy Time – This is often another overlooked priority for business owners. If you want your business to grow or adapt to changing market conditions, strategy time is essential. This involves deeply assessing situations and coming up with creative solutions. What most entrepreneurs don’t know is how little strategy time is necessary to be effective. I recommend 1-2 hours per week (many of my clients use our weekly one-hour coaching session as their strategy time) with a structure for using this time effectively. A good rule of thumb during strategy time is to reflect on what is working, what’s not working, what you need to do about it, and what the business really needs. If you spend time doing this every week, your business will enjoy years of healthy, managed growth. How much time do you allocate for strategy?
  6. Business Development Time – Avoid the “chasing the tail” syndrome of focusing on landing new business when you’re not busy with client work – this results in gaps in cash flow and could significantly increase your stress-level. It’s important to allocate sufficient time daily or weekly to speaking with potential clients and developing marketing materials and campaigns that attract new business to you. Notice that I listed this bucket as a priority before client work, because it focuses on the future health and longevity of your business. For most business owners, I recommend 2-5 hours per week on business development. How much time do you allocate for business development?
  7. Business Administration Time – Many right-brain entrepreneurs avoid this part of the business like the plague, only paying attention when billing is behind or when a human resources crisis pops up. Attention to administration ensures you can keep the business humming along. Neglect in this area almost always ends up in a crisis of sorts. Avoid “managing” by crisis by allocating enough time to administer your business properly. The average for solopreneurs should be 1-2 hours per week. For small businesses of 2-10 people, I have noticed 3-6 hours as an average. How much time do you allocate for business administration?
  8. Client Service Time – This is usually the largest bucket of time for most entrepreneurs I know, and it should be, however, too much time is often allotted to this bucket. If you’re spending too much time serving clients, you may want to look at increasing your fees. Regardless, this time is essential to keep your business running and your clients happy. Be sure to spend a sufficient amount of time to honor all of your commitments to clients. For most entrepreneurs, this bucket is 25-35 hours per week. However, many entrepreneurs report 50-60 hours per week in this bucket, which is unsustainable and a threat to personal health and business survival. How much time do you allocate to client service?

The real benefit of allocating time is to ensure that you approach your work and life with a balanced perspective.

Neglecting any of these time buckets will result in stress and could become a threat to your business. So choose what to spend time on carefully and try to honor each of these time buckets as you spend time running your business. Most importantly, allocate time so that you can enjoy what you do and the life you live.

Remember, time is the only resource that is not renewable! Be sure to spend yours well.