Are you regularly working long hours? Feeling overwhelmed? Never enough time?
If you have a reasonable(ish) workload, but, find that your productivity and prioritisation isn’t great, or you feel like you are struggling to keep up, here are 10 tips to help.
- Do ‘That’ Thing First
Do you have something you know you need to do, but for some reason it is too draining. If you can’t swap the job with someone else (and agree to take their ‘draining job’ in return), plan to tackle the call, or 10 minutes of the task, before you do anything else. If you decide to continue after 10 minutes, you can do so. You will feel better for having taken action, and find the day easier.
- Prioritise Profit
Deal with the money-making work as a priority. Admin, management and marketing comes second. However, if you aren’t getting around to those other tasks, you will need to look at your workload, or the other areas in which you can improve your efficiency. You may also want to explore what impact your mindset is having on your productivity (see here for a short case study as an example). You can also complete a Time-Sheet of your day, to know what your time-stealers are.
- Use Your Team
With good training and clear understanding, your receptionist, assistant or junior staff member, can protect you from unnecessary interruptions, and deal with routine tasks and correspondence. They can collate useful information at the start and support you throughout. Effective delegation to all of your team is a skill worth learning.
Put into place your standard processes. An easy way to do this, is to do it as you go.
Grab a note book and folder if you prefer pen and paper, or create a folder online. Then over the next few weeks or couple of months (depending on your business):
- make a note of all the repeated steps you, and others, take during a transaction or process
- print or save forms and letters used, as you go
- notice any conversations you repeatedly have, or emails you regularly write. Again start recording/saving them
- jot down what information you keep having to look for and how readily it is to find it
- record how many times, and for what, you have to go back to the customer for more information
- add dates to actions, this can show a timeline, and where the process might be slowest
You can then use this information to tweak customer experiences, record and streamline your systems, draft standard letters or emails, create checklists, even produce a basic script for others to use. All of which will save you time, improve customer service, and let you focus on the important stuff.
Unsubscribe from magazines or emails you don’t find useful or enjoy. They waste your time, are a distraction, and lead to you having more unnecessary to-do’s. Feeling you really ‘should’ read that article? Does it take you one step close to your profit goal or development goal? No? Unsubscribe. (My articles are, of course, excellent and well worth saving to read.)
Declutter your desk and your home. It all helps save time and energy. Take a look at Marie Kondo’s book on decluttering. If nothing else, getting everything out and into one place, makes a huge difference.
- Email Economy
With emails, set some guidelines in your business. Ensure understanding of the difference between ‘To’ (this usually means action or an expectation of a response) and ‘CC’ (this usually means FYI only). Think twice about who is included in the email. Another recommendation it setting up a delay in Outlook to prevent emails being sent instantly. This can stop you from having that ‘oops’ moment when you hit send only to realise it was too soon, either creating panic or generating a second email. If you use Gmail you may find Boomerang useful.
- Divert and switch off
Be honest about how often you check your emails, or take calls when you are in the middle of a task. Be equally honest about how often you need to check them. If you can’t set specific times to check them, consider switching off notifications or stopping emails from pulling through automatically. Otherwise you can switch the screen and sound off, or go into another room, if you need to concentrate. Set an alarm if needs be.
Excellent customer service may not involve immediate or same day action (although it usually requires prompt acknowledgement). Sometimes clients would actually quite like a few days without having to deal with a task they have just got off their to-do list! Either way, do you allow enough breathing space in your time estimate for something else (even if minor) to crop up?
When agreeing to a piece of work, so to better manage your workload, and expectations, have a conversation with the customer about when they want it completed. How many times have you turned something around quickly, only to receive an out-of-office response or a long delay in response? Talking to a customer can also help you understand why a deadline was set. It could be there is a misunderstanding of the process.
One other point. If a customer consistently contacts you at the end of the day, after working hours, or with short notice of urgent work (even though they have had ‘it’ for a while), then they know you regularly work late, or will somehow fit them in. This can cause a great deal of stress for you as it makes more and more of your work unnecessarily urgent. You therefore need to gently re-establish boundaries with them, which is achievable.
- Plan your day
Whilst the last of the tips, it really is the top tip. Depending on the work you do, you may be able to plan most of your day. For others it is more reactive. The best time tip is to set your (genuine) Three Most Important Tasks, at the start of each day. Doing this every day will make you more efficient and productive. If the task doesn’t take you closer to your profit, service, life-balance, or career goals, double check it is actually a most important task.
Productivity can be impacted by many different thoughts, traits, and behaviours. It would be a long blog if I covered all aspects of mindset and productivity.
So to give you an example of the impact on your mindset, let’s focus on one aspect. Working to your contracted hours.
There are many mindset and behavioural reasons for people to work late (or go in very early). These can include:
- using it to avoid being at home (loneliness, unhappy relationships)
- it has become habit (if your working hours are until 5pm, yet you always work until 6pm, this is probably habit)
- lack of confidence or assertiveness, or wanting to avoid conflict (this could be related to a boss, or team member)
- to fit in with a ‘culture’
- wanting to be in control, perfectionism, unwilling to delegate, fear of saying ‘no’ or asking for help
- it feels good to be able to ‘boast’ about the long hours worked, or to feel ‘needed’
Did any of these, or other aspect of this blog, cause you to have a strong emotional reaction? If so, then you might want to take part of the Time Challenge or take advantage of the VIP Discovery Session.
To wrap it up
Managing your time effectively is crucial to provide excellent service to clients, be productive, and avoid working all hours. Being busy and being productive are very different. If you want to find more productivity tips for your business week, take a look here.
Whilst time management tips will help you become more efficient, if you are consistently working long hours and everything is always urgent, (yet you do not have an excessive workload), further exploration of why is useful. A lot of time and energy can be lost due to lack of motivation, and procrastination, which can be about something more than time management.
Your mindset and approach to delegation, trust, lateness, confidence, perfectionism, business and more, often gets in the way of leading a profitable, enjoyable, and balanced working life. A great coach will help you get to explore and create new positive permanent habits.
Ready to have more time in your life? Make a big change? Feel free to breathe? Book your free VIP Discovery Session.
Simona is a professional coach, trainer and speaker.
She takes her professional coach and business expertise, into other organisations, to drive profitability, communication and performance, to the next level.
Motivated individuals work with Simona on mindset and strategy to become more successful in their careers or business, whilst leading a fulfilled and balanced life.
To find out more about coaching or to book her for your organisation, please email her on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her here.