You decided to strike out on your own so that you’d have more time and more freedom. But since you launched your business, you do nothing but work all day, every night and every (or almost every) weekend too.
This is just going to end up with you feeling worn out and frazzled. You’ll find yourself wondering (time and time again): ‘WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF?’
If this sounds like a familiar situation (welcome to the club!) then don’t worry. There’s a solution.
The point is this: you need to work ON the business, not only IN the business. If you just keep on doing and doing and doing, with no organisational strategy or clear direction, you won’t get anywhere. Other than to the point of frustration (believe me, I’ve been there!).
In this article, I’ll explain a few simple tricks to bring some order to your business and stop yourself feeling as though you’re on a hamster wheel (running and running but not getting anywhere).
It’s been shown that we use up more time when switching between activities of different kinds than when doing the same kinds of activities.
Every time you do something new your brain needs some time to get into gear, to enter into a state of flux, or that state in which your productivity is high and you’re able to keep doing that activity naturally and fluidly, without interruption.
Continually jumping from one activity to another reduces your total output and causes you to lose concentration more easily. Thinking of multitasking? Please don’t do it.
GROUP YOUR ACTIVITIES INTO ‘BATCHES’
The first simple trick for working on your business is to group your activities into ‘batches’.
Start by compiling a list of all the tasks you regularly do each month. For example, writing articles, creating graphics for your site, scheduling Facebook posts, and so on.
After that, decide where you can group the activities together so that a group of activities can be done in a single day. Obviously, it won’t be possible to do this for everything, but you’ll see that some tasks are very well suited to it.
As I explain in this article, it’s better to do just a few things at once but to do them well. For example, every Monday a post that focuses on the Coaching Game, one of the products I offer, is published on the ThreeSixtySkills Facebook page.
At first I would do these posts week by week, spending about half an hour per time on: getting out the Coaching Game, shuffling the cards, choosing one, reading the story, letting inspiration come to me (this is what takes the most time!), opening Facebook, selecting the image to publish the post, writing the text and scheduling the post.
To make better use of my time, I now do this task in a single go and schedule the posts ahead of time. I, therefore, draw five or six cards at once and then start writing the posts for the coming Mondays. All this only takes about an hour in total.
The same thing can be done with drafting articles, creating graphics, managing the accounts and so on.
ANTICIPATE AND AUTOMATE YOUR TASKS
Where possible, as in my Facebook example, organise your tasks in advance and make them automatic. That way you don’t have to think about them anymore. Work ahead of time and create a buffer of things you’ve already prepared so you don’t get caught short when it comes to deadlines.
For example, I took up the habit of jotting down my ideas in Evernote and have created drafts of articles that I can draw on in times of need. If I end up having no time to prepare a post, I can easily adapt one of the posts I created earlier and publish it.
What’s more, I try to have the articles already ready and scheduled at least a week ahead of their publication date, or even earlier if possible. And I’m gradually moving towards creating the whole batch of articles for the coming month in one go.
As a result, I’m able to free up some time for other activities and I don’t have to worry, ‘Urghh, what the heck am I going to publish now?’
Take another look at the set of activities you’ve listed and ask yourself which ones you could pre-empt and which you could automate, so that you don’t have to concern yourself with them on a daily basis.
SET UP PROCEDURES
To save time (among other reasons!), I suggest that you start putting procedures into place for each of your business tasks right away.
Why? It’s very simple: to start creating a system. Think about it for a moment. All large companies have systems and procedures to follow, as well as clear guidelines on what to do and what not to do.
Any functioning business has processes in place. Things don’t just happen at random but follow well-defined directions.
For example, you’ve eaten a hamburger at McDonalds before, right? So what happens there when you place an order? Your request is sent to the kitchen staff who, without having to think too much about it, know exactly which ingredients to use, how long to cook them for, how to put them in the bun, and how to wrap it up.
This way you can be sure that whichever McDonald’s you go to, the Big Mac will always be a Big Mac. The ingredients will always be the same. And they’ll always be arranged in the same way.
Imagine if, instead, every time a chef received an order they had to wonder: what kind of meat should I use? What temperature should I cook it at? How long for? Does the cheese or the meat go first? Does it need sauce? And so on… It would be a huge waste of time! And the quality would also suffer.
This is why it’s useful to set up processes for your own business: the clearer you are on the procedures to follow, the less time you’ll have to spend thinking about how to do each activity.
It’s not as hard as it might seem: grab that list of activities you made earlier and describe the exact steps you take to perform each task.
I know that at first, it can seem deadly boring, but it can turn out to be VERY useful, not only for you but for your colleagues too!
DELEGATE ACTIVITIES YOU DON’T NEED TO DO YOURSELF
Colleagues? In your own business? Yes! Even if you started small, consider that if your business grows (and I suspect that’s what you want!), it’s likely that you’ll want and need people to help you out.
And you don’t even have to wait until you’re earning millions. Right now you could consider the idea of having some part-time help.
Of course, this costs money, and I’m not suggesting you take on a staff of ten full-time employees! However, in my opinion, you’re making an investment that can help give you more time to further expand the business.
Let me explain myself better: imagine that you’re a consultant whose services cost €100 per hour. First, think about how many hours per week you lose on activities that don’t require your specific expertise, activities that other people could do in your place. For example, publishing a Facebook post, looking for an image to go on the blog, and so on.
Now do some quick sums: every hour you spend doing things you could delegate to someone else is an hour in which you’re losing the chance to earn €100 doing the consulting that only you know how to do.
As for me, I rely on Alessia, my virtual assistant and communication manager. This has allowed me to free up some time that I can use to improve business strategy and expand the business. And, thanks to the procedures I mentioned above, it’s much easier to explain to her what to do, how to do it, in what order, and so on. ;-)
You can do this too if you want. Pick up your list of regular tasks again and identify the ones that could essentially be done by someone else in your place (I know, it can hurt to admit it, but you’re not always indispensable).
On websites such as Upwork, Fiverr or Freelancer you can find people to help you, even if you have a limited budget available. In a future article, I’ll explain in more detail how you can find the virtual assistant best adapted to your needs (or your first colleague).
OVER TO YOU
- Make an exhaustive list of the activities you regularly perform for your business;
- Select the activities that can be grouped together in ‘batches’;
- Identify which of them you can anticipate and automate;
- Create a written procedure for each activity;
- Consider delegating some of these activities to a virtual assistant or external collaborator.
I’ve prepared a form for you to use to answer these questions and gain more clarity on the steps you need to take. Click here to download it!
I’d love to hear from you in the comments box about the strategies you use to make sure your business doesn’t drive you to the point of exhaustion, and which of these have turned out to be the most useful.
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See you next time!