Although I don’t claim to be an expert, as a busy mom, wife, business owner and entrepreneur for the last 20+ years, I’ve had many opportunities to experiment with time management strategies. Here are some of my current strategies that are working well for me as I try to balance my business with my personal life.
Time Blocking and Task Batching
I schedule time blocks throughout the week and day to accomplish certain tasks.
For example, in my personal life, Sundays are my day to plan the meals for the week and grocery shop. It is also the day I pay bills and reconcile our personal checkbook. Early mornings are reserved for exercise and quiet reflection.
In my business life, Mondays are my ‘work from home’ marketing days, a/k/a my MARKETING MONDAYS. I try hard not to come into the office on Mondays and devote my Mondays to any personal appointments, like doctor, dentist, etc. And, most importantly, these are the days I devote to marketing efforts for my business. For example, it is a Monday afternoon as I write this blog post.
If you are a business owner, I cannot stress enough that YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST SCHEDULE TIME EVERY WEEK to work ON your business rather than IN your business.
Here are some of my regular marketing efforts you’ll find me doing on any given Monday:
- Blog posts
- Email newsletters
- Planning my new workshop
- Planning client and professional development events
- Studying marketing materials
- Working on my website
- Planning my pcoming print newsletter articles & highlights
- Writing my book or free reports
- Creating follow-up systems and workflows to keep in touch with clients, prospects, professionals, etc.
Since Mondays are spent out of the office, you can imagine what my invoice, email box, and phone messages look like when I return to the office on Tuesdays.
So, Tuesdays have become my “catch-up and work” day with no client appointments scheduled. I can dress casually, work to prepare for my upcoming appointments, weed through my inbox and emails, etc.
I need this PREPARATION TUESDAY because I hold client appointments back to back on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays-a/k/a my CLIENT DAYS.
I love this time blocking schedule for lots of reasons but here are my favorites:
- Since I don’t go into the office on Mondays, I no longer have the ‘Sunday Night Blues.’
- Since I’m only meeting with clients Wednesday-Friday, I only have to dress up three days a week.
- I don’t stress about when I will market my business because I have a dedicated day each week to do so. If an idea crosses my desk, I just jot it down so I don’t forget it and come back to it the following Monday.
Similar to time blocking, task batching is an efficient way to get similar, yet different, tasks done at the same time. For example, when I’m paying my bills, I also reconcile my check register at the same time since I’m doing this through my online banking anyway.
If it’s a CLIENT DAY, my assistant schedules appointments one right after the other. After all, if I need to get dressed up for one client, I may as well get dressed up for six clients!
I’ve always joked that if I don’t write something down, it never happened. I could also say that if I don’t write it down, it won’t ever happen!
Sure, client appointments are always scheduled. But I’ve learned to schedule time on my calendar to work on big client projects and even small tasks that always seem to slip through the cracks.
For example, I have scheduled on my calendar for Tuesday one hour to organize my December bookkeeping for my accountant. Next Monday, I’ve scheduled 30 minutes to organize and email my print newsletter list to my printer. I also have two hours reserved to work on a big client project that I’ve been putting off.
There’s a procrastinator in each of us so we have to RIG THE GAME TO WIN. One way I do this is to schedule every important task that must get done. Without it being scheduled, I will never "find time" to accomplish these things. The important things should be scheduled so you make the time to accomplish them.
Plus, when you schedule time on your calendar, you must complete the task within the allotted time. Be aggressive, yet also realistic, with your time allotment for each task.
Parkinson’s Law teaches us that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
If I think this article will take me two hours to effectively research, write, and edit, then I may allot myself one and half hours to get it done. If I schedule four hours, you can bet it will take me that long to finish the article.
No Unscheduled Inbound Phone Calls
This one was a GAME CHANGER for my practice. I do not take any unscheduled inbound phone calls. In other words, if you call my office and ask for me, I will not take your call 99% of the time. Sorry, but here’s why.
As you’ve read already, my days are very preplanned. Either an unscheduled call is interrupting my work for another client or I simply am not available at that moment to take your call (remember, I have back to back appointments Wednesday-Friday).
I’ve trained my staff to either ask the caller to shoot me an email with their question or request (mandatory for any type of solicitation—I never return those calls but I will answer their email) or schedule us for a quick phone conference. Remember, if it’s on my calendar, it WILL get done (i.e. I will return your call).
You may think that I’d have push-back from clients on this policy but I really haven't after I explain that with this policy: (a) we will never play phone tag, and (b) when we connect I will be prepared for our call and you will have my undivided attention.
Besides my time blocking which doesn’t allow for unscheduled inbound phone calls, the other reason I don’t take them is this…
Preplanning Before Every Appointment
I preplan prior to every appointment. My office sends out worksheets and questionnaires to every new prospect who schedules either an phone or office consultation with me. We have worksheets for estate planning appointments, probate consultations, and guardianship consultations.
Prospective clients MUST RETURN THEIR COMPLETED WORKSHEET to our office for my review prior to our appointment. I review every worksheet in advance, take notes, and prepare for the appointment. This gives me an opportunity to research issues in advance if needed and begin formulating my recommendations. This makes my time with folks much more valuable for them.
Schedule Important Tasks During Your Personal “Peak” Hours
Some of you are night owls and others, like me, are early birds. I do my best work that requires a lot of thought before mid-afternoon when I start to fade mentally. If I have a big project that I’m working on or a client with lots of issues then I try to schedule them in the mornings when I’m fresh. Know yourself and your timeclock and rig your schedule to win. Although sometimes unavoidable, trying to “power through” an important task when you are mentally exhausted usually produces a sub-par product.
The above time management strategies are the result of much trial and error. These principles (for now) work well for me but they may not work well for you in your life. Experiment with different strategies to see what you like.
My strategies will inevitably evolve over time as my practice grows but they are kicking butt for me now.
I hope these time management hacks will kick butt for you too!
What time management tips do you have? Please add your comment below!
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