September is about new beginnings – back to school, back to work and new routines. In North America, September always seems to be the unofficial new year. As we leave behind the fun and frolic of summer and refocus on our businesses, it’s likely time to revise our schedules as well. So here’s to fresh starts as we talk about how to set up a weekly plan and make the best use of our time.
You may refer to a schedule as an agenda, timetable, calendar, plan or to-do list. Whatever you call it, if you don’t have one, I encourage you to create and follow one. Why?
• with a schedule you have a place to put your to-do’s. Rather than having a loose idea in your mind of what needs to be done, a schedule gets your list out of your head and gives you a solid guide to follow.
• your schedule organizes your work day so that one task flows into the next almost effortlessly. No more scattered thinking, scrambling to make sure you get everything done before running out of time or forgetting something.
• it is an effective planning tool. Once you have your tasks plotted you will have a visual of what your week looks like. For example, you may see that you have a block of time available each week that will allow you to take on another client. Or perhaps you will realize that you’ve taken on too much and will have to scale back in one area.
Having your days planned out is so important to your business. It has a positive effect on your state of mind, your productivity and in turn your bottom line. Since I started using a schedule it has made a huge difference in my workdays. It is a simple system to get your office back on track. It is easy to set up and maintain and no costly equipment or supplies are needed.
So let’s get started! Grab a pen and paper or create a document on your computer.
Here are the 5 simple steps:
1. Determine your hours and days of work and draw a chart in the form of a table with days of the week across the top and hours of the day down the left side. It’s important to set boundaries as to when you’re available and to let your clients know how and when they can contact you. If this is your own business, you get to make up whatever works for you and makes sense for your industry. If you’re just starting out it’s tempting to announce that you are available 24/7 in order to get clients. That can actually be bad for business. Only promise what you can deliver. You probably don’t want be ‘on call’ when you’re sleeping or with family!
2. Divide your activities into any number of manageable categories. For example, as a home-based service business my main categories are Client Work, Business Development, Home Office, Personal and Family. For easy reference, colour-code each category.
3. List what items fall under each category. For instance, under Client Work list who your clients are, under Business Development list what networking events you attend and for Home Office list tasks such as tracking business expenses.
4. Block off times for each category. It has been said that we overestimate what we can do in a day. Remember that your daily tasks will typically take longer than expected so be generous with the time you assign to each category and each task. (The good news is that we underestimate what we can do in a year so plan big for that!)
5. Now you have your template. Fill in the blanks with your to-do’s and you’re off to the races.
Modify your schedule as needed. It can take many tries and tweaks before you find what works for you and it will change as your business evolves. I challenge you to create a schedule and use it for a month and see the positive difference it makes in your business. I’d love to hear what you come up with!
Designated home office and business development time are essential for the small business owner. This is the time you can concentrate on your business – plan for the week ahead, learn new skills or software and in effect allow you to serve your clients better and run your business more efficiently and profitably.
If you’re feeling stuck in your business then this may just be the solution to help you build or expand your business and prosper.
Try blocking out a half-an-hour a day, consistently, and focus that time only on home office and business development tasks. If you work better with larger chunks of time, then dedicate one afternoon a week to this purpose instead. Or if you can, do both!
Can’t afford the time? You can’t afford not to. We spend most of our time serving clients and often forget that our business needs us too in order to thrive and grow.
Here are 3 reasons why you need this time and suggestions of things you can do in the allotted time to achieve the benefits:
1. Accomplish more. To enable you to run your business more efficiently, plan for the week ahead. Clear your head of your tasks by putting them all down on paper where you can examine them. Create a daily schedule by marking off blocks of time in your day planner or create your own calendar and customize as you go. Tasks always take longer than expected so plan for this. When you have a realistic plan to follow for your day you can focus on the task at hand without being distracted. Remember to schedule in your home office and business development time! Cross things off your list as you go.
2. Enjoy less chaos. Gradually go through your piles of papers and either recycle/shred, file or take action as necessary. Maintain your business expenses on a daily or weekly basis. Whether you use a simple excel spreadsheet or keep track of your records with accounting software, there will be fewer headaches for you and/or your accountant at tax time if your records are well documented. Take inventory and order any office supplies you are low on. Toss out pens that don’t work and sharpen pencils. When things flow in your office, so does your business.
3. Serve your clients better and attract new business. Learn a new skill that will enhance your offerings. By being proactive and optimizing the use of technology you are providing more value to your clients. Utilize new software that will make things easier for you in your business too. Technology is constantly changing and it will keep you up to speed with your competition. There are many web-based training courses that you can attend from the comfort of your home.
This is pretty basic stuff but if you begin doing this in your business, it’s a good start. Often we need to get back on track in order to move ahead. Try it and let me know how it works for you!