Getting Things Done as an Entrepreneur

By VICKY BROWN

As an entrepreneur, our time is our own.  But that presents it’s own challenges.  How can you make sure you are getting things done, moving the business forward, every day – while also servicing your clients, and making sure the trains continue to run on time.

Well, you have to have a plan.  And it’s even more important if your office is a home office.  Because when we are working from home, it is way too easy to mingle our personal and professional time.  And once those things get muddy, you will end up feeling like you’re always working and never working.

First up, get dressed for the day.  I’ve talked about this before, getting dressed for work signals to your brain that you’re in work mode.  It helps to prepare you to be productive and focused on getting work done.  When we’re sitting around in our pajamas, our brain is confused, because it can’t tell the difference between now and when we were getting ready for bed.

And while I’m not saying you have to put on a suit and tie, you at should at least try a business casual look.  It helps your mindset, and helps you delineate the different sections of your day.  Without that, it’s so easy to feel bored and stuck, because it feels like you’re doing the same thing, all day long, every day.  That mish-mash of work-personal time.  It can really wear on you.

So, set yourself up for the day, get up, take a shower, get dressed, grab some coffee (or your beverage of choice) and get going, all the way to your home office.

Next, have a set schedule for yourself.  This is like the getting dressed issue.  Having a schedule signals to your brain that you’re in work mode, not laundry mode.  And it helps you plan.  Maybe you want to dedicate certain days to certain tasks, like writing Mondays, or team meeting Thursdays – or maybe you want to block your days out – something like Wednesday afternoons are video filming, Tuesday mornings are accounting work or something like that.

There are loads of time management techniques out there; there’s the Pareto Analysis (sometimes called the 80/20 rule) where you figure out which 20% of the tasks give you 80% of the benefit, and focus your time on those.

Or, how about the Pomodoro Technique – you set a timer for a specific amount of time (like 20 mins), you focus exclusively on the task at hand for those 20 minutes, once the timer goes off (if you’re not done) you take a break (maybe go for a walk, or grab a water, or do something else non work related to give your brain a break), then reset the timer, and repeat the steps.

…Multi-tasking is a myth.  It’s really switch-tasking.

You could try the Eisenhower Matrix – with this technique you divide your tasks into four quadrants, sorting them by important vs. unimportant and urgent vs. non urgent.  The urgent tasks are the ones we need to get done immediately. Important tasks contribute to your long-term goals. Then, in a perfect world you would only work on tasks that you consider Important and Urgent.  The others would either be delegated or in the case of the Non Important and Not Urgent tasks, they would get deleted altogether.

You’ve probably heard about Parkinson’s Law – basically it says that your work will expand to fill the time available, so whatever amount of time you give yourself to complete a task, that’s the minimum amount of time the task will take.  With that in mind, try setting specific time limits on your tasks.  And instead of doing the work that I consider ‘chores’, you know, answering eMails, clearing your in box, making that phone call – before you do any of that, do the most important tasks at the very top of your day.  Don’t leave them until after everything else is done.

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The sister tip to setting a schedule, is have regular office hours for clients.  No matter if it’s Monday-Friday, 9 – 5:00; or weekday afternoons noon – 4:00 or whatever.  If you set specific office hours when your clients can reach you, and expect replies to their questions, it makes things much easier on them – and you.  No more 6:00am eMails on Sundays; no more calls to your cell phone on holidays, no more texts in the middle of the night.  Well, you get the idea.  Set boundaries, and then keep to them.  If you don’t your life will become one giant ‘open’ sign.

On, and a pro tip – I would suggest using something like Google Voice to set up a number you use as your business cell number vs. using your personal cell number for clients.  It helps keep things separate, and make sure your private cell phone number is hanging out there, everywhere.

Eliminate distractions so you can focus.  We ‘e always talking about multi tasking, but the truth of it is that we  aren’t ever really multitasking – we’re just forcing our brains to quickly switch from one task to another and back again.  As a result, we aren’t giving real focus to either task, so not only are we doing a half way job, but we may be missing critical information that we need to get the task done right.

Another problem with the multitasking myth is that the stop/start process is actually really rough on our brains, and it saps our energy.  So, working on that marketing campaign you need to get out, while you’re cooking dinner – that’s switch-tasking, and it’s not a good thing, for the campaign, or the dinner.

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