Every entrepreneur knows what it’s like to have too much to do in too little time.
During the startup phase of my business, this was my story as well. However, after experimenting with various techniques to manage myself and my work, I implemented the concepts below and ever since, I’ve been able to accomplish my most important work with minimal stress -- both in and out of the office.
The first step in maximizing your time is knowing what you need to do. One way to do this is to come up with a job description and project list, both in priority order. A job description clearly lists the major responsibilities you have on a recurring basis. A project list records the projects you’re currently working on. (Try never to have more than four projects going at once.) Together, the job description and project list should cover between 80 and 90 percent of what you should be doing on a daily basis, save for the random things and busy work that inevitably come up. With this in hand, you’ll be able to decide what’s most important for you to focus on in the limited time you have.
Set aside a time once a week to plan for the upcoming week. Based on your job description and your projects, as well as your long-term goals take time, preferably at the end of every week, to plan the upcoming week. Start by asking what are the most critical items you have to get done to move your projects along, and what are the most critical functions of your job. Prioritize this list so that the most important items are at the top. Tool recommendations are any.do (web and app) or Asana (web and app).
Once you know what you need to do for the next week, block off time for each major task you’ve planned. Keep in mind: Things almost always take longer than expected. Just face the fact the week before, go back to your job description and project list, and prioritize ruthlessly. When I’m doing this for myself or with my clients, I advise not to plan more than three or four critical items for any one day, or more than twenty critical tasks for a week. Tool recommendations: Google Calendar and Outlook.
The first time you plan like this, you’ll want to block out repeating times for recurring tasks -- including responding to email, paying bills and prospecting -- that you know you have to do. If you get a lot of email, schedule a block of time every day, preferably at the same time each day, to deal with your inbox. If you’re in sales and have to reach out to five new prospects a day, set up a recurring time in your calendar for it. It’s easy to forget to plan time for these types of recurring daily tasks, but it’s just as important to account for them as it is for project work.
Once you get adept at planning in this way, you’ll be tempted to take it too far by scheduling every minute of every day. Don’t do that. It’s a really bad idea, as things always come up. Maybe an important prospect comes by unannounced to chat. Maybe your kid gets sick and you have to stay home. Maybe you just have a slow day and are not able to get through everything you planned. Whatever the case, no week ever turns out exactly as planned, so leave some extra space so one unexpected event doesn’t throw off your entire week.
If you implement the above strategies, your to-dos will be aligned with your major business priorities. You’ll have ample time to get things done and enough time to allow for unexpected things to come up.
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