Do you frequently feel that you’re never away from work?
No matter where you are and what you might be doing, it’s easy to start thinking of all those business tasks that you need to get on top of, but never seem to quite manage to. With so much to do and such little time, your work life seems to erode into your personal time over and over again – much to the annoyance of friends and family!
Why is it so difficult to keep on top of everything?
Feeling overwhelmed by your workload isn’t unusual. In your previous employed work life, a lot of these tasks would have been filtered out for you – reception answering phone calls and opening mail, the office junior dealing with email enquiries, the manager tackling customer complaints, etc. Now it’s all on you, and that’s on top of your day to day work.
But with a few simple steps, you can turn that overwhelm into an organised plan of action that keeps you on top and with time to spare for loved ones.
Step 1 – track what you do every day for a week
OK, so this step is adding a little more work to your week but it’s a worthwhile exercise in understanding exactly what you do, where your time disappears to and things you might be able to change to improve your productivity.
I’d suggest using a simple spreadsheet to keep track of each activity. At the end of the week categorise each task – essential, non-essential and things other people could do. Make a note of any personal distractions or external events that had an impact on your time too, could these have been avoided?
Step 2 – get a handle on the essential tasks
Now you know what you spend your time on, turn that essential task list into your to-do list for next week. Todoist, Trello and Asana are popular apps for doing this, or you might prefer to do it by hand, sometimes it feels harder to avoid tasks written down! Electronic to do lists are great for sending you reminders (and Todoist even uses a scoring system to keep you on your toes!)
Colour coding the priority tasks is a great way to see what must be done each day, but those time-consuming, difficult ones need to be near the top of the list. We tend to procrastinate over the difficult tasks, but once they’re out of the way you’ll feel more motivated to complete the smaller activities.
Make sure you allocate some time for you on your to-do list too. Whether this is a half hour time out for meditation and personal development, or a daily jog around the block. Get it pencilled in and it’ll be easier to turn it into a daily practice that’ll benefit your business too.
Step 3 – assess the non-essential tasks
Why aren’t they important?
Do they really need to be done at all?
Quite often these are the tasks that involve working on your business rather than in it. Updating your business plan, working on a marketing strategy, finding new income streams and ways to retain customers, are just a few examples.
These can often be outsourced to professionals that will blitz through things in half the time you’d take and use their valuable expertise to think of things you couldn’t. If outsourcing isn’t an option set aside a half day a week just for working on your business. This gives you some quiet time to reflect and evaluate on things, and the energy to focus on what you need to do to improve.
Step 4 – automate repetitive tasks
Automation is a bit of a grey area – customers appreciate the personal touch and can tell an auto-response a mile off, but as business owners we seldom have the time to sit waiting for emails and messages to send a fast and personal reply.
It is something that’s here to stay though and becoming increasingly common. From Facebook messenger bots to accounting apps, there’s a way to automate most business tasks. Common ones to consider automating are:
- Social media – uploading posts in advance to a publishing app like Buffer or Hootsuite can save you time each day
- Bookkeeping – apps like QuickFile and AND CO let you set up recurring invoices, import bank account information and allow you to reconcile everything with just a few clicks of a mouse
- Appointment management – juggling diaries can be a bit of a nightmare but apps like Calendly and 10to8 allow clients to make appointments with you that automatically get synced with your Outlook calendar
- Online form filling – LastPass is commonly used to remember passwords but it has a handy form filling tool that completes online forms with your saved information
If something is taking too much time, or you’re repeating the same information repeatedly, then chances are high it can be automated.
Step 5 – consider outsourcing everything else
If a task isn’t directly making you money or going to improve your business – consider outsourcing it. The work still gets done, often by someone with more expertise and knowledge making them faster and with better results than you could manage. This frees up your time for the important things.
I talk about outsourcing a lot, but that’s because it genuinely works. I couldn’t keep on top of everything and deliver a first-class service to my clients if I was trying to keep on top of everything myself.
To find out how I can help you keep on top of your workload, get in touch with me today by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please make sure that you are considering GDPR when choosing systems to use or outsourcing to freelancers – at the time of publishing this blog (March 2018) we don’t have definite confirmation that any of the systems recommended are complaint – we will monitor this and provide updates as and when we get them.