I love meeting with clients and helping them figure out ways to be more efficient in their business. I find it exhilarating to brainstorm ideas with business owners about what success can look like for them – and letting them dream a little, knowing that anything is attainable when they put their minds to work.
Oftentimes, an initial client consult might have questions like this in it:
- What does it look like to be wildly successful?
- Thinking about success, what’s that look like for you/your business in three years? How about five years?
- What’s part of your business do you absolutely love?
The fun part for me comes from understanding where their passions lie and what aspects of their business they absolutely love. It’s fun to see their eyes light up when they talk about the parts of their business they are passionate about. Once we figure out where they want to go, we map out marketing, business & productivity strategies to help them on their path to a successful future.
One of my favorite quotes I share with clients is:
“People tend to over-estimate what they can do in one year, but under-estimate what they can accomplish in three years.”
It’s interesting to see how much this opens their eyes that a successful future is within reach, but they need to assess where/how/when to make it happen. For them to know how to find time, they must assess their current business activities. My thoughts are that in order to improve it, you must measure it and have a baseline. I’ll ask clients to conduct a time audit to understand how they are currently using their time so we can figure out ways to improve their efficiency & key focus areas that will truly move the needle for their business.
If you’re intrigued by this, sit down and conduct this activity for yourself:
Define success – what does that look like for you? What vision do you have for your future? It can be for your life, your career or your business. My own vision for my life & business continues to evolve, but because I know what I’m working towards, I’ve outlined the activities that I need to do daily, weekly & monthly to move me towards that goal (FYI – one of them is creating content via blog posts).
Conduct an audit of your time – Take a week or two and go about your daily activities to know how you’re spending your time. Log each hour into a categories of what you’re doing. Be pretty brutal about this, meaning if you spent 1-2 hours of your work day scrolling through social media for no good reason, be sure to chart it.
Chances are, once you’ve looked over how you use your time, you’ll be able to understand your time use effectiveness and make some adjustments to your schedule. Here’s some tools & tips that have helped me figure out how to operate at my peak productivity each week:
- Start on Sunday – I take time on Sunday to organize & plan out my week. It generally only takes about 45 minutes planning out my weekly activities, schedule, meetings, kids activities, etc. I try to keep my tasks organized by what I hope to accomplish for the week and then I break it down to a daily to-do list to get me there. I write in all of my meetings into my planner, including travel time and write out my goals for the week. It helps me tremendously with knowing what the big picture focus priorities are. Then I’ll break down my to-do list for Monday, so that when I come into the office on Monday, I can get right to work.
- Identify big buckets of how you spend your time – This one is important when understanding your time use. You can place most items of your business into the following buckets: marketing, sales, serving your customers, leadership & other. I learned this strategy from a productivity podcast & thought it was worth sharing. For me, marketing is a pretty key component of my business, so my blog and my social media time fall into this category (but I have to be careful as hopping on social media to post a message can often lead to losing 10-20 precious minutes of my day scrolling through my news feed and accomplishing nothing). I put my client inquiry calls & teaching into my ‘sales’ bucket. Working with/for clients is my ‘serving my customers’ bucket. Each week, I try to do something to help me with leadership development. Whether it’s listening to a podcast or taking an online class or reading a book, I make sure there’s time each week to continue developing me as a leader, business owner and person. Then office work, paperwork, billing, etc falls under ‘other’ category. I try to focus my weekly activities into the marketing, sales, serving your customers and leadership buckets, but I know I’ll have some portions of my week that must occur in the ‘other’ category.
- Start each morning with a full cup – I know this sounds so cliche, but I’ve found it’s critical to my sanity as a mom & business owner. I have a morning routine that I do every morning before my household starts to rise & shine that helps fuel my mind, body & soul. My morning includes some sort of movement (exercise or stretching) and some quiet time (praying, meditating, reading, journaling). I feel it’s so important to make sure you are fueled so that you can perform at your peak each day.
