If you run a business, especially if you are just starting out, the chances are you are busy. Really busy. We all struggle with making the most of our time but there are some things you can do to help you focus on the things that matter.
#1 Set objectives and be SMART
You first of all need to know where you are going and what you want to achieve – this is big picture stuff – like:
Quit my job in 6 months to focus on my business
Earn $5,000 a month from my business by Christmas.
Now I’m going to assume you know this already (working this out would be a different blog entirely!). That said make sure your objectives are clear. Hate to use this acronym, but keep them SMART.
Write your objectives down and check back on them regularly.
#2 Identify your tasks
Next work out all the work & tasks you need to complete to achieve your objectives and how specifically you will get there.
List them and attach a date by that you need to have completed the task (if you have a white board or something similar list them (so you do not forget what you need to achieve). For example:
Carry out detailed market research into my niche and understand what my clients need – by April.
Have website live by May.
Have an accounting & invoicing system set up by June.
Prepare advert in August to advertise in local magazine in June.
Start teaching classes – July
Now split them into 3 groups:
Can dos - The tasks you can and want to do yourself.
Cant dos - The tasks you can't do or really don't want to do.
Could dos - You’re now left with the tasks you could do.
For the can't do / don't want to do list write down how you will achieve these. Will you outsource them? If so work out how.
For the ‘Could do’s’ think about how you want to prioritise your time. Is the task a good use of your time? If not again consider outsourcing.
The internet makes it super easy to outsource tasks and jobs that you either can't do, don't want to do, or are not a good use of your time.
Try sites like fiverr or Upwork - where you can find people able to help with a massive range of tasks. These can be a bit hit and miss in terms of quality – but with a bit of research & trial and error you should be able to find a great set of people you can work with time and time again.
#3 Plan, Prioritise & Schedule
So now you know what you need to be doing its time to get a schedule in place!
For each task you have identified and write down how long it will take you to achieve each one. Be realistic and maybe use something like Excel to calculate the total time required for each task.
To help you do this I have created a spreadsheet that includes a simple Task Planner, Freetime mapper and Weekly Schedule that you can download and play with!
Task planner – you can use this as regularly as you like (i.e. weekly) to plan what you need to get done, estimate how long it will take you and monitor your progress.
Free time Mapper – (If you are like me and have a standard job as well then this is really helpful to work out what time you have to work on your business)
Weekly schedule – You can use this to plan you week either as a one off, where you can highlight when you will be working on your business or you can update it every week to really keep yourself on track and focused on your tasks.
Start of the week
At the start of each week work out what you want to achieve that week. Plan how you are going to get there, schedule you tasks on a daily basis using a weekly planner.
Grab a coffee! Whilst you enjoy it review your tasks for the day and prioritise. Do the most important ones first. This way by the time you get to lunch, even if the rest of your day is a disaster you will have really achieved something.
End of the week
At the end of the week make a note of where you have got to with each task or project. Map out what you need to achieve the following week. This will only take 5 or 10 minutes, but is worth it. Come Monday morning you will know exactly what you need to achieve and map out in your weekly / daily planner.
Once you get into planning and delivering according to your plans (be it monthly, weekly or daily) it will become a habit and it’s a great positive habit to have!
#4 Struggling with focus? Eliminate those distractions
When you are working make sure you are 100% focused on the task. You can only do one thing at a time well. So cut the crap! We all know that social media eats time. Unless you are waiting for something specific, turn off all your feeds whilst focusing on specific tasks. Shut email pop ups off. If it’s that urgent they will call you.
It’s OK to say no!
Sometimes the best way to stay on top of things is to say no. If you already have too much on and you are asked to do something that is highly likely to be waste of your time, politely decline or take the details and get back in touch when things are not so manic.
Spend your time with positive people
On a personal level I truly believe that life is too short to spend time in negative relationships (be those personal or business). Look at who you enjoy spending time with or working with and the chances are they have a positive impact on your life and work. Spend time with them and on them. Withdraw from those relationships that drain your energy and sap your time.
I’m not saying that healthy challenge should be avoided – it should be embraced. Yes people are not the best for providing objective, honest feedback! Try and surround yourself with those positive, honest, proactive people and you will feed off their energy and them off yours!
#5 Seek accountability
Managing your time is challenging – especially if you are a solopreneur or are building your business on the side. It can also be lonely without other people around you for support. If you do struggle with this, the chances are your time management & prioritisation of tasks my not be great.
If this is true for you try and seek some form of external support to help you keep on track, see the bigger picture and act as a sounding board for new ideas. This could be a good objective friend or a business person you may know and respect. Choose an honest one, not somebody who is going to tell you what you want to hear! Ideally meet up every month and discuss what you are planning to do and what you have achieved. Make a note of this and follow up with an email. This seems formal – but will really help at the next meeting to see what progress has (or hasn’t been made!).
Alternatively you could seek a mentor or a coach, but make sure that if you pay somebody to help you in this way you are confident that you are getting value for money.
#6 Make time for you - be healthy, have fun and sleep
Whilst you need to spend dedicated time on your business don’t neglect yourself.
Regular exercise is essential. Build it into your schedule and you will have more energy and it will give you time to focus on something completely different. It’s your choice what you do. For me it’s Yoga, but you could run, do Pilates, swim, play football, surf or whatever gets your heart going!
For me work is fun! I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t enjoy it. But it’s good to take a break and do some other fun stuff. Make sure your week includes something that you can look forward to.
I love naps. My partner thinks naps are just for kids. Rubbish! If you’re tired in the middle of the day try having a 45 minute nap. If you’re lucky like me you will wake up refreshed and ready for your next task. If this works for you, build it into your schedule. Sometimes you just can’t plan for these things so go with the flow. If you’re tired, don’t fight it.
Also make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night. Wake up fresh and smash those tasks!
I hope you enjoyed this blog and it helps you focus on your objectives and get a little more organised!