It's the new year, you are excited to get back into your routine ... and get back to work! You've got big goals, a great big BOLD vision for your business in 2020 and you're ready to take some brave new steps forward.
There's just one little problem ... you've got so much you to do that you are starting off each day overwhelmed, unsure where to start, and making to-do list after to-do (after to-do list) and it's killing your motivation.
We get so focused on all the things we can be doing, we get distracted from what we need to do!
It's not uncommon for me to get multiple messages from first-time entrepreneurs this time of year asking for help on time management and prioritizing their to-do lists. You are not the only one raring to go and feeling a tad lost and overwhelmed on where to start!
The first thing I get entrepreneurs to do is make a list of all the projects they are working on and then break down what they do in an average week. It becomes obvious pretty flipping quickly that most entrepreneurs are trying to do way too much in way too short a time. The pressure quickly builds, deadlines are missed, and self-defeat starts kicking in.
We over-estimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in three!
You need to start viewing your business in terms of years ... not months!
Story Time: I moved across the country last year which means I got to do some serious sorting, donating, and recycling. I came across some old business planners of mine from my the early 00's and as I took a trip down memory lane I was cracking up at the innocence of baby-entrepreneur Lindsay and her ambitious goals.
"I'm going to quit my job in 6 months and do my business full time"
(I had just started my first business in leadership development and training)
"I'm going to make $100,000 in training revenue"
(Again, I was months into my new business and still working full time.)
"I'm going to record a leadership development program on CD and make a complementary workbook"
(This was early internet days, friends ... and pre-social media.)
I had lofty goals and great big vision for my business and I was working my buns off - between shifts running my family restaurant - to make it happen.
And here's the thing ... I DID do all that...
But not in 6 months ... in 3 years!
Here's the reality:
It didn't take me long to realize that it was going to take a lot longer to LEARN how to build a business ... and actually BUILD that business ... than six months.
It was one of the first core business principles I learned!
You can't make time! We all have the same 24 hours each day.
The next important lesson is that you can't make time!
Admit it, you've said it before to yourself and others, "I'll just make time."
Nobody can make time. We all have the same 24 hours each day as everyone else. It's about how you use that time!
Here are 6 Simple Steps to Mastering Time Management (and your calendar):
Start by getting out your calendar or day planner so you can fill out the following activities. I find having a paper planner with the entire month or week laid out in front of me is easiest.
1. Write in all the non-negotiable appointments and tasks you already know are happening.
This could be school drop-off and pick up for your kids. Doctors appointments. Date night with your partner. Brunch with the girls. Your day job. Networking events. What ever you already know is scheduled and can't (or won't) be moved.
2. Time-blocking! Set up regular days and times for repetitive tasks you do daily, weekly, or monthly.
Next, make a list of all the tasks and projects you typically work on in an average month. You'll use this list for steps 2-4.
Once you have that list go through and put a start beside the repetitive tasks you do daily, weekly, and monthly. These are the tasks that always get done (not one-off activities). This might look like bookkeeping, content creation, client sessions, research, emailing business cards, networking on LinkedIn, marketing, etc.
Take the tasks that you consistently do in your business and instead of squeezing them into your day or jumping around from task to task, dedicate specific day and time blocks in your calendar to focus on those tasks.
3. Schedule yourself like you'd schedule an employee.
There are times when you're wearing your employee hat and times when you're wearing your business owner hat. (Otherwise known as working in the business vs on the business, respectively).
Being your own boss means you have to remember that you are also your own employee! You need to schedule yourself accordingly. Block out time in your calendar and schedule yourself like your employee so you have the time you need to work in your business.
This time will be spent on things like client delivery, sales calls, networking, and anything else that is required to acquire new clients and then serve those clients.
Put a check mark beside your "employee activities" on your list and begin to slot these tasks into the time you've blocked off in your calendar.
4. Fill the time that's left with "On-the-Business" tasks!
The time that's left is where you work ON your business and if you're like most first-time entrepreneurs you've probably noticed there's not a lot of time left ... amirite??
Whether you're promoting an upcoming event, creating a new online course, scheduling meetings to uncover new opportunities and collaborations, building a membership site, writing a keynote presentation, or admin duties, these are the tasks required to keep your business running and moving forward.
Go through your list and circle whatever is left. The leftover tasks will most likely be on-the-business work. Now you can start slotting these tasks into the time that is left in your planner.
If you don't have enough time in your calendar you may need to go back to the previous 3 steps and see what you can move around, outsource, or put on the shelf to make space for on-the-business tasks.
5. Prioritize your to-do list
Remember, it doesn't matter whether you're working in the business or on the business, the bulk of your time needs to be spent on Revenue Generating Activities (RGA's) if you're in the first 3 years of your business or you'll see your cash flow take a hit!
Now that you see your calendar laid out in front of you, get real about your to-do list. Is it filled with busy work?
Busy Work = business related work that keeps you busy but doesn't generate new revenue
Do you need to make space for more RGA's?
RGA or Revenue Generating Activities = business related work that does generate new revenue
It's easy to get caught up in busy work when you've got a fun new project you're working on but you can't stop doing RGA's completely or you'll stop earning new revenue.
Do you know the 3 Fastest, Cheapest, and Easiest RGA's to build your business? Dive into my free training, 7 Mind-Blowing Reasons Your Biz Isn't Growing (and what the heck you can do about it!)
Entrepreneurs in the first 3 years of business generally need to spend approximately 80% of their time on RGA's.
NOTE: This does not apply to people who are scaling and have high referrals and a streamlined client acquisition system that converts new clients quickly and easily
If you find your calendar is missing those ever important RGA's where can you make space for more?
Review your calendar now and prioritize your tasks so that you're making enough time for RGA's or other pressing tasks that need to get done
6. Make a list at the end of every workday of 3-6 important tasks to do the next day
Want to have a better night's sleep and wake up knowing exactly what to do every morning? End every workday by making a list of the most important tasks you need to work on the next day!
This super simple activity will help you wind down after a day of good work and set you up for an effective and successful tomorrow. Plus, goodbye tossing and turning at night thinking about aaall the things you need to do.
There you have it!
By implementing these 6 simple steps you'll take charge of your hectic schedule and get intentional about your to-do lists.
I recommend starting with these 6 steps weekly (monthly can get overwhelming) and remember ... make space for those RGA's!
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Digging into the way we connect with ourselves, our businesses, and the world.