What are the unimportant things you want to spend less time on?

I’ve been thinking about the quote I used in last week’s post:

Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life. – Brian Andreas

What needs to change so there is enough time for the important things?

What immediately pops to mind is that you need to know what the important things are. I talked about this a bit in last week’s post.

The less obvious thing you need to know is what are the unimportant things? Knowing this can be just as difficult as knowing what the truly important things are.

For me, it’s recognizing that watching YouTube videos over breakfast are a huge time suck and I end up having a really long breakfast. It’s closing my email window and checking it once every couple of hours instead of once every 15 minutes (and doing the same for Facebook). It’s recognizing that there are some social media options that I don’t get and it’s okay for me to not understand them right now. It’s realizing that spending 15 minutes (or more) trying to get the formatting perfect for something that I’m going to be the only one looking at probably isn’t a good use of my time. It’s not picking up my phone to play a quick game, because I’ll spend at least five more minutes playing than I anticipated.

Lots of examples above of what some of my “time wasters” are. I get so much more done when I don’t do those things, or recognize early that I’m starting to do them. And at the end of the day, I just feel better – my attention hasn’t been splattered a lots of different places.

Now it’s your turn. What are the “unimportant” things you want to spend less time on so you can spend more time on your important things?

Share in the comments below.

Successful Projects and The Project Management Triangle

Project Management Triangle1Have you ever heard of the Project Management Triangle?

You can see it in the image on the right.

But what does it mean?

It means that every project (or goal) is a combination of time, cost and scope.

Broken down further:

  • Time – How long will this project take and when do you expect to complete it?
  • Cost – How much money do you have to complete the project? Or to invest in it?
  • Scope – What is everything that needs to be completed to mark this as a successful project?

For a successful project, you need to have each side of the triangle well defined. And if one edge of the triangle needs to be lengthened or shortened, at least one other side will be affected.

For example, if you need something competed faster you’ll need to decrease the scope or increase the cost. And if you need something done with less cost you’ll need to decrease the scope or increase the time. And if you want more done (increase the scope) you need to increase the time or the cost.

You might be wondering what the heck this has to do with you! You’re a business owner and entrepreneur, not a project manager!

Well, I’d argue you are a project manager. Every goal you have, every strategy you’re using to reach that goal and every to-do list you have is a project or part of a project that you’re managing.

While you don’t need to think about everything in terms of the triangle above, it does help to consider it.

Why? Because it gives your projects (goals, strategies and to-do list) a grounded frame of reference. And generally, one side of the triangle is fixed.

For example, let’s say you want to update your website. You need to start with the fixed side of the triangle. What do you already know about the project? The finish date? The amount you have to invest? The work you want done?

If you know that you want your website completely redone (the “fixed” side is scope), that’s going to be a larger investment in time and money. However, if you have a specific budget to work with (the “fixed” side is cost), that will help determine what will get done now (scope) and the amount of time it will take.

The other great thing about this is the triangle will point out when you don’t have a well-defined project.

Let’s pick a New Year’s favorite of eating healthy. For many people, that’s all there is to their goal (and we know how successful most of them are). If they went through and asked themselves about the cost, time and scope, then they’d have a defined plan.

This is also a good example of how the edges of the triangle move.

Let’s say you want to quickly learn how to eat healthy. Maybe you’re not even sure what the scope of that is, but you know someone who’s a health coach and specializes in this. If you invest your money and a little time in working with her you’ll know exactly what the scope is and have help creating a solid plan.

However, if you don’t have money to invest, you will invest a lot more of your time in determining the scope of the project and create a plan for yourself with more trial and error.

Have you used the Project Management Triangle before, maybe without realizing it? How might you use it in the future? Share in the comments below!

Finding Time for Your Big Projects

girl taking notesAre you someone who knows exactly what’s on your plate? The things that need to get done daily and weekly or even monthly get done. You keep up with current clients, bills are get paid and all those other things that you regularly do in your business get done.

