One of the most common reasons that people come to me as a Virtual Assistant is because they just cannot fit everything in anymore. The difficulty, it seems, is that as a small business, the number of hats you have to wear is exhausting and not to mention, one of the many reasons we set up businesses or start up side hustles, is ultimately to be able to enjoy more quality time with our loved ones.
It’s not always going to work that way and normally by the time people come to me they are on the verge of giving up. Disappointed in themselves and just struggling to remain consistent with EVERYTHING.
I can certainly appreciate that, after all I am a small business owner myself and whether your business is bricks and mortar or online or something else entirely then there are a number of reasons you don’t nip this in the bud when it starts to get too much which, from my experience include but are not limited to;
- You think it will mean relinquishing some of your control
- You think don’t have time to figure out what you need to do
- You think you don’t have the money to hire me 😉
- You think you SHOULD be able to do it all and feel embarrassed that you can’t
- You think there’s no way you could even start to get this sorted – it’s just too much
If you are not ready to reach out to a VA then there are a few things that you can do to help yourself starting now.
GENUINELY ASSESS WHAT YOU DO IN THE COURSE OF A TYPICAL DAY
The first key to success is to be brutally honest about what you ACTUALLY spend your time doing, I don’t care about the to do lists you write or how you choose to record this info. But I urge you to start immediately and detail exactly what you are doing now and how long you do it for including interruptions. Personally, I use Toggl, and if you’re short on cash flow then the free version is really useful. It allows you to create projects and clients etc. which comes in handy when you see the breakdown.
I literally just hit the timer button once I’ve noted what I am doing (it does auto fill too so that’s helpful) and hit it again when I stop. It is incredibly useful as it gives you a lovely dashboard which breaks it all down for you (similar to the image below).
Failing that I carry a small notepad with me almost everywhere and I go old school and make a note of it. Remember not only can you not effectively delegate anything without a true awareness of what you’re doing but you you will sorely underestimate where your time is being spent without actually paying attention to it. When I say be brutal here I mean it. When I did it the first time the sheer volume of TV I watched was sickening and yet, I never had any time to do what I needed to do…
Once you know what you are spending your time on you can form a schedule. Now I am a great believer in flexi-schedules which basically change on a regular basis but they all revolve around time blocking. I wrote a little post about time blocking here if you want to read though this will cover some of it.
For me, the key requirements for time blocking are;
- Knowing what needs to be done and understand their realistic timescales (see, that assessing stuff comes in handy here)
- Understand when you are most productive and use that time wisely
- Schedule in empty spaces – more about this later
- Make sure you have accounted for personal appointments/family commitments etc too – it could be that you check in with a partner/child/colleague to see if there is anything they are doing that could affect your blocks because an easy way to mess up time blocking is to forget travel time/extra responsibilities because of holidays etc. even forgetting dentists appointments and the like.
- Unless there is an emergency, during the time blocked space you should focus 100% on that task you have set yourself. I mean, a hairdresser doesn’t try to cut 5 peoples hair in the space of a single time blocked appointment do they? Nasa doesn’t say, “ooh whilst doing this launch we are also going to use the same team to build a faster rocket” Focus is exactly what time blocking will create for you IF you use it properly.
- Regular reviewing – Please don’t use one time block outline for every week of the year, things will fluctuate on a weekly if not daily basis and lets be frank, you’ll never stick to it if you don’t make it work for you!
- Make sure you have some fun! read a book, do a face mask, go out to eat, woo the love of your life. Whatever floats your boat! Just make sure you have allowed time in your schedule for it. There’s no point being successful if you’re hungry, have bad skin, are miserable and lonely!
DELEGATION DELEGATION DELEGATION
Obviously this is one of my favourites 😉 because it’s the business I’m in. There are a lot of things in the course of your day that only you can do, I get that and I am in awe of that particular skill of yours. However, there are also an awful lot of things that could be delegated.
Just because you’re capable of doing something doesn’t mean you should be the only one that ever does it so, check your list of things at your review time and see whether anything can be delegated. If you’re looking at using a virtual assistant but are worried about cost and losing control then start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Also, delegation isn’t just for the business stuff. If you know you have a really long business day then delegate the cooking of dinner – I’m a single mum so I pre-make some stuff that I can literally just get out of the freezer and microwave, I also get a takeaway once a month and you’d better believe that when my partner comes to visit he cooks! If you realise you will struggle to pick your little ones up from school on time, see if they can have a play-date for an hour with a friend, there is nothing wrong with them having an hour of fun so that you don’t drive like an idiot trying to fit everything in and if you feel guilty then arrange a time when you will reciprocate!
Whatever works for you and yours. The point is understanding that if you do it all, some of it will take you longer than necessary, drain your time and energy or be missed entirely, you may just need to ask for support and delegate a couple of things.
This is something I advocate and once we eventually move in together, it will become a part of Ryan and I’s Sunday ritual as a couple, sexy time at it’s finest hey 😉
As a small business owner/MLM/side hustler or busy colleague/employee that also has a life outside of work ,you will understand that no two weeks are identical so why would you treat them as such? These fluctuations are the whole point we keep diaries and calendars. So sit down once a week, review the previous weeks time blocking schedule and see what worked well and what didn’t. Is there anything that has to be carried over?
Get the family calendar, your work calendar and your partners calendar and synchronise dates. Are you all singing from the same hymn sheet or did one of you forget that the puppy has his vaccinations and you have to do an overnight business trip?
Now write down all the things you need to get done and prioritise them. What tasks are actual money generating tasks and what are just tasks that make you feel like you’ve been busy? Can you delegate/share the load of any of them? How long will they ACTUALLY take.
Now that you have all that info, block out the time. The first few weeks of doing this it can feel like it takes up too much time but as you become more accustomed you’re likely to take 30-40 minutes a week and just think of how much stress that will relieve if it stops you feeling like you’re fighting fires AND allows you some time to focus on revenue generating activities.
Always allow some ‘free space’ every day for those unexpected things that crop up, and they will crop up. Also, make sure you time block for you – a walk/food/mental down time. Consider yourself like your phone and needing a small daily recharge because of the amount of use your getting!
TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS AND DON’T BE AFRAID OF FLIGHT MODE
I could go on for hours with all the tips I have to help you use your time more wisely but this will be my last one for this post.
One of my absolute fave tips is to just turn off your desktop/mobile notifications. You can time block in times to check the apps/emails etc. but the distraction of them going off regularly can really elongate the time it takes to do a task. The only thing I recommend keeping on is anything that alerts you to money going in. Hearing that little ‘kerching’ is a great motivational tool!
If I have a task to do that I am struggling with then I am not afraid of using flight mode and I challenge myself to get it done by the time the buzzer goes off. More often than not within 5 minutes I am engrossed and it’s done way before it needs to be and I feel like I can walk on water.
So in summary;
To improve your own time management for free so that you are more productive:
- Assess what it is you’re actually spend your time on
- Time block – with honesty and empty spaces for unusual occurrences
- Delegate professionally and personally where possible
- Review weekly
- Get rid of distractions like notifications going off and even use flight mode if necessary
I challenge you to use these tip for the rest of October, if you do, let me know what you find. And don’t be afraid to get it wrong and make mistakes. I still do from time to time and it’s all a part of the learning curve, you will get better each time you do it.
Don’t forget that your likes/comments and shares on posts like this help keep businesses like The Amy Johnson visible and for that I am eternally grateful.
Thanks for reading,