Today was errand day. I had to get to 3 different stores and make a special delivery, all in 3 hours, with a 2-year-old. It seemed insurmountable, but I really needed to get it all done and desperately wanted to avoid the toddler tantrum – so I planned it out. I packed snacks, I made a list and I planned my route. When I got home after getting it all done, I did a little happy dance. It’s amazing how checking off everything on my list was so satisfying.
As we move into September and say good-bye to half day Fridays, long weekends and lunches on a patio, it’s a perfect time to look at how we spend our days and figure out how to maximize our time so that we can successfully grow our small businesses.
I have taken my errand day successes and used the same techniques to create a more focused and successful work day. Here are my tips on how to maximize your work day:
Plan your week
The best time to plan your week is on Friday – at the end of the week reflect on how your week went, what worked and didn’t, and what you need to get done the following week. This doesn’t have to be a time-consuming task, but as you pack up for the weekend, think about next week. Don’t wait until Monday to do this, because the last thing you want to do on a Monday morning is organize your calendar.
I use a day planner and highlight my work hours and non-work hours (I love love my Day Designer planner - it keeps me sane and is gorgeous!). From there I fill up the time-slots accordingly. It doesn’t have to be an old school planner – there are tons of online apps and calendars that can fully integrate all of your commitments. It’s just helpful to know how much work time is available to get everything done.
Write down your goals for the week – what do you want to accomplish? What are your priorities? This is more than a to-do list: think about it at a higher level. Depending on your business, these goals will take a different form. For me, I like I several clients which require specific month end tasks – so I set a goal to finish those recurring tasks during the first week of the month. I set this as a goal and then create a list of what I need to do to get it done. It’s better to not set weekly goals more than a week in advance, to leave room for a change in direction.
Budget your time
How much time is it realistically going to take to accomplish your goals? What can you do to group like tasks together to minimize wasting time? I like to book meeting days and non-meeting days, so that on non-meeting days I can sit down and focus on the task at hand. I also know that I have a hard stop at 3:15pm every day - I try to plan my meetings in the morning so that I can work right up until the last minute, versus leaving a meeting when traffic is getting heavier and wasting that time travelling.
Distractions are different for everyone. It might be customers coming into your shop, or the phone ringing or text messages. By eliminating distractions, you can maximize the time that you’ve budgeted to complete your tasks. It sounds basic, but isn’t always as easy as you’d think. I try to avoid responding to ad-hoc emails when I am focused on a task – each little “ok great” email takes my attention away from what I had planned on getting done. I dedicate time slots during the day to prioritize my email responses and group them into “quick” responses and “work required” responses. That time might be at the end of the day, or at the end of the task – it depends on how I’ve budgeted my time. One of the biggest daytime distractions I try to avoid is social media. By turning off Facebook and Instagram notifications I am not longer drawn into wanting to clear off the little popup on my phone (but during my “break time”, I spend a few minutes perusing updates).
I know that there are days where all of my plans will go out the window, but I also know that by taking control of my time I will be happier and more successful. What is your number one tip for being efficient?