I used to think that I was good at time management. Lately, I've started to rethink that, not because I'm not getting things done but it just seems to take so much longer. Now, that could be because I'm getting older, I'm not sure. To settle this conundrum I've been researching ideas and techniques to improve my throughput. Some of things I've worked on are included in the Inc.com article, 8 Things Really Efficient People Do by Kevin Daum.
On the surface all seem reasonable to accomplish. I think that for many, and myself in the beginning, delegation is/was a bit challenging. Delegating was hard, until I found the right person. I think that is that key, having the right people in the right roles. This makes delegating easier when you have confidence to empower your team. Finding the right person may take some time but once you have them, you wonder what took you so long.
One technique that I don't do often enough is to time my activities every so often. As factors change, it is good to have new benchmarks. Obvious right? The task that took you 2 hours the first time you did it, takes less than that the 100th time you do it yet you probably are still measuring from the very first time.
It's a new year and many are making resolutions, plans and priorities. Getting organized, being productive often is at the top of the list, of work priorities that is. Admittedly, I think about it too at the turn of the year. I like the sense of accomplishment that comes from a clear inbox and an empty to-do list. The little sense of victory as I eagerly check the box next to each item and see that list dwindle to nothing. However, sometimes it so dang hard to get there. It seems like that list just gets longer and longer. The mixture of fun, must-do and not-so-fun tasks all screaming for attention. There are so many suggestions, processes and theories around to tackle, conquer and tame the list. I've even attempted to share/inspire you to success with a suggestion or two of my own.
Today, as I read Kathleen Davis' article "11 Expert Tips to Help You Be More Productive in 2014" on FastCompany.com, it got me to thinking about what has worked, or didn't work for me over the past year - both personally and professionally. For my best results, I have to work within my personal productivity times. I'm a morning person, that is the best time for me to write and plan. It's the time when my creative juices run strong. I need to harness it all before 11 am. That's not a problem for me as I rise early. My father used to tease me about the number of things I get done between 6 am and 11 am vs. the rest of the day. However, there is one thing that I don't seem to do well at the beginning of the day - code. I mean the totally-geeky-its-so-cool type of coding. That seems to work best after hours when there is no sun tempting me to come out and play, little-to-no chance of client calls to happily distract me and no meetings to dream/discuss the future. Coding, especially after dinner is my personal productive coding sweet spot. I don't know why, but I'm not knocking it.
At the end of the day, it is important to know yourself and what works best for you. Experts, and non-experts, can give you advice but you have to piece together what fits your world - life, work, passion, situation. There is one thing that is clear, multi-tasking doesn't cut it. Chunk up your time, assign a task to that time and run with it. You'd be surprised how much you can get done. There's a saying about not pleasing everyone all the time, well you can't do everything all the time either. That was a hard one for me to swallow and there are still some days when I try to do it all - all at the same time.
I've got to run, the "write blog" time chunk has ended.
Admitting you need help is sometimes the hardest thing to do, not to mention admitting you need help to grow your business. This article from Entrepreneur.com, The Cold, Hard Facts About Hiring includes the Infographic below that highlights the reasons why you want to hire help. The biggest reason stated right at the top More Employees = More Growth.
Lately, I have been changing my routines to make myself more productive and smarter working. To do this, I'd begun having coffee in another part of the house, away from my desk. Instead of combing through emails, social media or voicemails, I sit quietly sipping coffee, thinking about the day ahead. Doing this helps keep me from jumping from task to task but logically moving through a series of tasks - successfully moving through them. I've always planned, now I plan smarter. Now I am thinking about grinding my own coffee beans. For a coffee aficionado that would be duh but for me, a person who never really liked coffee, until now, I really want GOOD coffee and the few moments of disconnect peace.
A better work plan simply by grinding coffee beans…
A little more than a year ago, I wrote about Getting Out of My Own Way, and as I sat down to write the next installment of the time is money post, I realized how applicable that post is. Specifically, taking a break. Recently, I felt like I was a hamster on it wheel. I took a few moments to breath, channelling what little yoga I could remember, and walked away from my desk. I was rewarded with the lead I needed to move forward. There's a saying about, working smarter, not harder and I've thought about how to do that for, and with my clients.
