Time management

5 ways to create space for grace in your business

- March 20, 2023 4 MIN READ
Young man in fashion boutique looking at watch

In a former life, I worshipped at the altar of extreme productivity. No to-do list was too long, no promise was too unrealistic. If I said I was going to do something by a certain date/time, I’d make it happen. I prided myself on the sheer volume of work I could get through every single day, writes former Flying Solo editor, Kelly Exeter.

Today, I’m a recovering extreme productivity-ist. And ‘today me’ can see the obvious problems with the approach above. One is the ever-present risk of burning out. Another is the fact that operating at that level tends to make you a really unpleasant person to be around.

No space for grace

When every one of my days was scheduled down to the minute in order to extract maximum productivity from them, there was no room for the unexpected:

  • No room for a staff member to need extra input into a problem they were having.
  • No room for a client meeting to have more questions than I had time for.
  • No room for someone failing to do something in the timeframe they promised me.

When the unexpected happened, I got angry and snappy. I took it personally. Why are all these people getting in the way of me doing what I need to get done? I thought. I’m organised! Why can’t they be!

Both my business and personal relationships were suffering because there was no space for grace in my days.

I struggled to give people the benefit of the doubt. I refused to accept that unexpected things could and would happen. And I demonstrated poor emotional control in challenging situations.

Having the capacity to act graciously in the face of frustration makes us nicer people to be around and facilitates the building and nurturing of all those important relationships that make our business better.

Man looking content sitting at desk with hands behind head

How do you make more space for grace in your business?

Here are five places you can start.

1. Recognise the need for space

Before you can take any meaningful action in this regard, you have to recognise you’re in a place where it’s needed. If you’re finding yourself to be consistently snappy and frustrated with everyone around you, this is a pretty sure sign.

2. Make realistic to-do lists

If your to-do list is heaving, and your patience for anyone or anything that gets in the way of you crossing things off is zero, then the chances are your to-do list is unrealistic.

Unrealistic to-do lists are usually a by-product of making promises (either to yourself or others) that put you under an unreasonable amount of pressure. If you have difficulty being realistic, start adding a day or two to any self-imposed deadlines or promises you make to clients. If you deliver quicker than you promised – great! But if you get caught by other matters and you don’t get the task done until the time you promised … you won’t feel the fury you’re feeling right now because other people are getting in the way of your ability to hit your targets.

3. Schedule white space into each day

It’s so easy to schedule appointments back-to-back on the assumption nothing will run overtime and because you consider gaps between appointments to be ‘dead space’. But even when things don’t run over time, going straight from one appointment or task to another is mentally exhausting. You never quite get to process something before you’ve moved on to the next. And you’re never getting any downtime in your days.

Deliberately scheduling buffer time between appointments or big tasks gives your brain a chance to refresh, recharge and switch gears effectively. That buffer time also comes in useful when something unexpectedly bleeds from one timeslot into the next. When there is room for bleed, one unexpected event can’t derail your entire day.

4. Practice mindfulness

Whenever the word ‘mindfulness’ is mentioned in a business setting, it usually elicits a rolled eye or two. But whether you realise it or not, you’re already practising mindfulness each day. Take note of your behaviour the next time you feel overwhelmed. Chances are you would sit back in your chair, breathe in, and then let out a big sigh. That’s a moment of mindfulness right there without even intending it to be.

But what if you did bring a little more intention to inserting mindfulness into your day? What would that look like?

When you catch yourself letting out a big sigh, you could tack on a simple breathing exercise:

  1. Breathe in, counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
  2. Hold your breath for four seconds – try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for four seconds.
  3. Slowly exhale through your mouth for four seconds.
  4. Repeat steps one to three until you feel re-centered.

When you make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, instead of drinking it while doing something else, take a couple of minutes to do one thing – just sip/drink.

Speaking of one thing, allowing yourself to focus on a single task at a time (rather than switching between email/phone notifications/phone calls and the task you are doing) is another simple but practical way to bring mindfulness into your workday.

Sprinkling these little moments throughout your day with intention will lower your overall stress levels and ensure you have a better capacity to manage contingencies with good grace.

5. Choose to respond rather than react

When we react to situations, we act quickly, and often thoughtlessly in the moment. Reacting to things is often emotionally driven, and few of us communicate well when we’re caught up in emotion. Reacting also usually creates more problems than it solves.

Responding rather than reacting might take a little bit more energy and self-control upfront, but it saves a lot of energy further down the track.

Brad Sugars said: “Business is all about relationships … how well you build them determines how well they build your business.”

When we make space for grace in our business life, we improve the relationships we have with everyone we come into contact with. This doesn’t just make us nicer people to be around, it ensures we’re building a great business too.


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Now read this:

10 unproductive work habits to stop right now

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