One of the most difficult challenges for solopreneurs, or for everyone for that matter, is to find the time to achieve everything they want to achieve. Yes, like the rest of us they have all the time they need to be successful but they must use it wisely. And that is the rub. A consistent theme running through all of my coaching with solopreneurs is helping them get back in control of the time they have. We all have 24 hours in a day and the difference between those that make it and those that don’t is how well the former uses their time. Let’s remind ourselves of eight tried and true time management techniques….
1. Priorities – time scope them. The first thing you need to consider when sorting out your priorities is to determine how important the task is and to estimate how long you need to spend in getting the task done. Sometimes this is difficult when first starting out because you may not be familiar with how long it takes to carry out a priority task. Don’t let that deter you. Estimate the time anyway and then determine when you will complete the task, in other words build it into your calendar. If it is a high priority set it for first thing in the morning. That way you will not have to think about it during the day. Make this a habit those that accomplish much do this exercise daily.
2. Who is on first, who is on second. Many of you won’t remember Abbott and Costello, but they had a skit where they played with the phrase ‘who is on first and who is on second” using a baseball game as an analogy. When we set priorities we need to identify the level of importance. Of the priorities facing you which one is the number 1 priority and which ones have greater flexibility. You want to make sure you are getting the number one priority completed before the day is done. If that priority is something you can’t complete in your day, then break it down into smaller chunks and work on it during the week.
The key here is that you make a list of all the tasks you need to complete, give each of them a priority of one through three and fit them in during the day. To use the analogy, which one is ‘on first’ and which one is ‘on second and third”. Set your priorities for the next day every evening or when you close off your day. This is another secret in ensuring you are focusing on the right task.
3. Email control. Depending on the nature of your business you could receive up to a hundred or more emails in a day. That’s a lot of emails. Now many solopreneurs let those emails clog their inbox. In fact I have worked with people who had a minimum of 25,000 emails in their inbox. You read that right – 25000 emails in their inbox. There are ways to solve this problem. One way is to set up a file system and when an email comes in make a decision about when you will answer it, if it needs to be answered, and when you will do it. Set a time aside once in the morning and once in the afternoon when you will attend to your emails. Once you are finished responding place the email in the appropriate file for future reference. And don’t forget to use the delete button for those you do not need to keep.
4. Calendar control. It is interesting that we have 365 boxes to figure out each day of the year, yet many solopreneurs don’t use them to their advantage. Using a calendar allows you to determine how your day will look like, especially if you color code time slots. Frankly I recommend that you do several things when it comes to your calendar. Take a big picture view first. Look at your month and sort out which goals you will work on in the month. Write them out and have them overhanging your month calendar. Then focus your attention on the week and sort out how you intend your week to unfold, and finally take a hard look at your day and figure out how your day will work it out.
Make sure you set appointments within your calendar. Color code important functions you want to achieve during the week, for example color code the type of appointments, the major functions you want to accomplish and don’t forget to add in time for your administrative responsibilities. In this way when you look at your calendar you have a color coded picture to remind you when you will achieve your tasks, priorities, meetings, email responses, project preparations and social media planning.
Think horizontally rather than vertically, in other words rather than just looking at your day one day at a time, fix your week as your default view. Last, but not least, keep one day as a flex day allowing you to catch up on things you haven’t been able to compete during the week, and in the interest of balance set aside one day for rest, relaxation and spiritual renewal.
5. Social media control. One of the advantages of being a solopreneur is that you can use your social media platforms to your advantage. But there is a drawback that you need to watch out for - social media time waster. You can spend an inordinate amount of time scrolling social media posts for example, scrolling posts on Facebook, YouTube , Pinterest, Tic Toc, and the like.
Use social media as a method to strengthen your relationships with your clients. If necessary separate your family and close friends from your social media activity or set up a separate page for client posts. Don’t let social media manage you. You manage your social media output. One way to ensure this is to identify in your calendar the time you will spend on social media. Set whatever time is necessary to complete your social media activity but don’t give into your scrolling habit. That just becomes a time waster.
6. Your Decision tree. It doesn’t matter what you are doing in the time management sphere the reality is that you are making decisions. The decisions you make either puts you on course toward your goals or takes you off course. Clearly in order to make the right decisions you need to understand where you are going, which really means clarifying your strategic direction. That is what having a purpose and goals are all about. If you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there. The problem is the path you take may not lead you to where you are going. So first determine your direction.
As you go about your day you will be confronted with your work which comes in the form of tasks, emails, appointments, projects and so on. As you confront each work-task make decisions as to its priority, whether you will do it now, defer it to another time, delegate it to someone else for not do it at all. And if what you are faced with has several tasks associated with it then set up a project plan and sort out how you intend to action it.
At the end of the day, review the decisions you made during the day and ask yourself whether they are leading to your overall direction. If they are not, question why that is so and determine whether they should be done in the future. This type of review stops you from spinning your wheels and building up a stream of frustrations.
7. Plan the night before. I have sprinkled this thought throughout this post but I want to emphasize its importance here. The planning process doesn’t take long, approximately ten minutes. Just review what you accomplished and what still needs to get done. If there are remaining tasks you must complete and they continue to be priority activities schedule them for first thing in the morning, and then identify other priorities you need to do the next day.
Because we are constantly bombarded with new things everyday make sure you keep time spaces within your day to deal with those new items. The key is to not plan your next day so tight that you leave no room for new priorities that crop up during the day. And don’t make your list so long that you can’t possibly achieve it. Keep your priorities within reason. A good rule of thumb is three to five items per day. Too many causes stress. Again think horizontally rather than vertically and spread your items throughout the week.
8. Plan but focus on the Now. Our reality is that we only have the moment to complete anything we start. So even though we plan for the future it is only in the present that we can work on our plan. Planning reduces our anxiety about what may be coming down, while working on our activities in the present with our goal in mind keeps us on track. Make the best of your time in the present using techniques outlined in this post and you will ultimately achieve your purpose and goals.
In conclusion I hope these eight daily time management tips help you become the best you can be in whatever you choose and wherever you are in life. As a final suggestion don’t try to implement all eight tips at one time. Take one of them, implement it until it becomes a habit, then take another. Sometimes when we try to implement everything at once we become overwhelmed. Take one tip at a time and you soon will have the tips down pat.
Thanks for reading and as always folks, stay safe, keep healthy and enjoy life.
P.S. You may enjoy reading: "Home Office Business Stress: It's Causes and Cures." You can find it in the FM Storefront