Have you ever noticed when a holiday, trip or other big event is coming up, you get so much more done despite the many additional distractions that the universe throws at your business? It is like everyone knows that you are getting ready to check out and starts asking for things….but wait, is that really true or are you just more mindful of your time when it is so limited?
Minding Your Time
I think the best time to look at your business and your expectations for yourself is when you are getting ready to take time off. When your time is limited you start really assessing what is vital to your business and which things can go on the back burner (more about these expendable things later), for now let's just look at what is really important to me…
My business priorities are:
1. Things I have promised already to people – I am not willing to let down clients or friends so I complete any promised items.
2. Regular client obligations – I have weekly work that has to be done and I either do it in advance or have someone else take it over for me.
3. Marketing scheduling – One of the first things that seems to go for people is their marketing strategy while they are away…BIG mistake! I actually market more when I am away so I come back to a bunch of new leads.
4. Admin tasks I HAVE to do – This is boring but important, paying bills waits for no man (or woman).
5. Strategic items – I am very focused on what is strategic for my business to move forward. This includes things like making sure my blog posts are scheduled to go out.
and that is it. There is no more time before the hard stop deadline.
But looking back over that list, that is really all I need to do anyways. There aren't any earth shattering items there that are special, what is missing is all the other distractions that usually creep in (sorry Facebook friends, you didn't make the cut!)
Let's break some of these down a little further and look at why they are so easy to manage now, and so slippery when I supposedly have all the time in the world.
Honoring Yourself and Your Time
I used to have lots of time, time for my business, time for my friends and associates and then we adopted 3 kids and all my free time got eaten up. Also the “scope creep” time in my business went away. You know how that goes…you schedule an hour to write a blog post but get all involved in the “research” an while away a couple of hours. In software development “scope creep” means that each little thing you add to the project makes it a little bigger and more unwieldy. Work is like that.
So my first suggestion is to rigidly schedule your time. If you have an hour to write a blog post or do your filing or make phone calls, do it in an hour. Set a timer and get it done. There is a saying that tasks swell to fit the time given them and I find that to be very true!
The first line item on my list is something I think we all do, make promises to people we care about. I want to help my favorite clients and friends do better marketing and make more money so of course I am willing to spend my time on them. Until it is in short supply and I am afraid of letting them down.
Next suggestion, be super realistic with what you can do. It is worse to promise to help and then let someone down than to just say that you are super busy and not able to get to it right now. A graceful “no” is so much better than over-committing.
Opportunities (Shiney objects)
I love a great new idea as much as the next gal and as soon as I get ready to take a little time off, they seem to come out of the woodwork. A business friend will let me know about his great new product he is launching and could I promote it, a new contact asks if I can just make a quick video before I leave because it will just take a couple of minutes. All of these seem fun and easy to do, but all added together with the stuff that I already have on my plate would mean that either not everything would get done or some of it would be done poorly.
You cannot ever do everything that you would like to do…not for your work, family, or friends. Your greatest asset is your time and when it is limited you need to focus on YOUR goals and priorities and politely say that you will check out those new ideas when you get back!
Wish list, not a to do list – pick 3 things
I have two different kinds of lists…to do lists that are my 3 things I need to get done today and wish lists that are all the things that I would like to do but which are not priorities right now. For example, a “to do” today was to write this post. Because I have committed to my business to write a blog post a day for a month, this is something that makes my hot list.
Now, I have lots of things that I WISH I could do like learning about IFTTT (a marketing tool that seems really neat). While that may not seem neat to you, it sounds super fun and could help my business if I had the time.
My last suggestion to you is to make yourself a wish list. Write down all your great ideas, your schemes and plans that would be fun or even effective that you can't get to today. Make it long, and do not limit yourself. Then make your to do list for today which needs to be 3 items long. Do not stop working until they are done.