- I log my entire day & month – I use an old school planner and I like the vertical layout so I can plan out my day each day. I write in travel time, meeting time, open time (what projects to accomplish during that time) so that I can see the general flow of my week each week. At the end of each day, I track both billable hours by client project and my non-billable hours. I then take this information at the end of each month and log my monthly hours into a spreadsheet. I do this for a few reasons. First, many of my client projects occur over a several month period, so it’s nice to know what’s been billed out. Plus, it’s helpful to know for bidding out future projects, I can look back to see how much time a particular type of project took. Also, I like tracking my non-billable time so I can see how effective I am using my time each month and continually make adjustments.
- Understand when you work best – This took me a little bit to figure out for myself, but since I do a lot of writing with my work, I know that do my best creative work in the morning with a fresh mind, so I try to schedule that work during the morning time frame. Most days, I try not to check email until I’ve gotten a few creative things accomplished. I also know that I can write late at night too with decent success, but I prefer the first thing in the morning. My mind does not work well with creative writing in the afternoon, so I just make sure to schedule accordingly and try to do my more tactical things during that time frame.
- Time-block & minimize outside distractions – Speaking of minimizing distractions, I can’t even believe how many distractions a person can have in a day! Do you ever feel like you just get started on a project when you get a phone call and then when you come back, it takes you 5-10 minutes to remember what you were doing? Yep, me too. Now, I do try to time block to work on a project (generally 45 minutes at a time and I set a timer), I move my phone into the other room and I FOCUS. It’s incredible how much you can move the needle when you are fully present in what you are working on. Then I always make sure I have several breaks throughout the day, which brings me to my next point….
- Schedule in breaks throughout the day – After I’ve accomplished a time block period (or a few back to back), I always make sure to take a 5-10 minute break. Breaks are important on enabling you to focus, but it’s what you do during these breaks that is important. Sometimes, I’ll just have a cup of coffee and stare out the window with peace & quiet, sometimes I’ll listen to a portion of a podcast, sometimes I’ll listen to a YouTube video on motivation, sometimes I’ll grab a healthy snack or drink a big glass of water. It’s important to not spend your break doing something that depletes your energy, but rather gives you a reboot to carry on!
- Group ‘like’ work – I try to group my client meetings to Tuesdays & Thursdays and my in-office working to Mondays & Wednesdays. I try to take most Fridays off. This doesn’t always work each week, but I find I like starting off my week with getting a good start on my to-do list on Monday. Then I batch my ‘like’ work of client meetings & conference calls on Tuesdays. Wednesday’s I’m back in the office to plug away on my to-do list and then back to client meetings on Thursday. I do prefer to have Thursday afternoons open to finish up my to-do list for the week, do a little professional development and prep for the following week. I just find it’s useful so that I’m not interrupting the flow of a day and can really concentrate on getting things done when I’m in office without many distractions.
- Assess what you can hire out – We all have areas that we love to work on within our business and other areas that we do not like. I always challenge my clients to think about what areas they might be able to hire out so they can focus on the big picture and work on the things that they desire most. For me, if there are some areas where I’m not as strong in (like in-depth graphic design), I sub-contract them out to other freelancers. It’s important to know what skill sets you bring to the table and what things you can hire out. Free up your time for the stuff that sets your heart on fire!
- Give yourself grace – This is probably the most important point. Nothing is perfect, nobody is perfect, no week goes as planned and that’s called life. It’s just all about trying to do your best and give yourself grace when things don’t go quite as planned. The most important thing is to have a road map for where you want to go with your life, your business, your career and if you are doing activities that help you move in that direction more weeks than not, then you’re making progress.
Here’s what I’ll leave you with. Being better, doing better, getting better all starts with YOU managing your time in the most productive manner. Everyone finds tips & tricks that work best for them. YOU are in control of your time. YOU are in control of how you manage to move your business or life forward. You can find excuses as to why you can’t make things happen OR you can find ways to access, evaluate and improve your habits and ultimately, succeed. As you grow and make changes, I hope that your wildly successful dreams come to you through your hard work, persistence & enhanced productivity!