Time is an elusive resource. While we all have finite amounts of it, sometimes it seems unlimited…until you hit a dreaded deadline or realize you missed meeting an important goal. I have my share of fights trying to tame mine.
Take last week for example. While on-boarding a returning team member I stated (while thinking this is seriously famous last words material), “Oh, don’t worry about weekends. We don’t work weekends any longer.”
It’s kind of true. We’ve officially been closed on weekends for a few years now. The threat of burnout and needing work life balance cemented a need in me to enforce a no work weekend moratorium. There is one team member that will always work those late and weekend hours, but they also have some other personal projects during the weekday, so in this case it works well for them to catch up when they can. Other than that I work hard to not text, email, or read my own work emails from Fri night to Mon morning.
Unfortunately, sometimes life is busy, and in my case the sprint of the week carried over full speed to Friday night, and I made a bad decision. I worked on Saturday, thinking it would help my next week be calmer (this is almost never the case).
I have to travel out of town next week, so I thought, innocently enough, that I needed to get my week organized ahead of time. That turned into my sending a team agenda out, then sending some customer followups, fielding a few emails from the team related to the agenda, and on and on. Before Saturday was out I was frustrated, checking my phone too much and wondering how I went from relative tranquility a few months ago to getting screen headaches and checking my phone at 3 am. Truth be told I’d been sliding for a little bit, but this time I hit the wall.
My personal belief, and one that has been also been researched by the mental health community, is that tech can be addictive. Simply speaking, I also fell off the tech addiction wagon, and that influenced the decision to work the weekends. One bad habit begets another!
I’m in good company, though. Many of us haven’t actually gotten on the wagon to start with, and that’s the point of this post. For me the problem isn’t even the tech, it’s the time suck that comes from spending an hour reviewing or closing and opening email or Facebook when it should have taken 15 minutes.
If you run a business, and especially if that business is a growing one, you will have constant (constant) fights for your attention. If you can’t tame the way you respond at scale you won’t grow, and you will be chasing the current fire when you retire. Growing intelligently takes thought and strategy. If you are responding to the newest email in your inbox instead of working on actionable growth items, you are not following a healthy path to growth.
My personal plan of attack is:
- Delete all non-essential apps on my phone. Hangouts, Facebook, Twitter – if you take them off you can still catch up from your desk during the week, but you are not continually reminded to connect.
- Keep the laptop at my desk upstairs, so that I know when it is time to work or get online there is a dedicated space to do it. Carrying a cell phone around all day seems convenient, but it is much like an alcoholic keeping a flask in their pocket. Don’t recommend it. In fact, as old fashioned as it sounds I keep a house phone. When I arrive home I usually forward my calls, and leave my cell at my desk (except for this hell week). If it’s urgent people usually know to call; otherwise I’ll respond when it is work time.
- Keep the phone on do not disturb (yes, this feature exists). I have a Google Pixel 2 and it is exceedingly handy in the evenings. I switch it on at 6, and leave it on until morning. And yes, alarms still come through.
- Choose when I plan to engage with each project. Whether you block off time on a calendar or manage this somehow else, the important thing is to manage your projects and the time resources you provide to them.
- Always take the shortest route to resolution. Bonus – I use this line with customer service frequently, and it frequently seems to click alive the need to skip the pleasantries and go straight for the fix. I love this line. The only exception I make to this is if I’m trying to train someone to complete a task. As a manager, the second you interfere you teach your team to depend on you, and it takes away their power to think through the situation. I like to share the major decision points together, discuss them, and then let the team member work on the task. Saying that, if you are working on a task don’t start it without finishing it. You’ve now kept the task open and lost time. I only start a task if I fully believe I will hit a milestone or finish it in the same time block.
- Cut the small talk. I am so bad at this (so bad). The more you talk about unnecessary topics the less time you have to work on something real. That being said, you also need to make sure that those you engage with feel at ease and not like they are being bombed with a to do list or blunt question. Find the middle ground and have genuine interest in those around you, but also know when it is time to get to business.
- Automate. Zapier is an amazing tool for creating if this then that situations. If you have to do something repetitively, ask if it can be automated. That saves you time and allows you to rely on the more important stuff. Like selling, client engagement, running your business, and more.
- Make sure you have the support you need. Whether for a smaller business this means hiring out some personal tasks, like cleaning your house or running errands, or it means the big D – delegating – do it. Don’t think you can do everything better. You probably can in the beginning, since you have the experience doing this task to date, but will it actually get done? Even if it means spending the time training someone to help, it’s worth it.
I will wrap this post with some helpful links for ways I increase my available time:
- Walmart.com – prices are cheaper than Amazon on groceries and they still have 2 day shipping. Pro: You can bulk order a ton of non-perishables. Con: They sometimes run out of stock for weeks at a time. I also keep a storage area and try to do 1 large order a month and bulk buy, following by small orders each week or two if needed (the goal is to do one order a month for budgeting and convenience reasons) (I’d say Amazon, but their grocery prices are SO inflated that I can’t even say Amazon with a straight face. For non-grocery – definitely consider the elephant in the room, however.)
- Thumbtack.com – Hired my last house cleaner from here. Even if it’s once every other week it helps us remember not to be pigs because someone will be coming to clean, and the feeling of a clean house is ooh la la. Toilet paper roses, need I say more?
- Zapier.com – Self-described app aggregator. Works well most of the time to do things like send contacts to lists in another app. Pick the apps you work with and they will suggest some things you can automate. Yes, QuickBooks Software is on there!
- Inbox By Google – Google’s Inbox app takes Gmail a step further. I save my grocery list items as Reminders, get pinged when I need to touch base with someone, and more. It doesn’t stop there, really. I use the full suite of GApps for Business to run my business.
- PandaDoc – When it comes to apps I’m a perfectionist, and I’ve been fighting with quoting for a while. Simple quotes can be completed in QuickBooks Software Online, but for full proposals I have templates and price tables built into PandaDoc. Took my proposal time from hours to minutes. Really. I’ve tried a ton, and PD is just complex enough to capture some important features, but simple enough that it doesn’t flood you with them and becomes overly complex.
- Cloze CRM – Finally, a crm that actually makes smart auto suggestions, and not annoying ones. They have intuitive activity questions that help you stay in touch with clients, and their daily agenda is my favorite email. It’s a small, under the radar app sometimes, and it can occasionally be slow, but I’ve tried them all and for small businesses this one rocks. Only downside is that since it is a little under the radar you will rely on Zapier for most integrations.
- QuickBooks Software – I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite. With QuickBooks Software handling the transactional part of my business I can run reports to see how my business is doing, and even track profitability and performance by team member or location. To request a trial, email me.
I will update this list as I come across favorites. Do you have a favorite app that will help your fellow tech addicts and time drainers tame their time?