Technology has made it easier to stay organized and to communicate efficiently. But it's also made things worse. Having a computer in your pocket makes it easy to stay updated on every facet of your business. With this convenience comes more emails, more updates...more everything.
I'm an organizational freak and plan my day down to the minute. Throughout 16 years of running my own business, I found time is my most valuable resource...and there isn't a close second.
If you're like me and have a million ideas a minute but only so many minutes in the day, here are five tricks I've picked up over the years to help you stay focused:
Email organization tools
Email is the most frequently used means of communication for any business. It's what we constantly check to keep tabs on projects, communicate with team members or vendors and get the general pulse of our organizations. This makes it a huge time sink. In fact, a report published by Adobe last year found that white collar workers spend an average of 4.1hrs each day checking email...that's 20.5 hours each week!
To combat this, I've used free tools like Inbox by Google as well as paid apps including Boomerang and ActiveInbox with great success. They allow me to flag incoming emails by priority and keep my inbox clean.
They also let me schedule when I need to follow up on an email. By having each follow-up email at the top of my inbox every day, it saves me from searching through my sent folder. Sure, it may only save 30 seconds per email. But with my typical 300-400/day email flow those seconds add up quick.
Reduce in person meetings
So many companies waste hours every day on discussions that could easily be done via email. I start every morning by determining which meetings I can cancel. It usually frees up 1-2 hours that I can use on other things, while still getting the exact same updates.
Schedule meetings when important deadlines are approaching, your team needs to discuss a project in-depth or if a project's results need to be reviewed by multiple people to determine next steps. Most importantly, make sure everyone comes prepared with a clear agenda and never finish a meeting without confirming all action items.
Otherwise, employees can provide daily reports with bulleted information on what chains moved forward that day or other updates. These reports can be easily digested later in the day, and your team members will have more time to fully prepare their reports.
I know how hard it is to stop micromanaging, especially if you founded your company. You want every aspect of your business to follow your vision. You crave updates on every project to make sure it's on par with expectations. But, sometimes you need to take two steps back (or more in my case) and let the people you hired do their job.
When assigning out projects, explain your desired outcomes before the employee starts. Leave the daily check-ins to your managers or your employees' daily reports. This will not only free up massive amounts of time, it also clears up your "mental bandwidth" so you can focus on larger tasks at hand.
If the same task needs to be done 3+ times, automate it. By creating templates or canned responses to FAQs, common inquiries, etc. you can accomplish the exact same results in a fraction of the time.
You can still personalize emails to the recipient but the grunt work is gone. If you have new products launching, figure out the ideal launch plan and template it out. That way when the next product is coming down the pipeline, everyone knows what to do and when they need to do it.
Speed is better than perfection
If something is a good idea tomorrow, then it's a good idea today... and it'll be done a full day sooner. Similarly, an immediate reply is better than a perfect reply. Clearly, patience is not a virtue of mine.
There are times to really think on something before moving forward, especially if it will tie up resources or affect your entire company. But often I see business leaders getting hung up on decisions that may seem major at the time, but will realistically just be a blip on the radar in a few days. I don't advocate leaping blindly, but don't look so long you forget to leap.
The more you value time over any other resource in your life, the better. The feeling of not having enough time is something we all have in common, the only difference is how we manage it.
How do you manage your time? Any experiences good or bad? Any favorite methods I didn't mention? Please comment below and let me know what you think.