Time will be your biggest enemy in getting your business of the ground. You will be pulled in all kinds of directions. Successful people are very careful about how they spend their time. No matter how you slice it, we all have 24 hours in a day, so the key lies in learning to use your time (and energy) wisely.
Start with what is the focus of your business and what are the key targets you want to achieve. Most of time management is about ruthless focus.
Monitor how you currently use your time and create a log of your daily activities. Start your log by writing down what time you wake up, get ready and begin work. Calculate how much time you spend on individual activities such as e-mail, phone calls and client work. Once you see where you are spending your time, you can identify and focus on the activities that provide the greatest returns for you personally and financially.
- Calculate how much your time is worth - time is money.
- How much do you how earn annually?
- What is your hourly pay, based 1,725 hours a year?
- How many hours do you really work (evenings, weekends and bank holidays)?
- What is your hourly pay, based on your “real” time input?
- What is the difference – in % terms?
- Is this reduced rate a fair reflection of your value to the business?
Don't start your day without a "to do" list (moving chairs on the Titanic). Make a list of tasks and categorize them into business building activities, client activities and personal items. Then prioritise - Have more to do than there are hours in the day? By prioritizing your tasks, you'll make sure you are tackling the items that matter most.
Create a system that works for you. Ask yourself these key questions:
- What item must be done today?
- Which items can be rescheduled?
- What can be delegated?
- Which tasks most closely match my priorities and goals?
- Which items can be eliminated?
Learn to say no - You are in control of your time. Before you say yes, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you really have the time or energy to do that extra task?
- Do I like this customer? Are they good for me?
- Will it be profitable?
- Does it invade your personal time?
- Does it involve doing something you enjoy?
- Does it fit in with your list of priorities and goals?
Remove distractions and "time sucks". Think about which activities are eating up your time. For most people, these items include e-mail. Conquer the e-mail demon by shutting down Outlook when working.
Try to stick to the plan - Try not to get sidetracked from your plan. Use the motto, "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine." Unless it's a true emergency, or you are being paid "rush" time, you probably don't need to squeeze a last-minute request in today. Also, by assigning yourself project deadlines, you can keep on top of projects and avoid those dreaded last-minute emergencies.
Choose an inspiring place and time to work. Have fun! Stay true to yourself. Do the tasks which take your most brain power when you are at your prime. Are you a morning person or do you work best burning the midnight oil? Create an environment that is inspiring to you.
Bundle like tasks together - As you work through your daily list, try to chunk your tasks into like activities. By creating a separate "chunk" of time for answering e-mail, invoicing and making return phone calls, you'll save time and mental energy.
Avoid interruptions - Trying to do the same thing over and over again with interruptions can be maddening. Once you start a task, try to finish it to the end. If something comes up that you need to remember or do, unless it's urgent, simply add it to your list and continue with your current project.
Last but not least; follow your own organizational style; if you like messy, who cares!
By mastering your time, you can accomplish much more with less effort. Focus on activities which most closely match your goals. By taking time to monitor, measure and manage your time, you will get control back.