When you're an entrepreneur every minute counts. That's why successful business owners - whether you're a solo entrerpreneur or have several employees and interns helping you get things done - learns how to maximize his or her time. The secret to many successful "time masters" is that small changes can yield big results. In fact many of us neglect making these small changes because we don't think it will make that much of a difference. Spoiler alert: they will.
Below you'll find six big and small changes you can make in your work day starting now, that will help add more time to your day while reducing your stress and helping you create a work flow that is smooth and prioritizes bringing focus into your life while eliminating those feelings of "I'm so behind" or "I'm practically short of breath because I'm so rushed to finish these tasks". Let's be honest, we've all been there. The good news? We don't have to be!
Make Mondays your “prep work” days - I established Mondays as “sacred space for my preparation work” years ago. This means on Mondays I review and modify my to do lists for the week and decide what needs to get done ahead of time in order for me to fly through these tasks without stopping and starting to do little things like: researching and reading articles, catch up on old emails, reviewing my media lists, paying bills, looking at sales plans, hunting down contacts, write pitches, pull images etc. Whatever pre-project tasks I need done in order to attack these larger projects head on I do on Mondays.
What I like about this as well as it’s a nice way to ease into the week. I actually take great pleasure in Mondays! I pour a cup of coffee or find a nice local restaurant or coffee shop to work at, and I soak up the time I have allotted myself to do focused “groundwork” which then allows for a more productive rest of the week. Try to look at the things you can move to Monday that will allow the rest of your week to be occupied with more “active” work like pitching, sales, meetings and so forth. I promise you’ll save time AND you’ll eliminate any cases of “the Mondays” you may be experiencing!
Set Time Limits on Projects – This sounds like it would work against you but often when you feel like you have an endless amount of time to work on tasks, you actually expand the time you spend doing them. When you set initial time limits (you're the boss, you can always modify them) you instantly prioritize your time more and cut out wasted minutes or hours working on them. Here's an example: when I don't limit myself on time when writing tips or blog posts, I meander a bit more, I write a little bit too long of an intro, I over-research (yes, this can be done), I dip into Facebook for a "break" before finishing. When I have a clear cut deadline, I hit the ground running, do better work, and often turn out better posts! When you're your own boss, you have to police yourself and your productivity, and time limits and deadlines are a must!
Avoid Meetings and Learn to Love Videoconferencing - Sometimes in-person meetings are a must. Sometimes I feel like they are "so 2008". Eliminating them as much as possible by videoconferencing (we love Goto meeting for this) saves commute times, but it also does so much more. For those of you who work from home and have team member located in other places, working via video saves time spent dealing with mistakes because things are done right the first time, people can ask questions and show you they understand a project before it begins. I'd rather schedule in a 15 minute video meeting as opposed to hours of back and forth time dealing with mistakes, re-do’s etc. Also, we find over at Tin Shingle, as opposed to emails (that completely interrupt everyone’s work flow and also delay work getting done while people wait for answers) a quick meeting ensures everyone understands from the job from the beginning, connects about it, confirms via conversation and “face to face” time that they are clear on the task and then everyone is off to accomplish their to do lists! An added bonus to this time saving tool is that you and your team (whether it’s you and your employees, interns or out of state assistants) can get pumped up with energy that an email can never give you!
Make it a Rule to Prepare these 4 Things Before Going to Bed: When you’re a busy small business owner you don’t have time for little tasks to act as road bumps in your day if you could have just as easily accomplished them the night before – perhaps while watching the news or even a switching on a movie while you do them. On top of that, planning these things ahead helps you combat indecision which is a secret time suck that not many of notice but that can eat away up to an hour of our days! This may sound obvious but when I talk to entrepreneurs many of them don’t do these things the night before and they lose precious minutes or even hours doing them during the day, when they could and should be spending time with their company, their family or even themselves for some quality decompression time. The point of these rules is that when we don’t do them, we aren’t prepared for the day when it greets us, we run around in circles because we’re more harried once work starts and we’re still trying to accomplish them, frustration builds up and time is wasted. So let’s change that cycle once and for all Here’s the before bed must do list:
- Lay out your clothes for the day before: Going to a meeting? Hitting the gym before work? Just working at home (you still should be getting dressed like the boss you are))? I used to neglect this rule and I found that I was losing valuable time doing everything from looking for one half of a pair of shoes to discovering clothes were in the dry cleaner instead of my closet.
- Prepare your lunch (or everything you need to do to make it). Doing this means you save an hour potentially (because grabbing Burger King is not okay) of lunchtime prep. You can also be sure you’re fueling your body properly, and heck, you can spend the time you would’ve been making your lunch getting business work done, going on a walk, tweeting with potential business contacts – you name it!
- Pack your bag for any meetings or tasks you have the next day: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a charger, file, paperwork and so forth behind (and then I lose time going back to get it or not having it at all) because I’m packing while talking on the phone or running out the door. Make sure your bags and briefcases are good to go for the next day before your head hits the pillow.
Get your desk in shape: There’s nothing like waking up to a desk that is in order and laid out for the day ahead of you. There’s nothing that wastes more time than rummaging around a messy desk trying to find files, notes, to do lists, flash drives, etc. It’s hard to get a desk organized mid-work day, so spend a few minutes every night putting things where they belong, thinking about the next day's obligations and what you’ll need for them and have it all good to go before you end the night. You’ll not only save time, but you’ll feel awesome when you wake up and your desk looks so inviting and ready for success.
Lay Off the Snooze Button – Sure it’s obvious that constant snoozing just makes your day shorter and shorter and yes, that’s true. But here’s something else to think about: every time you hit the snooze button you’re allowing your brain to fall back into its sleep cycle which means you’re going to wake up even groggier, functioning slower and not as clearly, and not in the shape you need to be to run your business. Move your alarm (or cell phone alarm) somewhere that requires you to get up and turn it off, and you’re less likely to keep snoozing. Make a plan to meet someone, talk to someone, work out with someone, etc., that keeps you honest in terms of your wakeup. If you feel that you simply cannot rise without snoozing, reflect on whether you need to start going to bed earlier, because without proper rest you’re never going to put out the proper work you need to be a big success.
Group Your Similar Tasks Together and Do Them All At Once: I used to lose valuable time going back and forth between projects and email answering. That’s right, I would interrupt my brain and my work flow during a project to answer email!? It sounds crazy when I write it down but I bet a lot of you are doing it as well. We’ve become trained to answer emails and other forms of communication at the detriment of our own important work. Perhaps email isn’t the culprit for you and it’s paperwork, which you dive into while listening to a Tin Shingle Tune Up, or working on your Twitter. Maybe you make phone calls on and off during the day while you’re also working on your social media plans or pitching. These are bad time wasting habits that must be broken.
Instead, group similar tasks together in batches and do them at the same time, even if you have to do them multiple times a day. “Chunk out time” to answer old emails, set aside an hour to do your paperwork, stack multiple phone calls one after the other (this also gives you an honest excuse to get off the phone with people when you need to). One of the keys to adding more hours back into your day and saving time is to perfect your work flow, and this is a great way to begin doing so!