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As an entrepreneur, you have to be very intentional about how you approach your work. If you jump around from fire to fire, you’ll end up feeling spent and accomplishing nothing. Last weekend, I set out a few goals to help me get more done this […]

As an entrepreneur, you have to be very intentional about how you approach your work. If you jump around from fire to fire, you’ll end up feeling spent and accomplishing nothing.

Last weekend, I set out a few goals to help me get more done this week:

1. Create a better work schedule (one that limits my working time to 36 hours per week).

By limiting my working time, I am much more likely to focus on the most important things that need to be accomplished at any given point. On top of that, I’ll actually leave room in my life for things outside my business, which, let’s face it, is one of the main reasons for working for yourself.

2. Create focus blocks within the schedule that allow me to move bigger rocks.

Paraphrasing from the 3, 6, 9 Time Management System, if you focus on a given task or goal for three hours straight, you’re going to make progress on it. I don’t need to get caught up in menial tasks that simply eat away at my day (see this post about grinding vs. clocking from Chris Brogan).

I need to focus on moving big projects forward. A lot of my work (writing, for instance) takes a lot of concentrated effort to get it done. If I only have an hour here or an hour there, I end up focusing on a lot of junk tasks that are better left undone, rather than getting those big rocks moved.

With a set number of focus blocks each week, I’ll have to be very selective about what gets that prime real estate in my schedule.

3. Create smaller admin blocks within the schedule that allow me to do “have-to” things, like checking email and delegating smaller rocks that still have to get moved somehow.

The reality is that you can’t be 100 percent efficient and only concentrate on profit-making tasks. Email has to be read and responded to, smaller tasks have to be delegated, and phone calls have to be made and returned. If I leave no room for them, then I feel compelled to check my email at random times throughout the day, instead of focusing on what’s right in front of me. By leaving designated windows for it, I know that that task will get done, too, and that it hasn’t been too long since I made sure there were no fires to put out.

Here’s my revised work schedule. You’ll see “dots” and “dashes,” which come from Julie Morgenstern’s book “Never Check E-Mail in the Morning.” She refers to dots as the admin tasks, like checking email and returning phone calls, and dashes as the focused blocks of time where you really get things done.

The great thing is, I can move entire focus blocks rather easily, so if something comes up that isn’t work-related, I can rearrange my schedule without too much interference with the rest of my week. On top of that, I intentionally set up my week by deciding what big rocks will be moved and when, which hopefully will ensure major progress in several areas of my business.

What does your schedule look like? How do you ensure that big rocks get moved on a regular basis?

Image from Flickr by wwarby

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  2. Great post! Critical to all this is to minimize your interruptions. Basex reports that 28% of our days are spent managing or recovering from interruptions, so shutting down that email inbox is absolutely critical to garnering the blocks of time you need to actually get things done…

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  3. I agree on the email front. I actually develop an automatic time tracking product that shows you how you spend your time and what interrupts you, and it’s email every time.

    At the very least, turn off all email notifications. Even better is to turn off email entirely for most of the day.

    The emails that arrive first thing do tend to drive your entire day!

    Anne
    Qlockwork – really easy time tracking
    http://www.workingprogram.com/qlockwork.html

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  6. Thanks so much for this helpful information. I recently started my business and want to have a regular 40 hour work week but finding it hard to find a system to organize my time. This helps!

    I’d also like to recommend avoiding another time-suck: facebook. Save it for break-time or after-hours because it can be really distracting.

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