Over the last year, I’ve had a lot of people tell me “I don’t know how you do it”. After starting Small Biz Cares and continuing to build Outreach Promotional Solutions, it can seem like there is a lot on my plate–yes, there is a lot on my plate!
But, I’m not alone. There are so many people–entrepreneurs, professionals and owners–that take on a lot. We have so many responsibilities, whether it is hiring and managing employees, overseeing the financials, generating new business, taking care of operations, and coming up with new strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Adding in family and personal responsibilities, exercising and fun, it can be hard to get it all done!
So, the question is how do you get it all done, and more importantly, get the right things done well? How do you produce results when you have so much to accomplish and so little time.
Is it just working harder that gets it done? Yes and no. I’d contend that being productive is way more important than being a hard worker. For example, I’d rather have an employee who works 40 hours a week but produces results versus someone who works 60 hours a week and just “stays busy”.
I do consider myself a hard worker. I’ve always been that way, from my first job as a CPA out of college, through my graduate studies, corporate life, and now running a business. It’s just the way I’m wired. But, over the years, I have developed some habits that help me get a lot done and produce results for both my business and the nonprofit I lead.
Here are five habits I’ve incorporated to help me get things done.
Plan your work and work your plan.
Set aside time each week to review your tasks, prioritize them and figure out when you want to tackle them. I take time between Friday afternoon and Monday morning to go through my list and build out my plan for the week ahead. Having these weekly plans allows you to really focus on priorities and have an approach to accomplishing things during the week. Always build in some buffer time for the unexpected.
Manage your calendar.
I can’t tell you how challenging this can be. There are so many requests for meetings and calls that come in each day. There are events everyday all day. It is important to be selective in how you allocate your time for both events and meetings. In a perfect world, I’d love to have coffee with everyone because I love meeting new people. But I have a responsibility to my business, nonprofit and team and thus I’m okay saying no or having a quick 15 minute intro call to see if a meeting makes sense.
Use a consistent approach to organize your tasks and ideas.
If you don’t have an approach to organizing your work, you are inevitably going to fail at getting things done. Whether it is using a planner, using a software tool or using a whiteboard, use the methods that work for you. For me, I use several tools to stay organized. First, I use my whiteboard and a PowerPoint document to stay organized on major projects and strategies. I use the PowerPoint in particular to jot down my ideas and build out plans and team responsibilities. For weekly and daily tasks, I use our CRM software which has a “Reminders” component to set tasks by day. Finally, for emails that require attention, I created a “To-dos” email folder in Outlook to house emails that require attention. This last tip allows me to control my email and not lose sight of those that I can’t get to right away.
In today’s world, distractions are everywhere. With co-working spaces, coffee shops, open office spaces, and mobile devices, it can be really hard to stay focused. It is really critical to find a time and place where you can minimize distractions to get things done. For me, I take one night a week to stay late in my office and work on important projects, planning and financial reviews. Whatever you do, try to be aware of how distractions can hurt your productivity and take action to change the environment.
Focus on results, not activity.
I can’t emphasize this enough. We all have goals for our business or personal lives. We have to make sure that the things we are doing are productive and deliver results that align with the goals you’ve set for yourself and your business. Similar to managing your calendar, you have to be focused on work that produces results and not busy work. This means delegating or stopping the lower value-add work.
These habits have definitely helped me get more done in less time. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t put in the extra time on the weekend, or in the evenings. Having a supportive wife is the last, and most important tip to getting things done. It is so important to have support around you – those that keep you motivated and understand that building a dream takes a lot.