productivity

What does your schedule look like?

When you think about your schedule – how do you feel?

For many business owners, there’s an UGH feeling that comes up.

Whether it’s having too many things to do, feeling that time is being wasted, or not knowing how to fit everything into your day, there are so many ways that your schedule can feel out of control and not productive. And not being organized with your time will probably lead to decreased productivity, more stress, and less money (UGH).

So let’s talk about it. I’m going to share some tips and tricks that can help you feel a bit more in control of your schedule.

What do you need to get done?

First things first, you need to be clear on your priorities. Think about the tasks you perform regularly and how much time they should, and do, take. Start keeping a list if it doesn’t come to you easily, so you can see how much time you have to work with. For example, just because a large portion of your business needs to focus on client calls doesn’t mean that there isn’t also administration work or content creation that needs to be done.

By mapping out what tasks need to be on your schedule and how much time they need allotted to them, you’ll have a better sense of what to schedule in your week. It doesn’t need to be precise, just a general guesstimate is good to start (but go for specific if that’s easier for you!).

What are your main task categories and approximately what percentage of your time do you need to allocate to them?

What are your main task categories and approximately what percentage of your time do you need to allocate to them?

 

Take care of you

An unhappy you is likely an unproductive you.

Don’t forget to schedule things for yourself, whether it’s something like coffee with clients or friends, the gym, or even the little things like lunch and breaks.  Blocking time for this kind of thing keeps balance in your schedule and gives you a buffer of time to work with.

Take that information and use it to block certain times of the day during your work week. A basic schedule like the one below works fine, or you can schedule in blocks of 15 minutes. If you know that you have to do certain things – whether they take 5 or 45 minutes - dedicate time to it. Commit it to a time and lock it in.  Commit to going to the gym like you commit to a client call – because it’s important.

Having it in your schedule also takes away the guilt of doing something you feel like you shouldn’t be. If it’s in your schedule, it’s accounted for. If you decide to do it on the fly, you may feel like you’re shirking more important responsibilities.

Can you block off your week to make sure all the things that you HAVE to get done have a specific time and are prioritized?

Can you block off your week to make sure all the things that you HAVE to get done have a specific time and are prioritized?

Appointments that work for you

When it comes to filling in time that you have dedicated to appointments with clients, make suggestions based on your preferred availability instead of working solely around your clients’ schedules.

Maybe you decide Tuesdays are your days for client calls. Start with the 8 am slot, then then 10 am slot, then the 1 pm slot, etc. Once you fill a day of appointments, start another day. This is far more effective for you than a call at 10 on Monday, a call at 1 on Tuesday and a call at 3 on Friday. It means you can dedicate other days and times to focusing on other tasks – admin, writing, development, outreach, networking, etc.

While there are always exceptions, try to keep in control of your own schedule so you can work efficiently. Many of us hesitate to “boss people around” by suggesting a time to meet instead of working with their schedule, but valuing your time and being assertive about your needs will streamline your entire process and benefit the client in the long run.

Pick appointment days and appointment slots and give people times instead of letting them rule your schedule.

Pick appointment days and appointment slots and give people times instead of letting them rule your schedule.

Systems

This isn’t a natural one for me because I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person but systems can REALLY help in so many ways. They help you know what to expect of yourself and they help other people know what to expect of you.

For those with multiple clients in particular, set up an operating system with each to determine how you will spend their allotted time. Include details about the nature and timing of the tasks to be done, their expectations, your expectations, and the amount of communication to occur between you. For example, let them know what time of day or week you will be working on things for them so they don’t think they always have access to you (I know of someone who would only answer emails one day a week for one kind of task. You were not to expect an answer from her on any other day of the week. It was simply the way she worked and people had to work with that).

Set expectations for turn around time. If someone takes four days to give you feedback on something when they were supposed to get back to you in two, the timelines are no longer the same and you shouldn’t be expected to work within them.

Work together so you are both on the same page about how the job is going to look from a time perspective, and be willing to bill for your time. It’s not worth it if you’re worn out and not making money!

What will you try first?

Remember that not all these tips work for everyone. Experiment with and adapt different techniques until you find something that works for you and your business. You and your clients will benefit from being more organized and efficient, and less stressed. Leave me a comment and tell me if you use any of these, or which you’ll try out first!