So, I saw this infographic from AMA - American Marketing Association about napping and of course I had to take a look. I don't know about you, I love a good nap. Have you noticed how much quicker you get through a task after a nap than before it? Now, a nap may not always be the answer, sometimes a walk does the trick. I've got the stopwatch on my smart phone all setup and it comes in handy. If I am taking forever on a task because my brain is foggy or I am jumping around constantly, I get up and walk around the office. If that doesn't help, off to the futon. I get up, I go back to my desk and wham! All done with the task I was taking forever with earlier. Take a look at this infographic, it has some helpful info for those who have yet to nap. In particular note the amount of time. I mentioned the stopwatch on my phone. I have it set for 20 minutes, any more than that and I am ore tired than when I laid down - defeating the point of refreshing. Don't think you have time to nap? Think of it this way, the more tasks you can get through, the happier your clients and that leads to…more revenue.
Do you power nap? Have you found it helpful? Chime in.
In 10 minutes, you will learn how to save yourself hours of work. It is worth noting that if you have your layers named for the asset e.g. image.png when all files are generated, that information is brought through in the export/generation.
Ever find your to do list overwhelming? One method that works for me is to identify the top three tasks that have to get done that day. This does two things: 1.) I helps with prioritization; and 2.) sets up small wins. It's great to be able to check off tasks, well in this case three items off the ever-growing list of action items. The bonus is that if the top three are done early, you can knock off early and add in some leisure time.
This is not a new concept but one often forgotten - by me included. When I jot down my top 3 for the day, I put it on a Post-it ® note so when I am done, not only can I check things off but can toss them out. What about the other tasks on the list? Each day repeat the process, Prioritize, Choose 3 and Do 3. I keep the Master List, that's where all of the new items go and the top 3 come from.
If you don't want the paper and you can do this with your favorite electronic to do list. The important part is to Prioritize, Choose 3 and Do 3, each day,
It may seem counterintuitive but if you have a lot to do, what business owner doesn't, multitasking is not the way to go. I have been working on this myself. For years I multitasked and marveled at those would didn't. Then I tried it and OMG, I was getting more done in less time. Ok, so of course I had to investigate into why, I pooled my friends - they are a pretty smart bunch. I found more were single taskers than I expected. With this new revelation, I had to try it. Ya know what?! I got through more of my action items, FASTER. How can that be? Well, I am not a scientist so I took the web and here's an article I found helpful from Live Science titled, Why Humans are Bad at Multitasking. It seems to make sense and I vaguely recall hearing somewhere about the time it tasks for the brain to shift. So armed with this new insight, I am now a reformed multitasker.
A few months ago, Megan Totka published on smallbiztrends.com6 Time Saving Tips to Shave Hours Off Your Week. In this article along with a great infographic worthy of posting in the office are some tips for saving time and thereby saving money. True, while working for yourself, you don't get paid when you don't work. However
Ever feel like you are suffering from deja vu every time you start a new assignment? A template or two may solve this. Take a moment to think about your business. Are there documents/forms/interactions that you repeat often? I bet there are.
Do you have multiple lines of business? You can create one for each or better yet look at the synergies between them and maybe one will do. Think you don't have time?
Let me ask you this, how much time are you spending reinventing the wheel? I bet you have better things you could be doing. Think of it this way, the less time reinventing the wheel the more time engaging new customers. The added bonus is that as your business grows those working with those working with/for you can use the template that get things going with customers the same way you would, freeing you up for in-depth client discussions, business building activities and most importantly, time away from the business.
With the new template, faster intake + more time for business building activities = more $
Why create one when so many templates exist? Great question. Here's the thing, I don't know about you but the templates are great guides for getting me started but in the end, I make so many modifications to meet my business processes that the original template is not recognizable. Here's what works for some customers.
Sit down with a a blank sheet of paper or open blank document in your favorite not taking software. Don't think of formatting, sequence or anything. Simply jot down everything that comes to mind when you think about your customers. Their industry, their goals, which services they've used of yours in the past and currently. You should start to see a pattern and categories.
Now that you have all of this information, go back through and organize it. The patterns and categories get you started now just move the information around to group by them.
Your are almost done. Take a look at it, is it easy to navigate? The categories can be section headers and the questions may need to be rearranged for logic sequence. Lastly, add some branding as you may want to distribute to a customer to fill out and you want them to remember who you are.
There you go a new template that streamlines a business process thereby saving you time and money.
What repeatable processes do you have in your business that could be streamlined?
You're starting to feel defeated and unsure. You've questioned, researched and developed possible solutions, but have not moved forward with implementing any of them. You're mind is filled with even more questions. The questions could cover strategic direction, client impact or other. For example: Is it a good opportunity? Is it the right opportunity? Is it in the right industry? Does it fit my niche market? Does it solve the right problem? Is it the right solution? and lastly.. Are the right people involved? And so on…