You know the drill. You’ve just spent a precious half hour at your desk where you’ve been working furiously away until your preschooler wakes up from midday naptime.
You’ve waited patiently all morning until she drops off to sleep, and once there’s silence, you fire up your laptop, IPad or desktop in order to make some fast progress on your to do list for the day.
Maybe you’re answering emails, making product, processing orders, scheduling social media for the next few days. Whatever it is, even though you’ve been working like a whirlwind, you still get that sinking feeling at the end of the half hour.
There is always work left to do, not enough time to do it in, and you don’t seem to be able to get ahead with the things that could really grow the business.
It seems that the urgent things are always crowding out the important things. How do you get off the merry go round of “doing” so that you can get to “growing” the business?
Try this simple 4-step tip that will start you down the path to sanity:
- Work out how much time you have to work on the business during that sitting
You may only have half an hour to devote to the business, you might be lucky enough to have a few hours or more.
Whatever time you have, work out the most likely total amount of time you will have during that sitting.
Don’t worry about working out the total time you have available across the whole day. Just focus on the immediate time you have available for now. That way, if something prevents you from working on the business again later, you’ve still been able to move your business forward by just a little bit.
- Divide that time by 5
Whatever time you have available to you, divide it by 5. So if you have an hour, the result is 12 minutes. If you have 30 minutes, the result is 5 minutes.
- Set an egg timer or alarm on your phone
At this step, you make sure you’ve allocated the time you just calculated at Step 2 via an egg timer (old school) or alarm on your phone.
- Devote this time to an important activity that will grow your business
What we’re after here is to work on those things that will improve your business – in terms of quality, time or money – but that there never seems to be able to make time for, due to all the urgent things that crowd it out.
There are lots of possible ideas for activities you can spend time on here.
Some possibilities include:
- Mind mapping – this is especially good if you are unsure where to start. Map out all of the parts of your business as a diagram. You might have social media, marketing, sales and production, as just some examples. Pick an initial one to focus on during your improvement sessions.
- Business process mapping – this is where you map out any repetitive tasks you regularly work on the business, such as filling inventory or developing content for social media. Write down all the steps and, if it helps, draw a diagram to link the steps together.
- Business improvement – this is where you think about opportunities to improve your business. If you’ve done a business process map, you can see what regular activities you undertake that might take a lot of time. Are there ways to streamline or eliminate some of these steps, by outsourcing or delegating some tasks to others? Is there a way to batch together some aspects of the task? Is there a tool or app you could use to make your life easier? Now is the time to research and test it out.
- Upskill yourself – Training and investment in skills that can be directly related to growing the business can be one of the first things to go when you get really busy. But the dividends can really pay off in the long term. Consider whether there are any online courses out there that would help you improve an area of your business really quickly. Maybe there’s a tutorial you could watch about building your own website, or marketing and social media. Self-paced courses are great for short time periods – many of the videos are only a few minutes long and so can be watched even if you only have 5 minutes to spare. Even devoting the time to practice a new skill will pay dividends in terms of your effectiveness in the end.
- Business planning and goal setting The New Year is not the only time to set resolutions! This time can be an ideal opportunity to have a think about what your original vision for your business was, and how close you are to achieving those aims. If you need to reset and realign, now is the time to review and document those original goals, and decide if they still work for you.
- Learn more about your industry When you are focused on working, it can be hard to stick your head up and look around you to see what’s new or changing in your field. But if you’re not careful, you may discover that you get left behind. Take this time to be inspired. Seek out the thought leaders in your field, attend a networking session and invest some time to discover what peers and competitors are doing. Then have a think about how you can apply what you’ve learned in your own business.
In truth, it ultimately doesn’t matter much what you spend your time on during these sessions, as long as you are devoting regular consideration to how to improve and grow your business.
Sticking to this habit every time you sit down to work on the business, regardless of the more demanding things that might be on your list, will make sure you are devoting enough time to growth and not just struggling to stay afloat every day. Focus on the habit, and not with your particular activities on any one day. Just a small amount of time invested each day will lead to big returns for your business.
Do you regularly make time to plan and grow your business? If so, how has this worked for you? Can you think of any other improvement activities you could do during this time?