And you’re frustrated. Why?

Because even though you’re staying on top of all the details, you don’t have time for your bigger goals, the bigger projects that will move you into the next phase of your business.

You don’t want to stop doing the things that currently pay the bills. But you also want to find time for those other projects.

So, what do you do?

How do you add time to your week so you have time for those projects?

You take a step back and review:

  1. Time leaks – How are you currently spending your time?
    Are you spending too much time checking email? Facebook? Twitter? YouTube? Where are you spending too much time online?

    When do you tend to spend too much time on those sites? Is it triggered by something? What can you do to spend less time on that site?
    What tasks take you a long time to complete?

    Why do those tasks take so long (be kind with yourself!)? Are they tasks that you don’t like doing or are not in your skill set?

  2. Systems
    What are the things you do every week or every month? Is there a system you can create around them?

    Maybe you have a series of steps that you take each new client through. Do you have those steps documented, emails drafted and attachments all in one spot so you can quickly (and warmly) welcome them?

    Where can you add systems in your business?

  3. Hire it out
    There are some tasks that you certainly can do, but aren’t in your skill set. These could be some of the tasks you identified in “Time Leaks.” You can do them, but if you paid someone else to do it they’d do it faster and maybe even better.
    Or these tasks might be in your skill set, but your clients don’t pay you for that work.
    For example, I’m very comfortable with technology, I used to be a programmer. When it was time to put together my website I could have spent time to learn the ins and outs of WordPress and done it myself. However, I decided my time was better spent elsewhere and paid someone else to do it for me. That saved me hours of work.
    What are those things in your business?

An alternative to all of these things is to spend more time at work. While occasionally this is a necessity, it’s probably not something you want to regularly be doing.

So, what will you do to that will free up time in your work week?
Share in the comments below!

© Photographer: Dreamstime Agency | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Celebrate – Because You Are Amazing

FireworksLast week didn’t go as planned for me.

I found myself sidelined one day by a stress headache and all the tasks on my to-do list ended up being tossed that day.

It left me feeling frustrated and even more stressed (no wonder it wouldn’t go away!). However, the next day I took a deep breath, reassessed, created a new to-do list and kept moving forward.

Reviewing my postponed plans with my personal coach I shared how differently I would have handled that situation (and others) a couple of years ago. We spent a couple minutes chatting about that and she asked me if I had a coaching request for the week.

Well, we ended up creating a list of how far I’ve come over the last two years and I found the exercise to be wonderful.

So, if you’re willing to play along and toot your own horn a bit ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you easily do now that was really difficult one or two years ago? What changed?
  • What situations no longer throw you off balance?
  • What have you accomplished?
  • Where do you surprise yourself?
  • Where are you now professionally?
  • Where are you now personally?

We dismiss our accomplishments too easily sometimes. So, take the time to truly think about these questions.

And if you’re having problems with the exercise, ask yourself: if you were talking with the you from two years ago, what positive things would you tell them they have to look forward to?

The last step is to CELEBRATE! You truly are amazing and deserve to be acknowledged for that.

I would absolutely love it if you would share some of your accomplishments in the comments below!

How Do I Find The Time To Work On My Long Term Priorities?

ChecklistLast week we went through how to identify the projects/tasks that are your highest priority. So, you hopefully now know what you want to work on in addition to your day-to-day tasks. However, your day-to-day tasks still take all day.

And now you’re wondering, or still wondering how to find the time to work on those tasks, because you still have the day-to-day work to take care of. You can’t exactly let that slide, right? Of course not!

So, let’s get started!

