There’s no shortage of shiny apps to help you quickly and automatically schedule meetings, track invoices and payments, remember deadlines and communicate with customers. (You can find out which apps your fellow entrepreneurs love here.) But let’s face it: If apps were a fail-proof way to stay on top of all things, all times, well, that messy pile of receipts stacked dangerously high on the corner of your kitchen table – sorry, that’s your desk – wouldn’t even exist, right?
Right. But that pile of papers – or whatever the equivalent is in your non-stop self-employed life – is real, and it’s threatening to topple. Which leads us to suspect it takes more than just an app to help you squeeze the most of every minute of your busy day. We’ve pulled together some of your best tips and strategies for managing, and even saving, time. We think all of them may help you achieve some serenity, now.
Schedule your life (big time)
As a professional videographer specializing in weddings and events in Ontario, Ryan Walters is used to working while others play. “My work and personal time is spread out through all seven days,” he says. To avoid chaos and burnout, he says, “Make a schedule – and stick to it.”
Yonkers, New York-based-financial consultant Cassandra Patterson also believes in strict scheduling. “I schedule specific time periods where I work on business, otherwise I could be up all night. This is really helpful in maintaining balance.”
Dominik DiTucci, a real estate agent in Brooksville, FL, knows the importance of carefully organizing his time. “Working nights and weekends is an expected part of my business. I use time-blocking, and I focus on what I slotted that time for, whether it's business or personal.”
(What’s time blocking, you ask? Read this article to learn about an extremely effective approach to organizing your time.)
Pick your workspace (carefully)
Plenty of our community members have figured out that where you work directly impacts your efficiency and productivity. (Newsflash: None of you covets a corner office with a view.) Professional dog walker Lisa Cushman never wastes a minute by working from her Boston-based mobile office, also known as her car. “I communicate with my clients via text from my car, and I also jot down important notes about my adventures with the dogs before I forget.”
Meg Shea, a social media strategist in Cleveland, OH, says she achieves peak productivity “at home in PJs, sitting on the couch with an SVU marathon on as background noise.” Since her current position requires her to work on-site, Meg admits, “I’ve seen my productivity go down.” (Hang in there, Meg!)
In Portland, OR, QB Community host and entrepreneur Leslie Barber says having multiple workspaces actually gives her a leg-up on efficiency. While that might seem counterintuitive, not to mention a dangerous setup for losing everything from invoices to car keys, for Leslie, the day’s priorities dictate her whereabouts. “When I want to brainstorm or bounce ideas, I love a co-working space or the corporate office. When I need to write or think, I like working in my home office. It all depends on what I need at the time!”
Ask for help (a.k.a., know your strengths!)
Small business owners figure out fast that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Neither is outsourcing tasks that other folks can simply do better. Here’s what Krista Young, a jewelry maker and fulltime mom, discovered when she hired her first employee: “I try to get all my work done in the daytime hours so I can spend my evenings with my family. Taking on an extra employee has made such a difference to my work/life balance and has helped my business grow without having to deal with too much stress.” (You can read more about Krista’s successful business here.)
Vana Chupp, artist and founder of Le Papier Studio, remembers the moment she had an entrepreneurial epiphany: “I always thought that small business owners had to wear many hats. However, I learned quickly that it’s best not to.”
Vana explains, “I asked a lawyer friend of mine to incorporate my business when I started out, and she told me that I’d also need to find an accountant. I always assumed that I’d have to manage the books myself, but I was relieved to pass on that responsibility because I just don’t like working with numbers.
Vana’s guiding principle? “I stick to what I do best and outsource everything else.” (Find out other important insights from Vana here.)
Busy web designer Skip Blankley agrees with this approach. Already on his payroll: “I have one part-time staff person who works in New York and a few people in Atlanta who help with everything from strategy to PR development. There’s also a team of developers in Romania that helps with big website builds.”
Skip admits he’s still looking for the right person to roundout his growing business. “I wish I had a technical co-founder, as I'm very much a sales and big ideas guy. I need a technical counterpart!” (Skip shares more time-management advice here.)
Tidy up (it’s worth it)
We know working in a state of external chaos – anything from a messy desk, a cluttered desktop or an overstuffed filing cabinet – is more than just distracting. It can disrupt your productivity (where did I put that really important invoice/receipt/ to-do list?), your creativity (where’s a colored pencil/scratch pad/new mouse battery when I need one?) and your overall efficiency. Rather than wasting time rifling through endless paper piles and mislabeled files every day, try getting your literal house (or office) in order first. When you de-clutter your physical space, you’ll find more room – and, as a result, more time – for the things you want, and need, to focus on.
Want more time-saving advice? Check out this article about how to find two extra hours in your day!
Now it’s your turn!
QB Community members, what are your tricks for managing every minute of your very precious time?
Believe it or not, scheduling my first thing of the day is meditation. Just 10 minutes. But it clears my mind.
Organizing is key. I will sometimes work with an overwhelmed client and notice that big messy desk. It can get out of hand. The time spent organizing is well-spent.
I use and old fashioned white board in my office. In busy season, all of my client's names go on it, so I can track where they are at in the year-end recordkeeping process. In this time of year (the slow time), I use it for inspirational quotes.
Lastly, my final tip is when it fells like you need a break, take one! A walk break in nature can do a body good. I love to take my dogs out and get away from my desk.
@lynda I love your process! I completely agree that meditation sets you up for a peaceful and organized day. When I meditate, I like to use Headspace. I have been used the free version for a few years now and it still helps so much. I will sometimes use it to go to sleep if I can't settle down my brain.
P.S. I love my whiteboard, too! :cattongue: