Sunday July 10, 2016
Your business is full of client meetings, phone calls, follow-ups, products, services, and networking. It’s packed to the brim with reports, administrative work, and what seems to be an unsurmountable To-Do list. There are times where your personal life and business life meld into one and leave you wondering when the work day ends and the relaxation should begin.
We’ve been there. We know.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
With a little bit of focused organization, your business life can be on track and your to-do list much more manageable.
There are three areas of the business life that must be organized: time, space, and mind.
Here’s how we tackle those areas in our business.
Let’s start with time. At the beginning of the week, write down the major projects you need to get done - your upcoming meetings, phone consultations, client calls, etc. Next to each item, estimate how long it will take to get each one done. If you can’t figure it out, your project is probably too large, so break it down into manageable chunks.
Don’t forget to add your fifteen minutes of client/customer phone calls per day. Remember, that’s an important part of your customer and client relationship. Now it’s time to plan!
Let me begin by saying that time management is about energy management, not filling the white space in your calendar. You need to be aware of your own abilities and energy levels. I’m a morning person, but that doesn’t mean you have to be.
Now that you have your weekly task list, sit down with a calendar. It can be paper or digital, but you’ll need a visual plan of your upcoming week. We always set aside fifteen minutes at the start of the day for those phone calls mentioned earlier. Make sure, and this is very important, that you give yourself at least ten minutes between each project to realign your focus. Your mind needs a moment to file away all the information you’ve just given it before moving on to the next big thing. This also helps with memory retention.
You also need to schedule your break-time. Skipping meals will ensure that your brain doesn’t have the fuel to keep making great decisions. Every two hours, at a minimum, make sure you take a short break to move around, stretch, and realign your focus. We call it a transition period. Block this time on your calendar.
Space. This is your physical and virtual environment. Physically, you want a clean desk area, preferably uncluttered, and uninterrupted work time. I know that’s tough to maintain, but take a look at your desk and surrounding area. Can you do some work away from desk where it’s more difficult to find you? Are there places where a specific type of paperwork is accumulating on your desk? If so, why not figure out a way to easily organize it? I’m sure you’ve already read countless articles and watched tons of videos on keeping an organized work area, but have you ever thought about the mental clutter that a poorly organized virtual space can cause?
The mind can only make a certain number of decisions per day. One way to cut out most of the decision-making process is to consolidate your apps into one or two tools that manage all your programs like email, comment responses, LinkedIn, websites, client logs, etc. in your day (if this is part of your work day, like ours). Also, make sure you switch off pop-up notifications on your mobile devices and desktop where possible. Every message you get, every sound effect, and all the ring tones in the world are instant decisions your mind makes. Do I look? Do I answer? Do I need to add something new to my to-do list? Limit the distractions and your virtual world will be far more organized.
Bonus tip: There’s a web master we know who uses a Chrome app called Tab Snooze to organize her website links. She runs fifteen sites, and she’s broken down her work week to maintaining three of those sites per day. When she arrives at her desk at 6 in the morning, Tab Snooze has the three sites she’s going to work on already up and ready to go for the day. If she gets caught on another project that morning, she can simply snooze the page to relaunch again after lunch. Since she spends most of her day in analysis, it’s really helped eliminate those unnecessary decisions so she can focus where it’s needed.
Mindset. Mindset is about how you focus, how you interact with your clients, and what keeps you motivated. First of all, talk, don’t email. If you need a documented record that’s one thing, but make your connections personal.
Break down your workload into manageable chunks. Nothing is more frustrating than looking at THE BIG PROJECT and not knowing how it’s going to get done or how long it will actually take to accomplish. Break it down. Plan it out. Figure out the steps, and then focus on how long each step should take.
When you’re unmotivated, take one of your small breaks to get your mind back on task. What motivates you? Funny animal videos? Motivational podcasts? Meditation? Take a few moments to close your eyes and focus on why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you’ll see your thoughts realign.
Organization isn’t about putting pencils into cups and color coordinating your sticky notes. It’s about finding out what keeps you focused for the work ahead without burning you out in the process. How do you get organized in your business? Let us know in comments!