If you are a small business owner you probably find that you wear many, if not all the hats in your company. Especially if you are a one person shop. I know that I sometimes find the pile of work to be completely overwhelming. As the CEO of the consulting firm I came from I could just delegate tasks that needed to be completed in order to move the company forward. Now, the only options for delegation are to me or to myself.
So, how do you stay focused on what needs to be done to grow your business and find the time to do it all? It’s not a difficult as you may think.
- Categorize tactics – Begin by writing down everything you need to do to run and grow your business. Then organize those tasks into categories. Do you need to create brochures, make or follow up on sales calls, post to your social media sites, create presentations, etc.? As a broad description, these tactics fall into sales and marketing.
- Prioritize tactics – Once you determine your categories, prioritize the categories and determine how much time each week you should be devoting to each. What if you have more categories than you have time in the day? I would begin by reviewing those categories/tactics at the bottom of your list. How important are they really? What is the return on your time investment? Do they support your 3 – 5 year strategic plan? What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t do them? If they are time wasters because they aren’t a good return on your time investment or don’t support your strategic plan, then eliminate them from your list – at least for now. If you determine they really are important, then you will have to figure out if you need to take time from other categories to make room for these or if there are other ways to get them accomplished. Part time workers or interns can be helpful in these areas. Or, you can do what I do and enlist the help of your teenaged daughter to do some of the administrative work or social media posts.
- Schedule your categories – I use my calendar to block out time during my week for each of the categories I have deemed critical to the running of and growth of my business. You can do this with an electronic calendar or a paper calendar. I tend to favor a paper calendar because (1) I’m old fashioned when it comes to having things on paper and (2) the electronic calendar I use takes time to toggle back and forth to view and I feel like it slows me down. Your categories do not have to take the same amount of time every day, nor do they have to take place every day. The key is to devote the appropriate time on a weekly basis to address all the critical areas of your business. You can visit my website for a free sample Productivity Plan that you can download and use for your own business.
- Determine the specifics the day before – Now that you have your calendar of critical areas established for the week, make a list of the specific tactics you will do during those blocks of time you have scheduled for tomorrow. So, specifically, what networking/sales activities will you do during your networking time tomorrow? Which customers will you follow up with? What brochures, web updates, or presentation pitches will you make during your marketing block the next day? What topic will you begin writing your next blog? Will research have to be done during this time? Whatever the tasks are, write them down. Review them at the end of each day and make any appropriate adjustments before you call it a day. Now, you can start tomorrow not only knowing what specific things you will be working on but at what time of day you will be working on them.
Having a schedule for your critical functions combined with a daily task list for each of the categories creates a clear roadmap on how to spend your time during the week. And, if you have prioritized correctly, all of the tasks and the time set aside to do them will all work to support your strategic plan.
If you complete your tasks for a category before your time runs out, find a few more to add to your list or do some of those “nice to do if I had time items” to fill out the remainder of your time. If you don’t complete your list before time runs out, move the remaining items to tomorrow’s list. But, you need to understand why they didn’t get done. Did you underestimate the time it would take, did you have too high expectations of what you would accomplish, or did you get distracted. Knowing this will allow you to plan more accurately moving forward.
Having blocks of time scheduled for each category not only eliminates the need to think about what to do next, but having a start and a stop time makes those dreaded areas not so intimidating and easier to plow through.
It’s easy to get caught up doing random things that don’t move your business forward. Knowing the critical areas to running and growing your business and then scheduling those areas will keep you on task, on time, and always moving forward.