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
Calendar

How Do I Decide What My Long Term Priorities Are?

ID-100146841At the beginning of last week I was at a conference, Spark & Hustle, with a bunch of other small business owners. And I heard this said many times and in many ways: “How do I get all my day to day things done and still have time for all those other things that should be done?”

Do you ever wonder that?

I know I have. And it’s usually accompanied by a feeling of overwhelm, a physical tightening of my back and feeling like I have a rock in my stomach. Oh, and it’s topped with a small voice telling me “there is NO way you will EVER get all of that done.”

How does it show up for you?

And then the voice might tell me I might as well go check Facebook or watch TV, basically just give up now, don’t waste your time.

I’d love to tell you I never experience this anymore, but that’s not truthful. It still happens on occasion. However, it does happen less than before and the voice that tells me I’m wasting my time isn’t quite as loud as it once was. And sometimes it doesn’t bother showing up at all, it must know I’d ignore it now anyway.

So, what to do?

It’d be easy and decent advice to tell you to just identify your priorities. But it probably wouldn’t be extremely helpful. I know when I’m in that place described above and someone tells me to figure out my priorities my thoughts are along the lines of: “Well, yes, setting priorities is the extremely logical thing to do. However if I could easily do that, I wouldn’t be having this problem! Right now the priority is my day-to-day stuff, and that’s part of the problem!”

I’m going to use the term “long term priorities” to mean those projects or tasks that you want to work on, but seem to get lost in the day-to-day tasks. These projects or tasks might not take long to accomplish, but they don’t seem to move forward either.

What I needed was:

  1. A little help deciding what those long term priorities were.
  2. A way to find time to tackle the long term priorities.

This week’s article tackles the first topic and next week we’ll look at the second topic.

Note: I’m using the term “long term priorities” to mean those projects or tasks that you want to work on, but seem to get lost in the day-to-day tasks. These projects or tasks might not take long to accomplish, but they don’t seem to move forward either.

Help deciding what your long term priorities are

  1. What method currently is bringing you the most clients? And if you don’t have clients yet, what method will most quickly bring you the most clients (hint: if you’re a new business, the fastest way is almost always going out and meeting people).
  2. Is there anything on your “I should do this” list that relates directly to that method?
    For example, perhaps you met most of your current and previous customers networking. And when networking you pass out your business cards, but your business cards have an old email address on it that you cross out and write in your current email address. Then, getting new business cards with your current email address would be a task directly related to networking.

    1. Yes, there are directly related tasks: Those tasks are your highest priority.
    2. No, I don’t have any directly related tasks: What is the second way you are most likely to meet clients? Ask step 2 again.
  3. Optional: Is there anything on your “I should do this” list that indirectly relates to that method?
    For example, using the above example of networking and business cards, let’s say that the website on your business cards is correct, but is no longer an accurate representation of what you do (hey, it happens, our business tend to evolve). Then, updating your website would be a task indirectly related to networking.

What are your priorities? Did any priorities from this exercise surprise you? Share in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Find More Time in Your Already Busy Week

Scenario:
Procrastination isn’t a problem for you. The problem you have is fitting everything in to your schedule. You’re currently doing okay, but you want to do a step better. You have an idea or two about what you can do to get there, but you simply don’t have any more time in your week to do it. Yes, you could give up some time on the weekend, but that is precious family and personal time that you’re just not willing to give up.

So, what to do? Stay where you are? Give up some of your weekend time?

Both options are frustrating and leave you feeling a bit boxed in and probably tired (and maybe annoyed).

Is there a third option? Some how can you find more time in your already busy week? But how? You know that hiring someone would take something’s off your plate, but financially that just doesn’t feel possible – so how and where can you find time?

One way to find that time is to know where your current time is going and then adjust or eliminate as many unnecessary items as possible. There are a couple different ways to do this:

  1. Grab a blank sheet of paper and log your time.
    When I do this I write the start time in the left margin, a brief description in the middle and at the end of the day I write the time spent in the right column. That alone can be eye opening!
    If you want to go one step further you can add similar tasks together for a total time spent on various tasks during the day.
    Spending 10 minutes checking Facebook might not seem like a big deal, but if you do it five times a day, you’ve spent 50 minutes!
    One possible side effect of this is you spend less time doing time wasting tasks because you don’t want to write them down. Good while you’re doing the exercise, but you might find yourself going down old paths again when you stop logging your time.
    Want a form for this? Try David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner. It allows you to track in 15 minute increments.

  2. Write down the common tasks or categories that you spend time on and for every 15 minutes you spend on one of these tasks/categories you give yourself a mark. At the end of the day you add the marks up to determine where you spent your time that day.
    Want a form for this one? Try David Seah’s Emergent Task Timer.

  3. If you spend a majority of your time on the computer, you can let your computer log your time for you by installing a program like RescueTime.  It takes a few minutes to install and setup, but then you don’t have to think about writing down how you’ve spent your time. It automatically logs it for you and then tells you where you’ve spent your time.
    I tend to use this whenever I notice my time seems to be getting away from me or I’m not making progress on my to-do list or goals.

Which time audit method works best for you? I invite you to share your insights in the comments!

PS. Looking for more resources like David Seah’s planners or RescueTime? They’re on the Goodie Page! Sign up for the newsletter below for access!