It’s summer! Your kids are sleeping in while you trek off to work each morning. You’d rather be enjoying the slower summer pace along with your family, but there's work to be done! What if you could get more done in less time? Wouldn’t it be great to be finished with work by 2 and hit the beach with the family by 3?
So, some of what I’m about to propose does assume that you are a solopreneur so you set your own schedule. Or, at the very least, you work in an environment that values work-life balance and the motto “as long as it gets done it doesn’t matter when you do it or how long it takes.” (If you don’t work in this type of environment, maybe spend the summer figuring out how to change that!)
I know, you’re thinking the point is to work less, not more. But hear me out. According to Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor of psychology and behavioral economics, we’re most productive during the first two hours of becoming fully awake. He suggests that if we can work from home during those first two hours, doing our most cognitively demanding tasks, we’ll be more productive. We often have fewer distractions and quieter surroundings early in the morning. You’ll get more done in those couple of hours when you’re alone and can focus.
If your phone is chirping like a nest of baby robins how can you expect to concentrate on work? Turn off your social notifications. Then at a set time of day monitor your social accounts. Set a limit on web surfing and social media use by using a timer or a free browser plug in like StayFocusd for Chrome or Wastenotime for Safari. Both allow you to set a daily time limit for specific web sites and then blocks them when you’ve reached that limit.
Multi-tasking doesn’t work, it just doesn’t. When you focus on specific tasks within an allotted period of time you will get more done. It takes mental energy to switch gears from one task to another. By batching like tasks that require similar resources, you will have better mental clarity during those times. In his excellent article on the subject of batching, Michael Hyatt put it this way, “Batching is setting aside an intentional amount of time for intentional tasks and making an intentional effort to not allow the distractions or interjections of others to break that focus.” This eliminates the brain-fuzz that can result from switching from task to task. It takes about 15 minutes to refocus when you switch tasks, so batching allows you to cut down on the time needed to settle in to the next task. Take a short break between tasks to give yourself time to recharge your energy for the next task.
Only hold meetings during these allotted times if possible. Like switching from task to task, switching from a task to a meeting takes up precious time. If you’re constantly being pulled from tasks to attend meetings, not only will your focus suffer but you’ll be less productive. A lot of “meeting time” is time that is wasted waiting for other team members, making small talk, going off topic. To make meetings more productive and focused, set a specific time limit, go in with an agenda and stick to it.
Email is important. It is our main method of communication with clients and colleagues. So expecting to cut email time to a spare 10 minutes a day is unrealistic and unnecessary. However, there are ways to make inbox management and email communication more efficient. By using filters and labels you can quickly sort your email. Then when it’s time to read your messages, which will be done only during the time you’ve scheduled for email (see step #3), you’ll be able to focus on the ones that need an immediate response. There are a few tools available to help with your email management. We use Sidekick for email workflow and tracking. It eliminates the time spent guessing whether or not your contacts have opened your email. It also allows you to create email templates so it reduces the time spent drafting email responses. We also recently started using Boomerang for Gmail. With Boomerang, messages are taken out of your inbox until you choose to respond or handle the task that is in the message. The message bommerangs back to you on the chosen date/time. This fits nicely with the batching method of time management.
Hire a virtual assistant. A VA will be able to handle the routine tasks that take up so much of your time. Give your VA clear instructions, a daily/weekly schedule, and empower him or her to do their job. Examples of things a VA can tackle for you are: sorting your email and responding to routine requests, making travel arrangements, setting up meetings with clients, doing research, project management, social media management, proofreading and editing, and content creation. A great VA will not only take over these daily tasks but will suggest additional ways to be of value to you. They will take on projects that you’ve been putting off that can help lead to the growth of your business. This leads not only to more business opportunities for you but it frees up your time so you have more of it to spend as you choose. If you’d like to explore this option, try eaHELP.
If you'd like more tips to achieving work-life balance, this post will help.
Are you ready to make a few key changes to your daily routine so that you can spend some of your summer enjoying time with your family? Let us know in the comments which of these tactics make sense for you. We’d love your feedback.
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