If you live in a climate with long, cold winters, then you know all about the February Blues or ‘Blahs’. It’s the time of year when we’ve had enough of hibernating inside away from the cold and often dreary outdoors, short days and lack of sunshine. As solopreneurs we spend a lot of time on our own as it is and we still have a ways to go before spring arrives.
Here are some things you can do to combat the blues:
- If a tropical trip away this season isn’t in the budget, how about a weekend retreat at a local B & B? Or book your summer holidays now. Grab your calendar and block off a week long getaway. It’s not too early to book. In fact now is a good time to get your preferred week booked before others grab your spot. It helps to have something to look forward to. And as a small business owner, it’s a good idea to plan vacation time well in advance and arrange for backup if needed.
- Sign up for a fitness class. The new schedules are all out for the upcoming programs. Whether you practice yoga or prefer a cardio workout, physical activity is a proven way to lift your mood. If it’s good for your mind, it’s good for your business. I’m a big fan of yoga. It’s all about slowing down, calming the mind and body, and restoring balance. With a clear mind you’re more focused to carry out your plans.
- Rather than hibernating this winter, experience some of what the season has to offer. February is the month of winter festivals and every weekend seems to be full of activities.
- Start your office spring cleaning early. Take a few minutes at the start of every day to go thru one drawer, one shelf or several file folders. If you’re consistent, you’ll have a fresh desk just in time for spring. Potted tulips and hyacinth are starting to appear in the stores. A pot on your organized desk is sure to inspire some creativity.
- Learn something new. The spring course books are teeming with special interest and business courses. If you have always wanted to try out a new hobby or learn a new skill to expand your business offerings, now is a good time before the good weather arrives. Classes get you out amongst others with similar interests and as a side benefit, offers up new networking opportunities.
Make the most of the tail end of winter. It is a prime time to take the initiative and do things you otherwise don’t get an opportunity to do! When spring has sprung you’ll be ready to enjoy it.
As a small business owner there is usually one activity that you find you are spending (or wasting) too much time on. This activity is probably a necessary part of your business, however, it is preventing you from getting to the really important stuff.
What is your top time waster? What is it that you always seem to get stuck on for hours at a time? This is probably an easy question to answer and with a little work can be just as easy to resolve.
Here are 3 simple ways that will help you gain control over your biggest time wasters:
1. Use templates whenever possible. For important but often repetitive tasks like replying to email inquiries or submitting proposals, create and save templates that can be used over and over and modified when needed.
For Email Management: Do you get a number of similar email inquiries often? You can save templates with generic responses to frequently asked questions and modify your reply to suit each inquiry. Templates can be saved in your email ‘Draft’ folder and copied and pasted into a new reply. Or create a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page on your website. This may prevent you from receiving alot of the same inquiries in the first place or you can direct the inquiries to this page if the answer to their specific question is contained within the list.
For Proposals: You have probably thought about doing this but perhaps you are always in a rush to get that proposal out and haven’t had time to create templates for this purpose. Take an afternoon and pull up your most recent proposals. Group similar proposals together and create a template for each main category. Next time you need to put together a proposal, grab the related template and you’re off to the races. No more sorting through old emails or Word documents. Just pull up the appropriate template and modify where needed. The time you spent putting your templates together will be gained back many times. Remember to keep your templates up to date with pricing or policy changes.
2. Set a timer for anything you find you get wrapped up in. When you work from home away from outside distractions it is easy to get so involved in an activity that you lose all sense of time. Even knowing that the timer is ticking in the background keeps you more aware.
For Social Networking: You know you need to be ‘out there’ and social networking plays a big role, but it doesn’t have to be all consuming either. Limit yourself to 30 minutes once or twice a day. As an example, when used as a business tool, your daily Facebook activity should include a quick check in of notifications, requests, your inbox, activities of friends and status updates. Add comments to showcase your expertise. Be consistent. It’s too hard to try to catch up if you haven’t signed on for days or more.
For Research: There is so much information out there and when we are conducting research on a topic one thing leads to another and another. So before you even begin, narrow down your topic and focus so you only collect the most relevant information. Have an organized way of collecting and documenting the information and sources so you don’t have to visit a website more than once. Have a goal around how many pieces of information you need and once you’ve reached it, stop.
3. Be realistic, avoid perfectionism. I’ve said this before but it’s a favourite quote of mine and a good reminder – Aim for completion, not perfection.
With projects: Yes, we want to make sure ‘i’s are dotted and ‘t’s are crossed, however, I believe perfectionism is an impossible goal and when we aim for it, then a task can never be complete.
With procrastination: Is perfectionism your excuse to delay the start of a project until the time is ‘just right’ or you have all the information you need? Don’t let unreasonably high standards prevent you from realizing a goal.
Try one or two of the above suggestions and gain back control over your time. Yes, you can have more time in a day!