How do you make the most of your time? What are the best ways to save time and get more done? I regularly challenge myself to see how I can make the best use of the 5 or so hours I have available on a typical workday. I often review my schedule, rearrange a few things and try different methods. I’m always interested to hear what others are doing and what works for them.
Here are a few ideas that I have read or heard about and examples of what I have found works for me that you might like to try:
1. Dedicate an entire day to one specific action. Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Work Week says that this is one of his keys to success. He avoids breaking up days into tasks. For example, Monday is for going through emails, Tuesday is research and writing for new products and so on. This way, he can focus on one particular task per day and improve his performance on each task.
2. Allocate blocks of time to selected tasks. Similar to Tim Ferriss, I have found that it is best not to break up the day too much. However, it’s not always possible to devote an entire day to one task. Larger blocks of time will accomplish more. A couple of hours a day dedicated to one task twice a week is more effective than four 30 minute sessions a week.
3. Never break away to answer the phone or read an email. If you’re working on a task and are distracted, it takes about 20 minutes to get back to where you left off.
4. Spend a day alone, away from customers and clients. Commit one day per week on a regular basis to work on your business. This can consist of record keeping, scheduling, managing emails, writing articles, ezine creation, blog posts, business training/learning new skills or product creation and using your expertise to create alternate streams of income. When done on a regular basis you have plans in place, no lost time looking for documents and ongoing business building activities.
And last but not least…
5. Schedule in an appointment with yourself. My yoga instructor told me about a colleague of hers, an alternative health care practitioner, who schedules in a fake client each week. Her fake client is actually her ‘me’ time and she finds that she must schedule this time in order for it to happen. And as far as her assistant knows, she is booked and will not take any other clients during that time slot. Don’t just value yourself by what you’re doing. Take the time to recharge and take care of yourself.
To build a strong business and truly achieve success there’s no need to rush around feeling stressed. Your time is the most important resource you have. Just manage your time well, don’t become addicted to ‘doing’ and take time for yourself.
What time saving steps do you take to get more done and stay on track?
One of the most common challenges I hear from small business owners is that they do not have enough time to focus on what’s really important in their business. In order to solve this problem you first have to determine why this is a challenge. Once this is clear, you can look at strategies to help you manage the little things better and free up more time for what’s important.
What’s important is unique to each business and is usually related directly to the core business activity and why the business owner started the business in the first place. Personal satisfaction and achievement, pride in the job and a flexible lifestyle are generally valued higher than wealth creation.
Here are the top 7 reasons you don’t have time for what’s important:
1. You are spending too much time on “X” – Replace “X” with one of your top time wasters. What is it that you always seem to get stuck on for hours at a time? 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.
2. You don’t follow a schedule – If you start your day by sitting down at your desk wondering what you will do today, you will not be productive and likely not accomplish anything important. End your day by creating a to-do list for the next day. You will have focus and know what needs to be done.
3. You have too many clients/commitments – This seems like a good problem to have, however, it’s better to have fewer clients that get your full attention than more than you can handle. With too many commitments the quality of your work can suffer along with your good reputation.
4. You have trouble saying “no” – Make it a rule to never promise what you can’t deliver. This means sometimes having to say “no”. Your clients, family and friends will respect you for your honesty and will trust your word.
5. You are unorganized – Your work area is a disaster zone. Papers strewn across your desk, no set schedule and you’ve misplaced your day timer. Before you jump into your work day, take 15 minutes to clear your desk and clear your mind saving you more than the 15 minutes you invested.
6. You have bad habits – You know what you’re doing wrong and you know how to correct it but you’re stuck in the habit. I’m sure you’ve heard the quote by Tony Robbins, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Start by replacing one bad habit with a good habit.
7. You need help – You are doing everything ‘right’, the problem is that your business has grown to the point that you cannot continue to do it all and still maintain your high standards. You’ve heard about outsourcing and are ready to look into this further.
Identify what challenge has the highest impact on your time and then focus 100% of your effort on that one thing. To make the change successful, keep it simple and do not overwhelm yourself. A change will do you good!
A maze puzzle is symbolic to taking our businesses on the path to reaching goals. From start (building), there is no direct route (growing) to finish (your goals) but rather twists and turns and some backtracking along the way. Your schedule is like your plan through that maze. When you take the time to contemplate your route and map it out, you get through your ‘maze’ with less backtracking. It’s easier to stay on course and reach your goals with that plan.
To help you apply this approach you must divide up your time into 5 main areas when organizing your schedule. Here is the list and some of the items that fall under each category:
1. Client Work – or the area in which you perform your revenue generating activities. If yours is not a service business, this area may be Product Sales for example.
2. Business Development - time spent working on your website, preparing marketing materials, proposals, making phone calls, correspondence, attending networking events, planning, meetings, reading/audio/video (resources for business/training), writing (articles, submissions, ezine, blog), social media activity, participating in forums.
3. Home Office – tracking business expenses, filing, invoicing, record keeping, managing emails, scheduling.
4. Personal – build this into your day to remind you to break away from work, to eat lunch or go for a walk with friends.
5. Family – spending time with kids, pets and family activities. This usually comes only at the beginning or end of my work day, but I like to have it showing on my schedule.
How you divide up your time will vary from person to person, but it’s important to assign time to each category throughout the week and work with it until you find a good balance. If you neglect one area the others will suffer. Revenue generating activities have to be consistent obviously, as well as Personal and Family time, but don’t neglect Business Development and Home Office time. You have to incorporate these areas into your week in order to effectively grow your business and prosper.
And if you don’t want to make the time because you dislike these tasks and would rather be doing what you’re good at or taking some more personal and family time, then outsource. Most of the tasks that fall under Business Development and Home Office can be managed by a Virtual Assistant (VA). You don’t have to do it all yourself. Like the saying goes, “Do what you do best, then hire out the rest”.
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!
Giving yourself a break is not a waste of time. Studies have shown that your mind and body benefit from taking a break. How?
- You can help to avoid computer related RSI’s (Repetitive Strain Injuries), including eye strain & headaches.
- Your productivity and mental alertness will increase.
- It helps you relax and brings clarity to your thoughts.
Regular rest breaks can be 5 minutes every hour, or longer and less frequent i.e. mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon. Whatever schedule you choose, however, it can be a challenge to remember.
Here are 3 break reminder methods to choose from:
1. Schedule it. The easiest way is to schedule it into your day. I use an Excel spreadsheet to plan my week using a colour coded system. Sky blue indicates "personal time" for me which includes lunch because sometimes we ‘forget’ to eat. I use a template so it doesn’t vary much from day to day and once breaks become routine, it’s easier.
2. Set a timer. Another simple way is to set a clock or timer. I like Online Stopwatch which has a countdown timer you can set. (Make sure your speakers are on for the alarm.) It also works great when you want to work on a project for a fixed amount of time without going over. You would be surprised how fast time flies! There are other freeware programs you can download and set to interrupt you at various intervals. Google ‘break reminder program’ for several options.
3. The buddy system. Another way to remember is to use the "buddy system". Have a friend call or meet with you for a walk and a chat. When you are depending on each other you will be more likely be comply.
Whether you commit to walking, meditating, reading or getting together with a friend, don’t wait to start the habit of giving yourself a break and enjoy the benefits of a healthier, happier more productive you!
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!