One of the biggest challenges we face as business owners is spending our time well. After you go to the trouble of learning how to create time, you want to make sure you’re making the best use of it. And you know as the captain of your own ship, how you spend your time definitely impacts the success of your business.
As well as how much money you make.
And how good you feel about yourself. Being productive gives you a sense of accomplishment, which makes you want to be more productive, which makes you more successful, and you get a good momentum going.
I’m not telling you anything new — you know this. Then how come you spend so much time doing the wrong things? I do it too, we all do. We start our weeks and days and hours with good intentions and then somehow get off course . . .
and the important things don’t get done.
One of the most useful things I do in my business is to stay on top of how I’m spending my time.
Awareness is the most important step
Maybe you, like a lot of entrepreneurs, need a way to bring what you’re actually doing into your awareness more often, so you can stop what you’re doing if it’s not productive, and get back to what you should be doing — things that will help move your business forward.
Try doing this:
Step 1: Put a note where you’ll see it throughout the day.
It can say, “Stop!” or “Pay attention,” or “Hey! Get back to work!” or whatever you think will get your attention when you see it throughout the day. Something that will stop you, so you can become aware.
For years I had a “Pay attention!” sticky note on my monitor, until it got to be part of my environment and I didn’t see it anymore — that’s when it’s time to move on to something new that will get your attention. I moved to a rubber band on my wrist — it annoyed me enough that I paid attention to it. And if I was doing something really dumb, or something that wasn’t helpful to my business, I’d give the rubber band a snap. That woke me up enough that I could move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Then ask yourself, “What am I doing?” followed by these questions:
• Does it need to be done?
Is what you’re doing necessary? Does it even need to be done? Maybe it’s something you used to have to do, but isn’t necessary anymore. Rethink it — maybe you can dump it. I used to save a lot of paper files and someone (usually me) would have to spend a lot of time updating and organizing them. Necessary? Not most of the time. I had a closet full of this stuff. Easier to dump a lot of it, and more productive, too.
Or maybe you’ve drifted off-task onto something totally non-productive. Does that need to be done, really?
• Does it need to be done now?
Maybe you’ve drifted on to another business task. Is it the one you should be doing now?
• Does it need to be done by me?
This one is key. Are you doing something mindless that you could delegate, like standing in line at the post office? Or something you’re not really qualified to do anyway, like your bookkeeping? Can you find someone else to do this stuff?
• Is it income producing?
If it is, cool — carry on. If it’s not, can you stop it and shift to something that is?
• Is it keeping me from doing something that is income producing?
Yes? Then stop it and move on. Delegate it if it still needs to be done. Put it on the back burner. Whatever.
• Does it benefit my business?
If you’re playing a game or looking for a present for cousin Suzie, maybe you can do it later. If someone else is keeping you from work you need to do, let them know. There can be sneaky things in here too, that look like they’re important and beneficial to your business, but they’re really not — be ruthless and truthful here.
• Can I be doing something more productive?
If yes, stop what you’re doing, and do the more productive thing.
Step 3: Reward yourself every time you stop doing something unproductive and move on to something productive.
M&Ms work well for me. Or put a dollar in a jar. After awhile, the thought of being productive will be a reward in itself. Also, the extra income that comes along with a more successful business helps.
Step 4: Keep track of how many times you catch yourself doing something unproductive or unnecessary during the day.
Count the dollars you’ve been putting in that jar — can you believe you almost wasted all that time? And doesn’t it feel great knowing how much more successful your business is going to be because now you’re not?
Being aware, and having a method to remind yourself to be aware, is the biggest part of the battle — don’t you think?