Summer’s fun has come to an end, and for many of us, the kids are back in school. Fall is a precious time to buckle down and get some real work done with your business before the holidays are here. You may feel busy at every moment, but at the end of the day are you pleased with your results?
“It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.” -Mary O’Connor
Perhaps it’s time for a time management tune-up. Here are some strategies to get you started:
1. Organize. If the clutter in your office and on your desk bothers you, spend some time getting it organized. A clear workspace will free your mind and rid yourself of distractions.
2. Prioritize. If all of your “gotta-dos” are swimming around in your head making you feel anxious, write them down on a list. You’ll feel better as soon as you do. Next, prioritize the list into:
a. Urgent – things you must do that affect your bottom line, such as preparing for a client meeting
b. Important – should-dos, such as doing your invoices to keep the cash flow coming in
c. Can wait – still need getting done, but you have some time, such as renewing your web domain before it expires
Sometimes you’ll have competing urgent tasks, and you’ll be torn over which one takes precedence. When that happens, follow the money–which item will affect your business’s income the most. That should reveal a clear winner, and if it doesn’t, quickly compare one to another, and do first the one that you select the most often.
3. Delegate. Ideally you’ll want to delegate your “important” and “can wait” tasks to your assistant, if you have one. Feel the relief already? Now you can focus on those urgent tasks that you identified with greater focus. By handing off the less urgent to-dos to someone else, you have prevented them from becoming “drop everything and do it” emergencies later.
4. Plan. Don’t let your email inbox schedule your day. Instead, take control of your agenda and determine what you want and need to get done before you get started. Use your online calendar to gently remind yourself of your pre-planned activities. Schedule your most taxing tasks for when you are most alert for greatest productivity. If you’re best in the morning, do your toughest tasks then, and save your afternoons for coffee meetings with clients.
5. Cushion. People who are always late don’t seem to know how long things take, and it’s always longer than we think. For example, you know an event is at 3pm, and it is only 1pm, so you have plenty of time. But when you add up how long it takes to shower, do hair, make-up, press your blouse, and drive in traffic, you might realize that you are already late before you started.
Try working backwards from the time you want to arrive at a function, preferably a little early to network, and subtract out the time it takes to put yourself together. Add some “cushion time” so that you’ll be relaxed when you arrive. Remember to add this padding to your calendar or online scheduler so you won’t box yourself into an impossible situation.
6. Protect. Zealously protect your calendar. People will want pieces of you throughout the day zapping your energy and time. You owe it to yourself and to others who have scheduled time with you to protect your time. “No” can be a difficult word to say, but you’ll find it can be liberating.
7. Focus. Remove your distracters to get something important done well in a short amount of time. You know what they are, and they can be addictive: cellphone, email, Facebook, etc. Just turn them off for an hour or two to be really productive. You’ll be amazed and how much you can get done!
After putting these strategies into action, be sure to schedule in a reward for yourself for being so diligent and purposeful. Like the bee, you’ll be praised, but be sure and treat yourself to some honey as well.
© 2010 Ali International, LLC
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