Thursday, July 17, 2008

But I've No Time To Learn How!

Time Management - not a thrilling or exciting topic, but something that helps SO much when running your own business. It is vital, in fact. One of those big qualities in a great entrepreneur is CONTROL, and the first thing you have to control is your own time. You know all those old cheesy "Time = Money" quips? They weren't made up for fun!

Some more top tips for an easier life, running your own (hectic!) business:

1. Get a good diary - preferably a week to 2-pages. This one really works, even for me! You slot everything into the little lines on each page, and when there is too much on the page, odds are you need to shuffle things around and start to manage your task list a bit better. You have no idea how useful that little nugget is.

2. Task Lists - this one follows directly on from the last point, and leads us to the next one perfectly. There are lots of opinions out there on how to make your task list easier. One example I heard is: write down all the stuff you have to do this week and number them backwards, starting with the one you hate - that way, the only way is up! This tip reminded me of my mum getting me to eat my cabbage first, then I could enjoy the spuds and gravy when I was small. (But curses, I was always full by the time I'd eaten all the yukky stuff! Funny, I quite like cabbage now...) Personally, when it comes to task lists I prefer the priority approach. That way I get less ulcers ;) get the "holy crap this is important" stuff out of the way first!

3. Prioritise - this is what I work with best. Figure out which items on your to-do list are the most vital, and do them first. Leave the weeny things til Friday afternoon when everything else is done and you are cruising to the weekend. The stuff in between just needs to be sorted in order of importance and urgency. There is a handy graph that gets dragged out at every Time Management seminar, and I'm putting it here, with a hat-tip & thanks to Time Management Dot Com:

Essentially, everything on your list can be popped on to this graph, and you undertake each task in order, 1 - 4. If something is both urgent & important, it goes into quadrant #1 and you do it first. If it is urgent but not important, it goes into the next block. Things that are important but not urgent come next, and finally - if it is neither urgent nor important, it'll get done when it gets done! The grid is a handy illustration but you don't get it out every day. You just get used to realising what's important/urgent to you.

4. You have to become quite firm with people - more than firm - and just make sure you remember why you're going to all this effort in the first place. You are trying to run a successful business, and by that I mean you HAVE to put your own needs fairly close to the top of the list. For example if you are a sole trader, make sure you keep one afternoon per week completely free for doing your bookkeeping, VAT returns, invoicing, payments, etc. This is vital to keeping your business financially healthy, but you would be SO surprised at how many people end up doing this at midnight on a Sunday! It's important - do it when you're fresh. That way, you won't make mistakes! Or you'll make less of them, at least.

5. Last tip - plan to be interrupted. Seriously! Leave about 15-20% of your day open, every day. This is like a cushion, so that when some mad customer rings with a crazy "urgent" query, you have the time to deal with it, without sacrificing the control of your day...and business.

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