Ask a business consultant about finding the right balance between time for new business development and getting client work done, and you’ll likely get an earful on time management and setting priorities. Those skills are certainly important, and many of us could use some brushing up from time to time, but chances are if you made it through high school, college, and have held a job or run your own successful business, you’re able to manage your time and set priorities just fine.

What I am talking about is the ability to work smart—the ability to optimize your time, attention, and the efficacy of what you do for current clients—so that you start to “find” time in your days to focus on growing your own business, and to do so without stress and feeling overwhelmed.

It’s easier said than done.

First, what’s the right balance?

“Balance” suggests a 50/50 split, meaning you work half your time on new business and half your time on work for current clients, sort of a “one banana for me, one banana for you” mindset. But is that really balance? It depends. What if your immediate business need is getting some client work done? If so, more than likely you’ll benefit from tipping the scales of balance in that direction, at least for a while.

Your definition of balance will likely differ from mine, and it might change frequently, sometimes from week to week (or even day to day), depending on current business needs. For example, maybe you achieve balance by dedicating 30% of what you do to new business growth and 70% to current client projects, while I’m more of a 60% new business 40% client work sort of guy. Or maybe this is the week you hunker down and get lots of tactical work done, checking item after item off your client “to-do” list. Or maybe this is the week you make that round of cold calls you’ve been putting off, or spend time online doing research, research, research! Or maybe it’s a little bit of both, as you make incremental progress each day. It’s totally up to you and how you work best.

The key to balance (however you define it) is to be flexible and adaptable.

Schedule time on your calendar for each type of activity. Just as you block off time for a client call or to work on a client project, set aside time to pursue new business activities and make it sacred, untouchable. You may not feel the instant gratification of earning a wage as you do so, but trust me, keeping the new client pipeline well oiled is often times as good as getting paid.

Avoid filling your days with “busy work” and administrative chores that make you feel good (as though you’re making progress) but in reality detract from focus on new business development and delivering results for current clients.

Ideally, you want to avoid those intense periods of overwhelm getting client work done (imagine a hamster and its little metal wheel spinning so fast it’s a blur!) such that you can’t focus on any new business and new leads. Similarly, you want to avoid those times when you are so focused on new business that you stress about paying the bills and keeping current clients happy.

How do you define balance between growth-related activities and getting client work done in your business? Share you stories here.