You've probably noticed quite a few posts by me lately and may be wondering how I have time to write all these posts and still am able to run my business. It's very simple really... good time management!
One of the most challenging things of being self-employed is sticking to a schedule that fosters productivity. Without a boss look over your shoulder it is easy to sleep in an extra hour or two, put off tasks until later in the day or week, and develop an "I'll get to it later" mentality. This lack of self-discipline will kill your business quicker than almost anything.
In order to stay productive and keep your focus on obtaining new clients, it is important to implement a schedule for yourself and be diligent in sticking to it. It's easy to act like an employee with a boss, it's much more difficult to act like both an employee AND a boss. The later is what is important though. It's not that you don't have a boss-- you do. It's YOU. And it becomes very easy to slack off if you don't stick to a schedule.
Here is the schedule that I keep for myself and have found it to help me stay productive.
- 6:30 - 7:00 am: Wake Up, Eat Breakfast & Read the News -- It sounds like something my mother would say, but eating breakfast is extremely important to kick your body into gear. I generally make a packet of Oatmeal (takes 1 minute in the microwave) and have found that fueling your body with whole grains in the morning helps wake you up and get your brain going. While I'm eating breakfast, I will read both the general news and industry specific news. I'm a big fan of TechCrunch and always try to stay up-to-date on what is going on in the industry. I'll also start figuring out which businesses to call.
- 8:00 - 10:00am: Cold Call Businesses -- I've found that the morning is, by far, the best time to call businesses. People are just starting to get into their day, so they aren't consumed with tasks yet and are more likely to talk to somebody on the phone because it helps them procrastinate in doing what they need to do. Additionally, they haven't been bombarded with phone calls yet from other people trying to sell them stuff. This helps separate you from the rest of the folks pitching their services. If you call at the end of the day, odds are that the business owner has already received at least 10 other sales calls and they are not going to be in the mood to hear you out because they are tired of all the calls.
- 10:00 - Noon: Follow Up Calls -- I use this time to make follow up calls to businesses. The difference between a follow up call and a cold call is pretty simple-- a follow up call is a business who I have already contacted. It could be that I had previously spoken to the decision maker and they weren't interested at the time, or it could be that I never got a hold of the decision maker and I'm calling back again to try to get a hold of them. I use SalesForce as a CRM, so I'm easily able to schedule all my follow up calls after I get done with the first call. I always record notes from every call so that I can pick up the phone and continue a conversation like it had never ended.
- Noon - 1:00pm: Lunch -- I take time out to eat lunch and this is also when I spend a lot of time on WF and writing posts (like this one!)
- 1:00pm - 4:00pm: Appointments -- I always schedule my appointments for the afternoon. I do this because it allows me to keep my mornings free for calling and even if I don't have a specific appointment set, I know that I will have time in the afternoon for anything that comes up because I've blocked off that time.
- 4:00pm - Whenever: Random Tasks -- I find that there are always things that come up throughout the day. It can be client relations, vendor/outsourcer relations, accounting, really anything. If I don't have any appointments in the afternoon, I will do this stuff earlier, but if I'm busy, I do this in late afternoon / early evening. I've found that by setting a time to take care of tasks, it keeps me from getting overwhelmed when things come up. Everything little thing that comes up can feel like an emergency, so know that you have scheduled time in your day to take care of this things will really help keep you focused. Some people might say it is best to do this stuff in the morning, but I prefer to end my day on a high note where I feel like I have accomplished a bunch of stuff-- and crossing things off a list feels really good!
Also, one last thing-- no matter what schedule works for you personally, there is no excuse for sleeping in. It is sometimes hard to get out of bed when you feel like you can put things off until later, but I've found that sleeping in kills my energy for the day.
It is amazing how much you can accomplish before 10am and helps motivate you throughout the day. If you currently don't get up early, just bite the bullet and start doing it. After a week it will become normal and you won't think anything of it! Once you "normalize" your productivity, you will start to realize that you can accomplish much more than you ever thought possible. Some of the things that were big hurdles or caused you to procrastinate will start to seem silly-- in some cases it will literally take 10 minutes to do what you've been putting off for days, weeks, or even months!
I hope this helps people bring some structure to their day if they were missing it before. If anybody else has any tips or wants to share how they structure their day, it would be a great addition to this thread!
Make it a GREAT day!!