As a business coach, I work with a whole range of people. Some of them have been running their business for years, whilst others are just starting out. Whatever stage they’re at, there’s one issue that seems to come up time and again. It’s Time Management!
Do you recognise any of these?
- You find it really hard to strike the right balance between delivering client work and going out looking for it. When times are quiet it’s easy to find time to network, do your social media, write blogs or chase up connections. But when you’re busy it’s tempting to get stuck into the work you love and then suddenly it dries up – and you have no more work on the horizon.
- You’ve got plenty of things to do, but none of them excite you. So you spend hours or even days procrastinating – surfing the internet, cleaning the house, playing computer games, etc. etc.
- For once you have a clear day, but instead of really getting down to it and up-dating your finances, writing a blog or any of those other tasks that you usually do without a blink, the lack of a deadline means you faff around.
- You’ve got so many things on your to do list that you get brain freeze, and can’t work out what to do first. This in turn sends you into a panic and makes it even harder to focus.
Stop worrying! You’re not alone. All of these reactions are completely NORMAL!
The occasional day when you lack motivation or focus won’t hurt. Make a conscious decision to reward yourself with a day or half-day off – and do something you enjoy without feeling guilty. You’ll feel better for it and return to work afterwards refreshed and ready to recommit.
But if you frequently struggle to manage your time, then a few tips may help.
Here are my top 10 tips for time management
1. At the end of each working day, identify three things you want to do the next day and list them in order of priority. Then tackle your top priority task first each morning, followed by the other two.
2. If you could STOP doing one thing, what would it be? Identify one thing you you’re really weak at doing, and stop doing it. If necessary find someone else to do it for you! Play to your strengths not your weaknesses.
3. Don’t assume you always have to pay for help. Can you skill swap with someone? Bartering is the small business owner’s friend!
4. There are times when it does make sense to pay someone else. If your business is struggling financially, it can feel counterintuitive to pay out money to someone else. However, quite apart from the importance of getting expert input in some key areas (legal issues, for example, or tax advice) there’s another reason to pay for help. Ask yourself; “if I wasn’t doing this myself, what could I be doing and how much money could I generate by doing so?” If you can earn more doing what you’re good at than you’d pay someone else to do what you’re not good at – it’s a no brainer!
5. Break down tasks you hate, or find difficult into 30 minute chunks, with a small reward at the end. Buy a timer! Yes I know we all have them on our phones but then you get tempted to look at other stuff, which leads to distraction and time wasting! Book 30 minute time slots in your calendar for these tasks then set the timer for 30 minutes at the start. Focus on that one task until the timer goes off, then stop and take a break/reward yourself. Repeat if necessary.
6. Use Eisenhower’s ‘urgent and important’ matrix. Are you trying to decide what to focus on today (or what your top 3 things should be for the next day)? Ask yourself, is this urgent AND important? If the answer is yes, it goes on the list! (For more explanation of the matrix, watch my video.)
7. Get clear on the key social media channel(s) for your business (better to do one platform really well than 2 or 3 badly). Use an app like Buffer or Hootsuite to pre-program some core communicationsto keep you active and visible. Supplement this with pro-active visits (liking, commenting, tagging, etc) when you can spare 10 minutes. But don’t get sucked into spending hours on social media! If this is a weakness, set your timer for 10 minutes before you start and force yourself to stop when the timer goes off.
8. Make sure you take a break at lunchtime to eat and go for a walk (however short) in the fresh air. Our brains need food, exercise and rest to function at their best.
9. If there’s something you’re struggling with, have a quick brainstorming session with two or three (or more) friends. Briefly describe the issue that’s bothering you. Then sit tight (and silent) for 2 minutes while your friends come up with as many suggestions as possible for ways to tackle it. Write down all their ideas, however whacky and even if you’ve tried them before. See how many ideas you can collect. Afterwards reflect on your list. What could you try, adapt or explore?
10. Make yourself accountable. Work with a business buddy to each commit to the actions you want to take in the next week / month. Then schedule a weekly / monthly call or coffee to catch up and feedback on what you’ve done.