Did you know, the best part of being your own boss is also the worst?
I’m referring to time management.
On one hand, you get to decide when you wake up, when you go to the gym and when it’s time to call it a day. That’s great.
On the other hand, you have to decide how much time you spend acquiring new customers, attending events and everything else that goes with the territory. Not so great.
If you fail to manage your time effectively then you’re liable to procrastination, disappointing customers, burning out and ultimately, failing in your business venture.
Fortunately for you, here are five tried-and-tested steps for managing your time and staying focused on your goals.
1. Start by defining your goals
Answer these simple questions to determine your overall aim and shorter-term objectives: Why do you do what you do? What do you hope to achieve within the next one to three years? Write these down and make them visible.
You now have a reference point from which you can instantly judge the importance of any future work. You can simply ask yourself, “how much closer will <insert task> take me toward my overall aim and objectives?”.
2. Break work into bite-sized chunks
Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.
Use this philosophy to break down your objectives into smaller chunks of work. Your aim should be to have a list of tasks that are specific, so you can actually determine when they are complete. You should also be able to complete each task within a reasonable time-frame, for example, one week or less.
3. Prioritise your work
You have bite-sized chunks of work, now you need to determine what you will do first. Try adopting Elon Musk’s approach. When developing the early models of the Tesla electric car, Elon Musk started by solving the most complex and critical element: the battery. Without a battery that could drive for several hundred miles the car and by extension the company would be a non-starter, literally.
Which elements are critical to your success? Start with these first. Then tackle the next most complex tasks. You may just find that the rest fall magically into place.
And remember to review and re-prioritise this list occasionally! Once every two to four weeks should suffice.
4. Create a schedule
Willpower is a finite resource. And you’ll find it depleted when you need it most, leaving you sat watching TV instead of making that important phone call.
There is a solution: use a schedule. The hardest part is deciding to do something. The easy part is doing it. This is why schedules work so well. Simply create recurring invites in your personal calendar for key activities, for example, 2-3pm each day could be reserved for following up email leads.
And if you’re unsure what to schedule, review your prioritised list of tasks and roughly group them into categories. Use the categories as the basis for your recurring invites.
5. Go with the flow
The life of an entrepreneur, business owner and freelancer can be wildly unpredictable. That’s what makes it both great and sometimes stressful. Leave room in your schedule for unexpected stuff to happen. And if something comes up then simply ask, “is it more important than what I’m currently working on?”. If yes then it’s time to change what you’re doing. If no, then add it to your list of tasks and carry on.
Now and again you will have days when you feel less productive. Listen to your body. Sometimes taking a break is the best thing you can do. So don’t beat yourself up if you deviate from your schedule.
Above all, remember that the best strategy is the one that works for you.
Continue to reflect on what is working and what isn’t working. Experiment with different schedules and with no schedules if you prefer. As long as work is getting done and you are progressing toward your objectives then little else matters.
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