Buzz, Brilliance and Blogging: Week ending July 7

Every week I compile a list of the noteworthy social media news (Buzz), balanced with valuable commentary (Brilliance) and some good advice about Blogging as well. The links that follow are to sites and blogs that I read on a regular basis - consider them recommended reading for you too. Or you can just come back here each week for biggest news and best advice.

~Karen

Buzz

Here’s a look back at the first year with Google+. It’s not exactly news, but it’s interesting to look at it’s evolution. It’s also interesting to see that some enthusiastic early adopters aren’t quite as enamored anymore. I feel like saying, “I told you so” to the “not a Facebook killer” part.

LinkedIn and Twitter have broken up and I could not be happier! The fact is that Twitter broke things off, but you know what? LinkedIn should be doing the happy dance. These days when I log in (except for one enterprising contact who has hacked their way into keeping tweets in their feed), I found LinkedIn pleasant enough that I want to go back in soon - probably even tomorrow! There’s the same amount of signal, but it’s not being overpowered by the noise.

Twitter’s recent changes to the API (short form for application programming interface) access have lead some to be very concerned about the possibility of third-party apps being cut off. No one should take this lightly. Personally, I rarely use twitter.com and I don’t like the mobile apps that Twitter has built (they aren’t even installed on my devices anymore). Should third-party apps be cut off, I will probably limit my use of twitter pretty drastically. The latest speculation involves a leaked photo of what may be the next iteration of the Twitter for iPhone app and what it may mean based on recent events.

If Twitter starts limiting third party apps, eventually the service may get some real competition. We don’t want the ability to microblog to go away. Otherwise, how else would anyone retweet boneheaded things people tweet? What’s amazing is how many of the pictures are still up after this account retweeted them.

Finally, Twitter promised this week to REVOLUTIONIZE SEARCH! What they did was add search features that exist in a lot of other places already. While they’ve done some good things with this latest update, revolutionary isn’t a word I’d use to describe it. I wouldn’t yawn, either. I rarely use twitter.com, so I’m basically just indifferent about it. 

Facebook has been busy dealing with the email fiasco and coming up with an explanation. If you’re one of the ones who syncs your phone contacts with Facebook, here’s how to fix the email address problem.

Brilliance

I read somewhere that email is your biggest social network and that resonated with me. Just think about how many contacts you’re emailing all the time! That calls for some solid strategy for email use as a sales tool.

We’re inundated with information all the time now, regardless of where we are, thanks to smartphones. This influx of data has given many reason to believe that it’s ruining productivity. But, what if that isn’t always true? Here’s another side to think about. There is a case to be made for using tools at our disposal more efficiently as well. Being more aware of productivity killers is essential as well.

Seeing a brand use social media successfully is exciting. Seeing a Canadian brand highlighted that has numerous fans and detractors is even more interesting. Check out this post about what Rogers is doing to transform relations with its critics.

This is a long article, but well worth the read if you have any struggles at all with establishing (or maintaining) your social media marketing process.

Blogging

After you’ve been blogging for a while, you may start to feel burnt out. Taking a break may be your first instinct, but you might want to try one of these other ideas first.

What are your blogging tenets? Have you ever thought about it? These three - patience, strength and belief - are definitely essential. In particular, when it comes to business blogs, do your writer(s) truly believe in what they’re saying? Lack of belief in something will be noticed by the audience.

There is one risk to blogging valuable content that bloggers will likely never win the war against, but it’s good to be aware of and do what you can to fight back. The scariest part of this is that the content is being used to support “expertise” in social media. Vet the people you’re working with very carefully. They may not be what they seem.

What are the secrets to success in blogging? Here’s one attempt to pinpoint some triggers. I think success cannot be defined by any particular formula, but there is some good advice in here.

App of the Week: I’m just getting into Springpad over the last week, but I’ve been wanting to check it out for quite a while. With Web, iOS and Android apps, this is a powerful tool with a beautiful interface that I’m quickly growing to rely on for notes and tasks. Or at least I’m working on developing the habit. :) If you’re an Evernote user already, you might be interested in reading this overview of how Springpad differs (it has more). If I have time this week, I’m going to check out Ping and report back next week.