24th March 2017
By Keri Garland, Outsourcing expert
Summary: As a busy entrepreneur, could you do with another few hours every day? All of us could. The problem is that there is no way to manufacture additional hours and our To do Lists are simply not shrinking. You have to learn to work smarter, not harder.
- Learn how to prioritize, delegate and outsource
- Get more organized and save time
- Scheduling your day
Step 1: Assess the time you have available
Get your mindset and motivation right - “You have the same 24 hours in a day that were given to Einstein, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and all other masters from history.”
Understand where your time goes.
Ask yourself: Why am I doing it? Does it actually work towards achieving my goals?
Spend a week keeping notes of what you do and how long each task takes. You are guaranteed to be surprised how much time is spent on unnecessary tasks, or tasks done in such a way that is not the most efficient.
Step 2: Prioritise, set goals and learn how to delegate
Learn how to delegate.
Certain tasks of course still need to be done but they need not always be done by you.
Utilise your staff skills and outsource when necessary. There are companies that specialise in helping entrepreneurs with tasks that are not their core business. It is often more affordable to use these companies that it is to put someone on your payroll directly. For example, Office Executives offers specialists in each business support area who can efficiently attend to items which do not need your personal attention, but which are still essential to your business.
Learn how to say no.
Delicately of course.
Say no to the customer you can see is going to be more trouble than the profit you may (or not) make on them, the joint venture partner who is getting more out of the deal than you are and the colleagues who constantly ask for help with their responsibilities (or worse, employees who are less efficient than you - and you end up having the pick up the slack).
For an entrepreneur, procrastination can have serious consequences like missed deadlines, lost opportunities and customers going elsewhere.
Complex tasks are often the ones which we put off till last. Simply break these down into smaller more manageable pieces and it is not nearly as intimidating as it once was.
Distractions often arise in the middle of large projects preventing their completion, ever! Follow our schedule advice (later in the article) and eliminate distractions. The result will be amazing.
Emotion or fear can also cause procrastination in some of us. Once you realise what is causing your blockage you can find a way around it. Call the client who owes you thousands, implement performance management on staff who need motivation. If you truly cannot complete the task, call someone who can. Office Executives will take on tasks without the emotional turmoil which has you wrapped up.
Not have the right skill sets can also cause procrastination. This cause may seem to be the most insurmountable, but it need not be. If you cannot complete the task yourself, call someone who can hold your hand, or teach you how to do it. There is no reason to battle alone, or worse yet, ignore the item on your to do list completely.
Step 3: Get yourself organized
Focus on one task at a time.
Figure out which are the most productive times of your day, when you are most energetic, personable, creative and schedule tasks which have different demands on you accordingly.
Learn how to minimise distractions. Set up a do not disturb function on your cell phone and do not look at it unless the caller is persistent or on your emergency list. Switch off your data when at work so your BBM or WhatsApp is not functioning and interrupting. If a family member is in hospital, do you really believe you would get a WhatsApp or is it more likely to be a friend with a picture of a cat hugging a dog?
Set up voicemail on your cell phone asking that callers send you an email or a text message with details regarding their call. This removes the temptation to “chat”. If you would like to utilise this strategy, but are concerned you may miss something or that the lack of personal contact may be off putting, then invest in a call answer service. You can then focus on your schedule knowing anything urgent which arises will be dealt with or brought to your attention.
Set up email send and receive at 4 hour intervals to remove the temptation to click on each pop up message you receive.
Set up systems to help you stick to your schedule and reach your goals. For example:
Voicemail on your cellphone requesting a text message or email instead of a voicemail, this forces the caller to get to the point and saves time wasted on chit chat. Calendars can be synched between your mobile device and computer. To do lists can be done on your mobile device as well. This assists in keeping on track, and able to make adjustments, at any time.
The zero inbox concept has taken the business world storm and I am a firm believer in it:
Process email in batches, don’t leave your inbox open indefinitely, or flit back and forth every time a new notification pops up. Sign out of your email program when you’re not using it.
Use labels, filters and shortcuts. Labels are best when paired with filters, which can automatically apply labels, archive or forward emails sent from certain people or of a certain kind. Filters also can be set up to send certain messages right to the trash bin. Filters are great because they create organization, key to managing Inbox Zero, without requiring anything more than the initial set-up.
Use keyboard shortcuts. It’s much easier to hit a keyboard shortcut than click around in search of what you need. In Gmail, the keyboard shortcut “Y” archives an email, while “M” mutes a conversation that’s no longer relevant.
Funnel. Forward email to all addresses to one inbox, and set up IMAP or POP so that you can reply using your different email addresses from that one inbox as well. Check your secondary email inboxes directly once a week or so, as important email can get caught in spam boxes without forwarding.
Set up automatic reply reminders and trackers. Your inbox shouldn’t act as a long-term to-do list, it’s best to add a reminder to your calendar and archive the message.
Step 4: Schedule your day
Here is an example of a daily schedule, your own schedule may differ depending on your industry and daily roles:
Start of the day:
- Display your email with a viewing pane, so you can skim the content of the email in a few seconds and assess its urgency, and the amount of time required to respond or act accordingly
- Start your day with the mails which would take 5 minutes to deal with and no more. These are generally 60 to 70 % of your emails.
- Now tackle the slightly longer emails. Anything which requires more than 20 minutes needs to go onto your to do list and to be dealt with in your main work slot.
Second phase of your day:
- During your second phase of your day set aside three hours uninterrupted time to complete your main tasks. Keep in mind that Parkinson’s Law is based on the very real life phenomenon that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Be realistic with how long each task should take, but continue to push yourself to work faster and you will find you are.
Third phase of your day:
- Your third phase of the day is checking emails again and dealing with any issues which have arisen through the day. Do not be tempted to respond to any email or message unless it is life or “goal threatening” if it is not your scheduled time slot.
Final phase of the day:
- Your final phase of the day is the last hour, and soon, when you perfect the technique, two hours of the day. Use the time to achieve one of your longer term goals, or further your education. Take a class on speed reading or online social media or marketing course.
Step 5: Adjust as you go
Look at what works for you and what doesn't.
Adjust as you go.
The more dynamic your business is, the more often you will make adjustments.