Fitting it all inOct 23, 2022
As women entrepreneurs our time is precious. We are juggling home, family, and our business. And in our business, early on, we are wearing all the hats. It’s one of the things that often holds us back from our potential, is just finding the time to get it all done.
While I can’t give you more hours in the day, I can give you some tips to help you make it feel that way by getting more efficient and re-evaluating what tasks you should even be spending your time on, to lighten the load and refocus your attention.
Step 1 - Weigh the situation (assigning weight to tasks – big rocks, etc)
First things first – step one is to determine what your priorities are
We tend to fill out days with “stuff” that needs to get done - or feels like it needs to get done – but the first thing we need to do is stop and assess what our goals are, what our priorities are, and what weight we want to assign to each thing.
You’ve likely heard of the story of the professor that showed his class how if you have sand, gravel, and big rocks that you need to fit into a jar if you start with the sand, and then add the gravel, and then try to fit in the large rocks, they just won’t all fit.
But if you place the big rocks in the jar first, then the gravel will fall in and fill the gaps and the sand will sift in between all of it and everything will fit.
Your goals and priorities are much the same, you need to decide what the “big rocks” are for you and place those first, then fill in the gaps with the gravel, and then finally the busy tasks like the sand
And extending that analogy, if the sand won’t all fit in that jar, at least it’s the sand that is left out, not any of those “big rocks”
So grab a pen and paper and let’s figure out what those big rocks are for you. What are the non-negotiables in your life and schedule that are top priority?
Is it dinner with your family, time to meditate each morning, a run three times a week?
Maybe it’s booking your business development day to work through your new plans and ideas, perhaps it’s making sure your weekends are free, or meeting with your team every Monday morning.
It’s going to look different for everyone, so you need to make a list of the big rocks in your schedule – the things that are essential for you to meet your goals, both personal and professional.
Where does it go? (tracking your current time use)
Next up we need to figure out where your time is actually going?
It can’t be just me that gets to the end of the day and wonders where on earth the time went.
(tell me it’s not just me)
The first step to getting more efficient is figuring out where you are losing time in the first place.
So this next exercise is going to help you do that.
I want you to choose two pretty typical days on your calendar next week. Days that represent how you normally spend a work day on any given week.
Keep a notepad with you all day and keep track of what you are doing every 15 minutes and how much time you are spending doing it.
It’s a bit tedious, but I promise it’s worth the effort.
Once you have two days worth of activity tracked you will need to sit down and go through it.
Next to each task you are going to write a symbol.
- $ if it is an activity to directly creates income
- Heart if it’s an activity that you love to do
- Star if it’s an activity that needs to be done by you
- X if it’s an activity that you dislike doing
- P if it’s an activity that you can pause or put off for later
You will have some tasks with more than one symbol and that’s okay
Re-evaluate the plan (pause, delegate, etc)
Now it’s time to look at your big rocks and the tasks that you tracked.
On the list of tasks let’s remove all the things you put a P next to. Those are things you can pause or just stop doing, they don’t have much impact on your current business and are the lowest priority. You can make a list of those things to revisit at a later date and re-evaluate whether to make them a higher priority at that point.
Then look at all the jobs that don’t have a star next to them. These are jobs that can be done by someone else. What of these tasks can you reassign or delegate, or even automate. How can you get them off of your list?
Now let’s look at the items marked with an X – assuming they are still on the list after the previous two steps, it means that even though you dislike doing them, they either create revenue or they need to be done by you.
So they are important, but these are prime activities to start working on ways to move them off your list. If you dislike them, you are probably not doing them as well as you should be, or you may be putting them off longer than you should. They are likely not in your zone of genius and could be performed better by someone who does enjoy them.
So although perhaps you can’t move them off your list right now, start thinking about how you can work toward that in the future. For example, if you dislike sales calls, but they are making you revenue, you need to keep doing them now, but can you work on training someone else to do it, can you start implementing a different outreach system that doesn’t require the direct calls? How do you get that off your list while maintaining your sales?
Then moving forward you want to take those $ activities and book them early in your week and early in your day. Those are your revenue generating activities and they need to be first on your list to keep your business growing. The heart activities, the ones you love, are ones that you want to keep on your list because they fill your cup, keep you motivated and feed your passions.
By planning your days intentionally, and mapping them out ahead of time you avoid being ruled by others' needs like every single email in your inbox pulling you one way or another, and minimize distractions. You are taking care of the tasks that are most important to YOU and to YOUR business first, and working your way down the priority list as you have time to do so.
Tips and tricks
There are a LOT of tips and tricks that can help you create more time in your day. I’ve got some of my favorites here.
Time blocking – This is one of my all time favorites and it’s a game changer.
