Like many beginning business owners, Derek was feeling overwhelmed. As you'll know if you've ever started a business, there are so many details to handle.
His question to me: 'I know there are some key tasks that, if I get started on them, will make a long-term difference. But there are so many immediate tasks that demand my time. These longer-term projects seem impossible to get to! How do I organise my time to get them integrated into my regular schedule?'
Time management tips:
1. Most people use their dairies as appointment takers. Instead, turn it into a planning tool. At the end of the week, block out appointments with yourself in the coming week to work on one or two high-level activities.
2. Where possible, make those 'appointments' the first thing in the day. Don't go near your email. Shut the door, turn off the phone if necessary, and just focus on the core task.
3. Don't start with the easy tasks. Even if you're not working on high-level long-term projects as outlined above, still start the day with the most important and highest-value items on your daily task list.
A delegation tip:
• Always ask yourself 'what can I delegate or out-source?'
The world abounds with people who work on projects and/or who want part-time work. The challenge we all have to deal with is that we need help before we can quite afford it - but if we don't start to share our workload we'll never be able to afford it.
Two sources of help
1. When I applied for the top level of speaker industry accreditation back in 2001, which required a reasonable amount of paperwork, I hired a fantastic young architectural student via Student Job Search.
She was a fast typist, had great attention to detail, and was excellent at tracking missing data. And most importantly, she had no other task to do. Her focus was laser-like. The job was done in about 10 hours. I would have fiddled around for another year - at least!
2. Who's in your neighbourhood? A few years ago I employed a brilliant Project Assistant. She came from a $75 ad in my tiny local business community paper (circulation 1,500). She was an ex-diplomat who wanted part-time work and lived around the corner. The words that jumped off the page for her were 'enjoy constant variety and challenge'.
Before I wrote my ad I thought very carefully about what I didn't want as well as what I did want.
For example, I've been caught in the past with people who couldn't keep up with me, needed too much reassurance, didn't work fast enough, were sloppy with details or didn't have high enough skill levels. As you will read below, I turned the things I didn't want into positives. Also, excellent spelling, grammar and writing skills were highly important, hence the requirement to first email me.
Feel free to use any of the following yourself!
(There are many other things I've learnt about working with a virtual team and overseas resources, but that will be the subject of another article some time.)