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 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