Let me start by asking a question. For a business owner, what are the biggest problems you face in your business? Well, there is one answer that is common amongst many entrepreneurs. In fact, most of you would probably put this one down as one of your top 3 challenges. That answer is: not enough time. Quite simply, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.
It’s a widely familiar and deeply disturbing statistic that somewhere around 95% of small businesses fail within their first 5 years. And one of the biggest causes for these failures isn’t having an unsellable product or service. It’s not poor marketing. No, one of the biggest causes is simply burnout. That’s because new business owners have to juggle a lot of hats. If you’re starting a new business, chances are you’re the accountant, the marketing manager, customer service representative, salesperson and much more. You don’t have finances to hire help, and so you run yourself ragged trying to do everything by yourself. Consequently, it’s not uncommon for an entrepreneur to put in as many as 90 hours a week or more.
With this in mind, I’d like to offer you a couple of tips that can help you to declutter your day, so you can get done what really needs to get done, and reduce some of your stressors.
Tip #1: Keep a log of what you’re spending time on for a week.
This one seems really simple, but you’ll be surprised how much it can help. You’ll need to keep a log in two columns. The first column is just for notes. Here, you can identify the specific key tasks on which you spend your time in a given day. In the second column, you can jot down the amount of time you spend on that particular task. Here are some examples:
Email 1 hour
Ordering Supplies 45 minutes
If you do a thorough job, and you review your log at the end of the week, you’ll most likely find the results to be shocking. You won’t believe the activities that are getting the biggest bites of your time!
The question you should be asking at the end of your week of reflection is this:
How many of those tasks are really making a difference for your business, and how many are silly admin tasks that can be delegated or even automated?
The answer to that question can be eye opening, and it can help you better organise your time.
Tip #2: Have a look at your priorities.
Now that you have a feel for how you’re spending your time, you need to take a few moments to analyze your priorities. To do this, you can use a 4-box matrix, like the one below.
In this matrix, there are two axes. The first one allows you to measure to what degree a task adds value to your business. At the top end of the scale are high value tasks, and low value activities are at the bottom. The second axis allows you to measure how much time and resources a given task requires. Tasks that take a lot of time and resources should fall somewhere towards the left side of the matrix. Conversely, quick jobs that require little resources should be placed to the right side. By accurately plotting a task on the matrix, you can figure out which tasks are adding real value for the least amount of time and resources. Those tasks are the most important should be prioritised in the top-right quadrant. Items falling in the bottom-left quadrant aren’t very productive, yet they still take a lot of time and resources to complete. These activities should be avoided as much as possible.
Once you’ve established your priorities, of course you should do those activities in their proper sequence. But the next step is probably the hardest. What should you do if you run out of time? You stop working. That’s because, at the end of the day, you should be in, or at least near, the bottom-left quadrant. And remember, this quadrant contains activities which are unproductive and time consuming. That means if you don’t get to them at all, who really cares? They’ll still be there tomorrow, if you find the time.
The difficulty is in letting go of the lower-priority activities, and not getting distracted. That’s a matter of discipline, but it will help you maintain your sanity, and it will help you get through the startup phase of your business in one piece.
Just remember, decluttering your day takes two basic steps. First is figuring out what you do every day, and second is sorting those activities by priority, to make sure the most important ones get done first. If you can do that, you won’t feel so bad when the end of the day comes and it’s time to turn off your computer – even if there’s still a pile of work in your to-do basket.
If you find, even after taking these two steps, that you’re still not getting enough done, then read through our blogs to learn how a virtual assistant might be an answer. Then click here to contact the professionals at Virtual Done Well, and discover how you can get the affordable help your business needs.