How to find time to work on those priorities you identified:

  1. Break it down into bite-sized pieces.
    And I hear you saying: “but that doesn’t solve my time problem!” And you’re partially right. Last week, one of the example tasks was updating your website and if that a task on my to-do list I would probably avoid it like the plague.Why? Because I’d have no idea where to start, it’s too big. The first step would be to break it down into manageable pieces. And you don’t have to know all the steps right now. As long as you know the first step or two, you can get started and then fill in the next steps and you decide (or discover) what they are.
  2. Estimate the time to complete each task.
    Do this as best as you can. I know that it can be difficult to know how long a new task is going to take. However, I also know that if I give myself an unlimited amount of time to do something I get easily sidetracked by other distractions like Facebook and email. But when I give myself an hour to complete something or research something, I’m much more focused. When I’m working on it I know I only have so much time to complete it and then I want to move on to the next task.
  3. How do you currently spend your time?
    Be brutally honest with yourself. Are you spending too much time checking email, Facebook, Twitter or whatever your distraction of choice is?One tool I have installed on my desktop and laptop is Rescue Time (it’s free!). It monitors the websites you visit and the programs you use on your PC and you can assign how productive or distracting each site or program is. It’s a great way to find out where those little bits of time went.
  4. Schedule time to do those tasks.
    Make an appointment with yourself and keep it!I’ll admit that there was a time that I found this piece of advice really, really, oh my goodness sooo annoying. It took me a bit of time to really realize why. My main calendar, the one I sync with my phone, is my place for appointments and meetings. Putting tasks on it felt like clutter to me – I’d look at my phone to see my meetings/appointments for the day and only see the tasks for the day – my meetings would be lost in the tasks. Usually this meant I’d dress for a day at home and realize later that I had a networking event or coffee meeting with someone.

    So, what I ended up doing was creating another calendar. I use Google Calendars and it allows you to create as many calendars as you want and you can decide which ones are visible at any time.

    This means I can now schedule my tasks, but they aren’t downloaded to my phone. This is fine, because when I’m working on my tasks, I’m generally near a computer anyway. I still keep a paper list of what those tasks are too, so if I’m not at my desk, I know what is on the agenda for the day.

    What’s that I hear? You still think this piece of advice isn’t going to work for you? Okay, I hear you – and let’s go through a scenario (come on, play along!). Let’s say that you’re planning your week (what, you don’t really do that? That might be part of your frustration). Anyway, you’re planning next week and a potential client calls and asks if they can talk to you next week. You don’t tell them: “I’m sorry, I’m too busy with the day-to-day of my business to talk to next week – call me back in a month.” Nope, instead you find a time that works for both of you and block the time out in your calendar.

    Completing the high priority projects and tasks you’ve identified is just as important to your business as that potential client meeting. The biggest difference is these projects and tasks generally aren’t as obviously related to your income.

    At any rate, try scheduling the time, even if it’s just on a piece of paper near your desk and see what happens.

  5. Hire it out.
    What can you pay someone else to do for you? Is there a task you do every day or week that you could write directions for and pay someone else to do it? Maybe one of your non-day-to-day projects has a task or two that would take you a couple hours or so (between the research and then actually doing it) and it would take someone else a fraction of that time.Your time is valuable. So, even if you don’t think you’re at a spot where you can hire someone else right now, start a list of things you could hire someone else to do. You never know when an opportunity to pass some of those tasks on might land in your lap!
  6. Be patient and kind with yourself.
    One of the big reasons I get frustrated with all the THINGS! that must be done NOW! Is I’m feeling behind where I think I should be. The truth is it doesn’t matter and worrying about it, or beating myself up about it, is just a huge time and energy suck.All that matters is that this is where you are now and that you’re taking steps forward.

    Know that you’re not alone! And it’s okay if you’re not where you feel you should be. Take a deep breath (I’m fond of those) and look at the things you’re doing to move forward. Then pat yourself on the back!

Feeling overwhelmed happens to everyone. There are always things to do! And that can be really frustrating, but it can also be very positive (it means that you’re constantly moving forward!). Along the way, don’t forget to celebrate your victories, big and small. And reward yourself!

What other things do you do to address your entrepreneurial overwhelm? Share in the comments below!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net