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Summary:

There are times when things are so hectic that 9 am becomes 5 pm, Monday becomes Friday, and the first day of the month becomes the last before you can even turn around. The days and weeks run together, and everything seems to be moving at […]

piccadilly circusThere are times when things are so hectic that 9 am becomes 5 pm, Monday becomes Friday, and the first day of the month becomes the last before you can even turn around.

The days and weeks run together, and everything seems to be moving at lightening speed. Even though the impulse is to run as fast as you can to keep up, sometimes the best thing you can do is stop, see where you are, and adjust the course of a runaway train.

As a small business owner, it’s possible to have several projects going on at any given point, and unfortunately, there are many occasions where the one that makes the most noise and fuss is the one that gets the majority of available attention. Time goes by, and the most important things get pushed aside for the most desperate.

Getting it all back under control is actually pretty simple. It’s done with a weekly review.

Step 1: Stop

Pressing forward aimlessly just because there’s so much to be done can actually be counter-productive. Taking time to gain big-picture perspective and then purposefully resuming work can help you get more done in less time. Although it can be tempting to simply start fighting the next fire in your path, stop doing everything and commit to getting a better hold on your load.

Step 2: See Where You Are

You can’t evaluate and prioritize without knowing what’s on the radar, so you need to lay it all on the table for sorting. Go through your email, notes, open projects, and someday-maybe list to see what exactly has to be done. Next, make a list of what’s important to you. What is it that you want to do? What do you want to accomplish?

Be realistic about what’s on your plate. Assign deadlines to every project and decide what’s doable and what should be eliminated or delegated. Simply removing some tasks and projects from your to-do list can bring clarity around what’s left to be done.

Step 3: Re-balance Your Load

Now that you know what projects are left to be completed, figure out how to balance the load. Hire a VA to help with menial tasks or things that take you away from your core responsibilities and projects. Batch your work so that you reduce the times you have to switch gears throughout the day or week. Find tools and systems to streamline your work and make you more productive. One example, I do a lot of interviews for the Upstart Smart blog and podcast. Coordinating schedules is very cumbersome and requires a lot of concentration and care to avoid double-booking and overextending myself. By simply using TimeDriver, I’m able to set my availability once and then interviewees can pick the times that work best for their schedules, saving me tons of time and frustration. That one quick adjustment has made my life so much easier.

Step 4: Set Up a Schedule

Block out set times that you’ll devote to the big rocks you need to move each day. Create uninterrupted windows where you can give 100 percent of your attention to making progress on each project. This doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment. You’re simply deciding how you’ll spend your time for the coming week. You’re intentionally laying out a plan that will help you move things forward. If things mess up or don’t work perfectly, you can adjust the schedule and course again next week.

Step 5: Abide by the Schedule

A plan does you no good if you don’t look at it on a regular basis. Your schedule should stay open every minute of your day so that you refer to it often. If you think you’ll get sidetracked by email or surfing the Internet, be realistic about it. Put that in your schedule, too. Set aside dedicated blocks of time for email or simply checking your RSS feeds. That way, you’ll know that you have time for that coming up, too, but that right now, your focus is on the project at hand.

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat

Each week, set aside dedicated time to evaluate where you are and where you’re going. Figure out your most important projects and tasks for the coming week and hold them in your mind. By clearly identifying them, you can quickly check in with yourself and see if you’re focusing on the right things and moving your business in the direction you want it to go.

How do you ensure that you make progress in your business? What tools and tricks do you use to keep a runaway train on track?

Image from Flickr by by doug88888

  1. Great article, I’m currently in the situation where I am juggling several large projects at once. It can be overwhelming to think about, and the tendency is to just keep my head down and keep pounding out work. The problem that I’ve found is that stress builds up, and I become afraid to look at the big picture for fear of what I might find out. This inevitably effects my productivity!

    The best thing to do is to stop and look around and plan. I’ve been doing it now for about 6 weeks, and my life is better, and so is my business. Great advice here!

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    1. Amber Riviere Monday, November 9, 2009

      I know just what you mean, Steve. It can be hard to step back and look at the bigger picture, both for fear of overwhelm and for fear that we’re on a runaway train that’s going in the wrong direction. I felt exactly like that this weekend, and as you said, the stress just starts building up. I finally heard Julie Morgenstern’s voice in my head (lol) that said, “Let go and grab hold.” In her book “Never Check E-Mail in the Morning,” she says that you sometimes have to let go of the death grip you have on things now in order to get a better handle on it all. Makes a lot of sense, but takes a lot of faith, too. Good luck with all your projects! You’ll handle it. Just keep stepping back.

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  2. I’ve never done this before but it seems like a really smart idea.

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  3. [...] The Impor­tance of a Weekly Review “As a small busi­ness owner, it’s pos­si­ble to have sev­eral projects going on at any given point, and unfor­tu­nately, there are many occa­sions where the one that makes the most noise and fuss is the one that gets the major­ity of avail­able atten­tion. Time goes by, and the most impor­tant things get pushed aside for the most des­per­ate. Get­ting it all back under con­trol is actu­ally pretty sim­ple. It’s done with a weekly review.” I would have to agree. (tags: busi­ness career pro­duc­tiv­ity) [...]

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  4. I’ve had good luck with putting together an ideal work week. I set aside large blocks of time to tackle large projects. I put these right into my calendar. Obviously, you need to leave plenty of open time for day-to-day smaller things that come up. But by keeping those times sacred you make sure you’re working on what’s really important.

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  5. [...] don’t have a dental office anymore, I needed to improve my organizing and working tools. The weekly review (from David Allen’s GTD) is very important to keep so many activities under control. [...]

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  6. [...] We’ve gone back and forth on this one, but my accountability partner and I agree that when we plan our calls, we’re much more productive and get way more out of the conversation. Usually no later than [...]

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  7. [...] is usually far more important than arriving at any given point, but it’s still important to know where you want to go and have a general direction to move [...]

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  8. [...] past week or two. On Fridays, I’m trying to get into the practice of using an hour or so to plan out the coming week and make any adjustments to my schedule and workload, based on any projects and appointments I have [...]

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