Busy or effective. Which one are you? Did you know it’s possible to do away with almost 80% of your to do list?
Here is a myth about being self-employed. You start a business. You work 80 hours a week to build it up. In 5 years or so, you are a roaring success.
In my last post (https://successfulcm.com/2017/04/28/stunning-simple-secret-improves-productivity/) we discussed how you can choose the hours you want to work, and then use the 80/20 rule to accomplish the 20% of important activities to produce 80% of your results.
But what about the rest of the pile?
In this post, I’ll discuss ways you can take the other 80% of your To-Do pile and dump it, delegate it, or delay it.
What Can I Dump?
The first thing to do is to look at your pile and pick out the problem areas wasting a lot of your time.
Remember the 80/20 rule works in all kinds of ways.
Who are the 20% of customers, clients, or prospects causing 80% of your headaches? How much do they contribute to your bottom line? My experience is the ones who constantly complain about stuff many times are just trying to shift the blame for their own flaws. Fire them. You are better off without them.
You don’t have to be nasty about it. I have said to clients, “I’m sorry. I think I’ve done all I know how to do for you. You’ll be much better off finding someone else who can (fill in the blank)”
If it’s a prospect, you can say, “I’m sorry. I just don’t think I’m the right person for you.”
I think one of the most wonderful things about being self-employed is the ability to choose the people you want to work with. Helping others to solve their problems or achieve their goals should be a joyful experience. If it’s not. Move on.
What are the time wasters?
- Email- Probably the #1 time killer. I’d be willing to bet you 95% of the mail in your inbox is crap. Get rid of it. If an email does not relate to getting you business somehow, delete it. If you get irrelevant emails from the same sender more than once, assign the sender to your junk or spam file.Only look at email twice a day. Pick the times. I review once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Outside of those times, I turn the email completely off. Those emails that are business related should be answered within 24 hours. Keep your emails focused. Stick to one subject if possible. Answer it and move on.
There is one caveat here. If you are emailing a customer, client or prospect about a specific subject and you find you are trading 3, 4, or 5 emails to no result, pick up the phone and call.
- Phone calls. Turn off your phone during the day. No…your business will not suffer. Put a voicemail greeting on your phone that says, “Sorry I am not available to take your call. Please leave a message.” If someone won’t leave a message, they are not interested in doing business with you. That said, here is the caveat. I call it the “Sunset Rule.” All calls received before 4 PM should be returned by sunset the same day. Even if you don’t have an answer for the caller you are telling them you received their call, they are important to you, and you will contact them again when you have an answer for them. If you are getting more calls than you can handle on an issue, you may want to consider delegating.
- Meetings. There are two kinds of meetings. One on one meetings with a prospect or client to discuss projects or work in progress. These are OK. You should build an agenda for the meeting. Publish it ahead of time. Stay focused. Try to hold the meeting to an hour. The other kind of meeting is a committee meeting, general discussion, exploration, presentations, pitch sessions, etc. Avoid these like the plague. Nothing is ever accomplished here. One of my favorite quotes is from the humorist Dave Barry, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”
If you are a one-person shop, the way I am, this gets a little more challenging. You have decided how many hours a week you want to work. You have chosen the most important things to focus on. You have dumped everything you can. There’s still stuff left. Now what?
One thing you can do is hire a virtual assistant. Sources for virtual assistants can be found online. Be very careful here. The tendency is to hire a virtual assistant and then simply dump on them everything you don’t want to do. This is a recipe for disaster. You would be wise to eliminate the activity completely before you delegate it.
A virtual assistant should be treated as any other employee. Interview them for compatibility. Pick a specific function you want them to do. Train them how to do it. Then turn them loose.
Let’s take the example from the previous paragraph. You are getting a ton of phone calls on a specific subject. Imagine you are a consultant. You have offered a free half-hour of your time to discuss a certain issue. People are calling to book an appointment.
Train your virtual assistant on how to answer questions about the half-hour session. Give them the hours and dates you are available. Have a separate phone number for booking the appointments. Google Voice is great for this. Turn them loose. Inspect the results daily at first, then weekly.
You can also delegate out to contract workers and/or freelancers. Again, you must be careful to confine this to specific functions with clearly defined procedures and goals.
Finally, there is delay. This is really a default tactic. There is stuff in your pile that isn’t part of the 20% getting you 80% of your results. You can’t (or won’t) dump it. Now what?
Delay it. Actually, what I mean by this is ignore it. Most of the time, this junk will just melt away on its own. If there’s something in there that must be done, it will rise to assume crisis proportions.
The idea here is to use your work time to be effective. Focus on only those things that produce results. Let the rest go. This isn’t always easy. Those things outside of the 20% of effort producing 80% of the results will sap your energy and distract you from the important. The inconvenient truth is you’ll never get it all done. There’s always one more thing getting added to the list. Focus on the 20%, Dump, Delegate, or Delay the rest. You’ll be surprised how much you get done and how good you feel.