I love a good to do list – LOVE IT! I have lists of lists. But nothing gets through your tasks faster and more efficiently than time blocking. So grab your schedule for tomorrow and rather than creating a list of things you need to get done. Block the specific time you need to do it.
For example – if you have to create a new flyer, run through your finances and cash flow reports, order new stock, and check your emails. Decide in advance when the best time is to do that and how much time it will take.
Then on your planner for tomorrow you block the one you really hate doing (let’s say cash flow and financials) and you block 9am to 10am for that task. You know you have one hour to get it done so you will avoid distractions, and you will get that thing you don’t love doing done and out or the way first.
You don’t even open your inbox until you do that one task. Then after that first task is done – you give yourself 30 minutes to open and quickly run through your emails, only dealing with the ones that are priority, for now.
Then you know you lose your creative spark in the afternoons and get a bit tired, so you are better to do any creative work before lunch, so you block the next 2 hours from 10:30am to 12:30 to get the flyer done. You block some time for your lunch and a quick walk, and then in the afternoon you get on the computer and give yourself 30 minutes to check emails before a black for 2 hours to order stock and then another 30 minutes to answer the rest of your emails.
There are a few tips built into the example that are worth noting, so let me break them out for you.
- #1 time blocking we talked about
- #2 no task switching – saves on wasted time and keeps you in the right mindset for the task at hand without distraction
You can make this even more effective with some added techniques like setting a timer for the time block you are in.
So if you have 1 hour to do those financials – you set a timer for 60 minutes when you start and when that timer goes off you are done with that task. Whether it’s finished or not.
Also, in addition to only checking your email at specific times of the day, for a specific period, you can turn your inbox off when you aren’t actively checking it. Then you won’t be tempted to just check that one email when the notification pops up and find yourself sucked into the email vortex.
I know for some of us that sounds scary. But If your staff and key contacts know to call you for emergencies rather than email, then you can probably turn off those notifications for periods throughout that day to allow yourself to focus and minimize distractions.
Pro tip: add a note to your auto reply or out of office message to let people know that you check your email periodically throughout the day and will respond at that time
Batching is another really effective way to be more efficient.
Think about tasks you do over and over again. What can you batch and do all at one time and then schedule out for release. Social media is a great example of this – create all of your posts and videos for the entire month in a day or two and then use a scheduler like hootsuite or later to post them for you. Or if you produce content like blogs, you tube videos or podcasts. Block some time to do all the writing or recordings at once, and then you have content for one or two months ready to schedule and free up your time.
Time stacking is another favorite of mine and I use this all the time. Think about things you can do while doing something else to effectively double your efficiency. Mom’s do this all the time. How about going for your walk and listening to a podcast, or downloading the audio for that training you are taking and listen to it in the car, make some business calls on your commute, read that pdf you downloaded while you are waiting in the pickup line after school.
Just look at where you are spending time that could be used more effectively.
But in doing that, just be careful to not overfill your schedule, and do leave some white space for your mind and your body to relax and refresh ☺ It’s a balance.
Use duct tape – Done is better than perfect. Am I saying you should do a terrible job or sell a half finished product? No of course not – but we get paralyzed by perfectionism – we don’t put stuff out there because we keep tweaking it and obsessing over it and at some point you have to say – it's done for now and get it going.
You will learn so much once you get it out into the world, you’ll want to make changes and improvements do doubt, but you don’t get any of that real world feedback to make your product or service better until you actually get it out onto the real world – so done is better than perfect – get it out there!
Reuse and repurpose – what do you have that you can reuse or repurpose to save time? For example when you produce content – how can you reuse that content? I do a LIVE once a week and then I take that recording from the LIVE and create a youtube video, video snippets for social media, a video blog and a transcript and email. You could even create a podcast out of it. That’s a full week of content from that one hour video.
Or what have you done before that you could revisit and reuse? Did you have a great promotion that you could run again? Using that old files and plans would save you so much time over starting from scratch. What is on your to do list this week and what do you have from previous files or projects that you can pull from to save time?
This is actually a great hack to create growth as well – we talk about it in the Grow Faster masterclass. Keeping a folder of promotions and posts etc that performed really well – a “best of” folder that you can pull from saves time and helps give you a boost.
Hard stop at the end of the day. If you are like me you will just keep going and going until you can’t go any more. And that’s not healthy. Set a hard stop at the end of your day. Decide ahead of time what your end time is and stick to it.
One of my coaches says – number one priority is - Protect the asset. And that asset is you.
Nothing will get done if something happens to you – so yes, you want to be efficient and get lots done but you absolutely have to take care of your health and your mindset first and foremost, or it means nothing.
Your action item for this post is to grab a piece of paper and work out your “Big Rocks” in your life and then pick two days in the next week that are typical workdays for you and track your time.
You’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done in a day, as well as how much you can move those critical tasks forward faster.
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