As we wrap up 2013, you are probably setting goals for 2014. I wanted to take a minute to bring to you info that will really help. You already know that time is the most valuable resource you have, but how do you use it wisely? You’ve bought expensive (after you tried the free ones) programs; tried what feels like ALL of the tips and strategies; maybe even took a class (or two) – yet, still can’t fit everything into your schedule? Sleep is a luxury and the list of things that need done plagues you daily? I’ve got good news. You are not alone!
Time-management (aka: getting everything done) has always been a challenge for start-ups and entrepreneurs. It is simply the nature of the beast. By definition, small businesses have fewer sets of hands to get things done. Most commonly, small ventures (especially in the startup phase) are made up of one or two people wearing many hats. Add to the mix the limited amount of time to get things done. Tada! You’ve got the recipe for time-management issues. With current trends in the economy, where more solopreneurs are starting micro businesses each day, this challenge is being faced by more and more individuals – just like you.
Right now there are over 3,000 book titles on Amazon.com that promise “stress free productivity,” “big results in less time,” “tips to an organized, happier life”. With all of the products, book, courses and wisdom out there to help us with this – and all the money we spend learning better ways to get more done – is the common wisdom working? In a recent Entrepreneur article, Stephanie Vozza reviews the work of Maura Thomas, author of Personal Productivity Secrets (Wiley, 2012) and founder of Regain Your Time – a workflow management consulting firm. This article tweaks our understanding of how to actually use the 3 most popular time-management tips. She gives details of how these commonly known tricks are being misused – thus not working for us.
So just how does someone running a small business or nonprofit turn make the most of the day? Ms. Thomas covered three time-management tricks that don’t work and as a treat gives tips on what you can do instead:
1. Ranking tasks by priority level.
Several planning systems ask you to assign an A, B and C, or a High, Medium and Low priority level to your tasks. The idea is to structure your day so that you tackle the most urgent things first. While this seems to makes sense, Thomas says it’s not specific enough.
“Something is on your list because it’s important,” she says. “People tend to mark too many tasks as being an A priority, with no clear way to determine what to do that day. And those things that are marked B or C don’t get looked at until they’re an A.”
Instead, Thomas says you should be realistic about how much you can get done each day and prioritize your list by assigning a deadline to each item: “If you have 90 things on your list and you can tackle three things each day, you now know that three of the things on your list won’t get done for 30 days, and three won’t get done for 29 days, and so on,” she says. “If this isn’t OK, you can prepare by hiring extra help, cancelling weekend plans or renegotiating due dates with clients.”
2. Writing a daily to-do list.
Many time management experts suggest spending the first 10 minutes of every day making a to-do list of the things you want to accomplish. Thomas says this is a waste of time.
“Instead of re-inventing the wheel every morning, spend 20 to 30 minutes each week or month emptying your brain, capturing everything you can think of that you need or want to do,” she says. If you have prioritized it by due date, you will have a premade to-do list.
“You can go straight to your list each morning and spend the first minutes of the day being proactive,” she says. And when new things come up, simply take a minute to work it into your master list.
3. Time blocking.
We’ve all been told to get things done by making an appointment with ourselves, but the first person you’ll break a date with is yourself, says Thomas.
“When people use the calendar to manage their to-do list, they often spend more time rearranging things and deciphering between real appointments and time blocks,” says Thomas, adding that time-blocking has its place, but there are rules to follow to make it effective.
First, don’t use it for everything; you’ll artificially clutter your day and your calendar will lose its effectiveness. Second, don’t block time far in advance; you often can’t predict what a week from now will look like. And finally, don’t assign a specific task.
“Instead, call it proactive time and choose to do what feels most appropriate,” says Thomas. “Sometimes we feel creative and sometimes we are more linear. You’ll get more done if you match tasks with your mood.”
As you run head first into 2014 – I hope these treats will help you hit your goals to get daily “must dos” nailed! Everyday, people will search online for exactly what you offer – can they find you easily? Wonder how to make the most our of your online presence? Need to get your venture online, and don’t know where to begin? An eMarketing consultation can help – and it’s free!
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