One of the biggest questions I get from small business owners or solopreneurs is how can they manage their time effectively? This seems to be a universal problem that all entrepreneurs face.
Planning your week, knowing what is on your task list that needs to be done, and assigning priorities to your tasks are all important steps good time management and, ultimately, increased productivity.
Without a set schedule or prioritized list of tasks, your day can easily be taken over before you realize what's happening. Setting time aside for your most important tasks along with focusing is key to having a super productive day.
Here are five steps to managing your time more effectively. Once implemented, these will help you become so much more effective with managing your workload and your workday.
Learning how to prioritize your tasks is key to having a productive day.
Being more productive plays a huge role in your success.
Higher productivity simply means optimizing your daily schedule. By staying organized and focused, you'll become more productive. However, finding the right things to focus on can be overwhelming when your task list is a big one.
As Steven Covey wrote in "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities."
I am going to walk you through a couple of the more well-known and well-used methods. Whichever one seems to resonate best with you is how you can start assigning priority levels to your tasks.
What does it take to manage one’s time effectively? Let’s break this down into terms we can easily associate with.
From Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Effective: Producing a result that is wanted
Time: The measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues
Management: The act or skill of controlling and making decisions about something
Therefore, it would make complete sense to say that Effective Time Management is to produce the result of measuring an action by using the skill of making a decision. Yet for so many this seems to remain a mystery or a goal that is regarded as hard to reach.
Why is it important for you to know what productivity type you are? You want to know what kind of task-driven person you are.
Maybe you are somebody that can’t stand to see unchecked boxes on your to-do list, or you are driven by deadlines and can’t seem to get started until the deadline is looming over your project.
Knowing your productivity type is going to really help you prioritize your work and ultimately help you accomplish much more throughout your day.
Alright, let’s go over the four different productivity types:
You might see yourself in one or more, but you will also find that you identify with only one of them on a much higher level.
If there’s one thing we know about goals, they have to be SMART, right? After all, that’s what we’ve been told for years. The only thing that matters is that your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
While that looks great on paper—and clearly it’s easy to remember—it doesn’t go far enough for those who want to achieve big things.
Think about it. If what you dream about is a 3-day workweek, time spent with family and friends, and enough money to to pay the bills and take a beach vacation each year, you can write that into your SMART goals. But, it seems pretty clear that those safe, smart goals alone aren’t going to get you there.
There are several things to ponder when getting prepared to set goals. Great goals are comprised of a focused outcome, are in line with your values, and are positive in nature.
This is how I like to use the S.M.A.R.T. method:
Specific - what is it you're exactly trying to achieve
Measurable - you want to know when you've achieved it
Action-oriented - do something about it
Realistic - Make it something that you can realistically do
Time-Bound - make sure your goal has a deadline
Did you make a big New Year’s Resolution this year?
Maybe it was to start a weekly blog. Maybe it was to only work 25 hours a week. Maybe it was to finally take your business to that next level.
We tend to make big resolutions at the beginning of the year.
And why not? We have an entire year to complete them. That may sound like a good thing at first but a few days into the new year, reality sets in and you realize you've made a big resolution...and a year is a long time.
Sticking to writing a blog once a week for 52 weeks sounds daunting, doesn’t it? As does creating a 25 hour work week. And how about taking your business to that next level --- that sounds like it could involve a lot of work!
It’s no wonder New Year’s resolutions are broken before the end of January.
Are you planning to make New Year’s Resolutions?
Why not ditch the resolutions this year and make some SMART goals you want to reach instead. There are a couple of reasons why resolutions may not work well for you. If they do, great. Keep doing what you’re doing, but if they don’t, then read on.
We’re so used to breaking our resolutions, that we start to think it's okay to try a little and then give up. It’s a mindset thing.
A goal on the other hand, particularly if it’s a SMART goal, is something we believe we can reach. That makes us work a little harder and not give up on the end goal.
Resolutions tend to be pretty vague. We want to gain more visibility, start a podcast or make more money. None of that is very specific. When do you want to start gaining visibility and how are you going to go about doing it? What does it mean to you to start a podcast? How much money do you want to have in the bank, are you looking at gross or net profit, and what specifically will you use your money for?
Asking yourself questions like these will help you cut through the vagueness of resolutions to create SMART goals out of them.
Goals allow you to be a lot more specific.
You can set attainable goals with a deadline and milestones, mini goals, or specific steps along the way. These are all components of what makes a goal a SMART goal. Some goals are short-term and others are long-term. Because resolutions are so vague, we usually don't even set time frames with them. We make them on January 1st and we vaguely say we are going to stick with them but, because we haven't applied the SMART method to those resolutions, they are more apt to fall off our radar sooner.
The way I see it, there are two distinct problems (but I also have solutions for them so keep reading...)
Early in January we feel like we have so much time to get our act together.
The visibility goal disappears as fast as a grandma Ruth's chocolate fudge.
By the time you start thinking about the goal again, it's April and then, before you can make a new plan of action, it's summer. You want to start again but September isn't good because you're busy with getting the kids back into a school routine. Before you know it, it's November or December and then you're discouraged, thinking it's just too late in the year to make a difference anymore. Now getting more visibility just seems like another impossible goal to reach and you wonder why you set such a goal in the first place.
So what should you do instead?
It’s fine to make a goal at the beginning of the year. Just don’t stop there. Apply the SMART method.
First, be more specific.
What’s the goal you’d like to reach? Put down a number, or describe what your end goal looks like. When do you want to reach your goal by? Choose a date that is reachable but stretches you out of your comfort zone enough to be uncomfortable yet not so challenging it's impossible.
Next, set some mini goals or steps along the way.
If you have a big goal like gaining visibility during the coming year, set mini goals. For example, two Facebook Lives each month, one blog post, and/or reaching out to three influencers each week for interviews . Check in with yourself every week and make sure you’re still on track.
Get ahead of schedule if you can.
If you can, get ahead of schedule --- reach out to 6 people in one week if you know that you're taking vacation the next week or ask a virtual assistant to help you out.
Remember, things will happen: you might get sick; there might be unexpected times you'll be faced with tech issues; or you might just want to take an unplanned break. Getting ahead of your goal schedule gives you a bit of a buffer to work with. And all this tracking will help you keep accountable and stick with your goals well into spring, summer, and beyond.
Here are five suggestions for helping you to set SMART goals and stay on track with them:
1. Join a goal setting workshop or work with a coach to create your goals and give yourself the gift of working on those goals. This will help you not only to create those SMART goals but, a 3-part workshop like the one I'm offering this January, will help you create the smaller steps too! You can check out the details HERE.
2. Join a peer group specifically designed for keeping you and your business moving forward. Check out my new mastermind program, Solopreneur Accountability Society, if you're serious about wanting accountability while working on your goals to grow your business.
3. Get an accountability partner or join an accountability group. This is super helpful for keeping you on track and honest about your progress. You can partner with me for weekly 1:1 accountability or you can join my free Facebook group, Solopreneur Success Strategies and be surrounded by like-minded people.
4. Use a planner to help clearly outline your goals and their steps. My favorite is the one offered by Workspacery.
5. Grab my Understanding Your Goals worksheet and get a better understanding of what you want and how you'll go about getting it.
If you struggle with scaling your business, Pamela is your business soulmate.