At one time or another you've probably found yourself saying "So much to do, so little time". Most of us have often wished for more hours in the day. If you're like me, though, and you are working at building your own business you've probably also had days where you've felt like you've worked too many hours for how little you've accomplished. Is it that you aren't working hard enough? Not likely.
Trying to operate your own business is often much harder than working for someone else and usually the number of hours worked is greater than for traditional 9-5 positions. So why do you feel like you aren't getting anything done? Time management. We need to learn to work more efficiently - to get more done in less time.
When we were still in our 9-5 jobs our days were pretty much set for us. We were told when to start work, when we could take a break, what had to be done on a particular day, when we could go home, etc... Now with the new found freedom that comes from working for ourselves we don't have a manager or supervisor making sure we're getting our work done. So how do we 'manage' ourselves? Planning and prioritizing.
I've heard of some people who try to draw up a schedule to be followed daily in order to add structure to their work habits. For example:
6:00AM Wake up. Breakfast. Shower.
7:00AM Start Work. Check email. Web site development.
9:00AM Morning Break. Exercise.
9:30AM Read newspapers/magazines.
10:00:AM Marketing strategies.
This is one time management method that I've definitely tried to stay away from. If I set a 'start work' time of 7:00 for myself and I'm late, I'll probably still take my morning break at 9:00 because it's scheduled and I can convince myself not to feel guilty about it. Also, if I'm in the middle of something, I don't want to stop because the clock says it's time for my daily exercise. Conversely, I don't want to sit around wasting time before lunch because I've finished working on my marketing strategies for the day.
Forget the schedule. Use a day-planner but only write down a specific time for appointments you have with others. For everything else write down detailed tasks or goals that you need to achieve and prioritize them. Sometime everyday, probably at night after you've finished working, determine what needs to be accomplished the next day. Use this daily list as a guide to manage your time. The more you do this, the more you will become comfortable with knowing how long certain tasks will take and how much you can reasonably expect to get done in a day. As you 'tick' things off your list each day you will feel a sense of accomplishment and be more motivated to go on and tackle the next item on the list.
This is not to say that you can not have a 'routine'. There are some things that you must do everyday - check email, make phone calls, read papers/magazines - and you may find certain times of the day which you prefer to do these things. There may be some times of your day that lend themselves to not being particularly busy. You may find that you like to do all your reading in the morning or just before you go to bed. Find what works best for you. Make sure, though, that you are comfortable abandoning your routine if something more important comes up and demands your immediate attention.
Make sure to attack the difficult tasks on your list. It's very easy to spend more time than necessary on the easier tasks or those that we enjoy more than others. When this happens, we justify not completing the harder tasks by rationalizing that we were busy working on other projects.
Also, don't procrastinate when it comes to making phone calls. Calling customers or potential customers is often one of the most difficult tasks on our lists. This tends to be the case because many of us fear rejection. We want to succeed but we become anxious that our sales or business calls will not go well. Keep in mind though, that without customers it is tremendously difficult to generate a profit. Pick up the phone and remember that our greatest achievements come from stepping outside of our comforts zones and facing difficult tasks.
There's no better time to start using these time management techniques than right now. Remember: plan and prioritize. Get a sheet of paper and write down all of the projects, tasks, phone calls, etc. that you need to complete for your business. Next, prioritize every item and make a note of what MUST be done tomorrow as well as items that you would like to get to if you finish the mandatory tasks. Now get out your day-planner and transfer these items onto tomorrow's page. Use this 'to-do' list to keep yourself on track and then repeat the process tomorrow.
Throw out your old schedule. Stop working according to the clock and start managing your time. Make a habit of this and you'll be surprised to find that it feels like you have more hours in the day.
Chris Wilkinson is a veteran entrepreneur with over 20 years experience and 12 years of online adventures. Chris offers FREE marketing and Internet consulting services to small and home-based businesses. To learn more business building strategies and
techniques visit http://www.acmeventure.com.