Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tips for managing your schedule

One of the hardest parts of being self employed is managing your time so that you can get everything done, and not be overwhelmed.  Here are my top tips for keeping your schedule under control.

I am telling you now that you are not going to get everything you want to do or think you should do done, so stop trying! List everything you are doing now, and everything you want to be doing, for both your business and your personal life. Once you have this master list take a really hard look at what is really and truly important.  For your business what activities are absolutely vital for running your business?  What activities are income  generating and move your business forward? For your personal life what activities are essential to running your home and the well-being of your family?  What brings you joy or contributes to your personal well-being?  

Eliminate the things that are not necessary and split the rest into the Must Do and the Nice To Do..and make sure your must do list includes things that address your physical, mental and spiritual needs...not just work and chores.  Divide those things into categories such as personal time, family time, administrative time, business building time.  On your master calendar set up a schedule based around blocks of time where you will do each of these things.  In addition to categories for specific types of tasks I like to include 3 other categories - focus time, flex time and free time. Focus time is for those larger projects that you can't complete in a single sitting or that require your full focus for several hours. Flex time is just that, time for you to be flexible depending on which category needs more time that week. One week it might be time to meet with a new prospect to get their business started, another week it might be catching up on phone calls and emails and another week it might be catching up on your reading.  

Set up a master calendar blocking out time for each of these categories. Some days may only include one block, for example a full day of delivering orders and visiting customers, you won't worry about administrative tasks that day. Other days will have 2 or 3 blocks such a 2-3 hours of new rep appointments and a couple of hours of customer care calls. I highly recommend having one day each campaign, or every month that is just a focus block so you can make significant progress on big tasks.  And choose at least one day a week when you are not committed to any business tasks, for example my outgoing message on my voicemail lets people know that I don't return phone calls over the weekend so I can relax and not worry about how many messages are waiting for me and I schedule very few tasks that must be done over the weekend. 

Decide for each category block what tasks are acceptable during that time and commit to only doing those things during that time. You can be flexible, for example you have someone ready to start their business and they are only available during a block you have set aside for customer care calls and entering orders.  Obviously you can't just skip doing the calls and putting in the orders, but you do want to meet the new rep as well. Simply switch the 2 blocks for that week, or move the administrative tasks to one of your flex time blocks.  Also use all the time you have set aside.  If you have a 3 hour block of time scheduled for delivering orders and you only end up needing 2, spend the 3rd hour prospecting, don't just take it at free time.  And if you have a block of time set aside for exercise or meditation or relaxing with a good book, think very hard before you give up that time.  Can the task that is trying to infringe on that time really not be done at another time? Will you be able to move your personal time to another slot? Most things can wait.  

Lastly you want to manage interruptions and distractions.  Every time you get distracted, you loose your flow and use up valuable time getting back on track. The top distractions are phone calls/texts, email and social media. You can let the phone call go to voicemail, the text can wait and social media will still be there when you've finished your tasks.  Silence all audible notifications and stop pop-up notifications or close windows that could be a distraction when you are working on the computer.  Set 1 to 3 times a day when you will check messages and make any necessary replies. 

When things come to mind that need to be done, that don't fit in with your current block, jot those down on a notepad you keep handy and when you finish your current task either take care of them or schedule them accordingly.  Keep at least an hour each day unscheduled to allow time to deal with those distractions.  If something comes up that you absolutely must drop everything and deal with you will have that buffer block to complete what you originally had planned. 

This is not a one size fits all system, nor will you just set it and forget it. You will tweak it as you figure out what really works for you and how much time you really need to devote to each block of tasks.  You will also want to evaluate your calendar regularly as your business and life evolve.  I am more than happy to meet with you one on one in person or by phone to help you design a schedule that works for you, all you have to do is ask. 

Chris Arnold
Avon Gold Leader
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