As a business owner, some days there is just too much. Too much to do, too many decisions and too much information all coming at you in an endless stream of phone calls, meetings, texts, emails and social media updates.
How do you wade through all of it? What do you read, what do you skip? How do you remember all the tasks on your to do list and all the commitments you have made, both personally and professionally? And with all this buzzing around in your head, how do you ever get to sleep at night? Here are few tips to help you unwind and manage your time.
Clear your head at the end of the day.
Take a clean sheet of paper and write down everything that you need to get done. If you are a person who likes tech, then open a list on your favorite productivity tool and start typing. Don’t worry about the order of information and don’t worry if you repeat yourself. Just write it all down. Then look around your office for all those slips of paper with notes and ideas and consolidate all of that onto one long list.
Your brain works in a funny way. If it decides something is really important, you will dwell on it. It pops up into your unconscious and wakes you up in the middle of the night. When you capture the information on a to do list, you can fool your brain into thinking you have it handled. This is just the beginning. You actually have to handle the information, but where do you start?
Divide the list into four categories: Now, Later, Never and Someone Else
Now: These are things which need to be addressed in the next few days. This might include sales call follow ups, projects on deadlines, critical conversations with employees and vendors.
Later: These are the big ideas for your business, things you want to work on, but may not have time or resources to address right now. In this category may be things which need to be broken into smaller pieces, system upgrades, organizational changes and new marketing programs.
Never: Sometimes it is hard to let go, but if something hangs around on your to do list, and never gets done, ask yourself why? Maybe it is not important. Give yourself permission to let it go.
Someone Else: As a business owner, we hold on to things, But if you have hired employees, trust them to get things done. If you aren’t going to get to it, and it is important, find someone who will.
This same strategy works wonders on your inbox. Don’t keep your email open all day long. Schedule time throughout the day to read and respond. When you are ready to deal with email deal with every email in your inbox by putting it in one of the four categories. If you can respond to it right away, do it. If not put it in a later folder which you review twice a day. If you aren’t going to do it, pass it on to someone else or just say no.
This process allows you to take your inbox to zero. Things don’t get forgotten, but there is something so nice about checking on your email and not feeling overwhelmed. Now you do have to address the later folder. My rule of thumb is to keep that under 20 items at all times. If it gets too large, I simply schedule more time for email clean up.
Schedule Based on Your Internal Rhythm
I am the consummate multitasker, but I have discovered I actually get things done when I force myself to work on one thing at a time. When you multitask you can fool yourself because you are getting things done. The problem is what you work on may not be the most important thing. So start your day by looking at your list. Schedule time for specific tasks to be sure the most critical things get done.
First thing in the morning is the most productive time for many people. If that works for you, schedule time early in the day for the most important and time consuming tasks. But not everyone is a morning person. I like to start my day reading and exploring the internet. My most productive time is late in the afternoon, so I actually try to keep that part of my day, or even early evening clear. For example, I am actually writing this post at 9 pm.
Pick and Choose Your Input
We live in the age of information. There is so much out there it is impossible to read and watch everything you need to know to run your business. So find a few good resources that you turn to regularly. Subscribe to their blog feeds and newsletters or follow thought leaders on social media. Every few months add someone new to your routine so your information doesn’t get stale.
Take Time Off
Find time every day for short breaks. Walk around the office every hour. It helps clear your head, and it is good for your heart. And take a week off. Yes, there is a lot to do, but your business can run without you. And when you come back, healthy and rested, you will be ready to attack that information overload.
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Roundpeg is an Indianapolis marketing strategy firm.