The end of summer is often a time when folks recall what they had hoped to accomplish in the calendar year and panic when they realize that there are only four months left. Where has the year gone? Why haven’t I finished any of the things that I started earlier in the year? The answer may well lie in the need to be better organized. Participants in the July Small Business Roundtable examined the ways that they could better organize their time to be more productive. Roundtable facilitator Ray Sidney-Smith recommended a great book on the subject, Getting Things Done, by David Allen.
The first step is to define whether something is a “project” or a “task”. A project is generally a main event – something big that needs to get done. It may even be broken down into related mini-projects. Tasks are the steps that need to be done in order to complete the project. A task is any physical action taken that moves a project forward. Most people find that creating “task lists” really helps. When composing your task list make sure to use strong verbs – action items for you to accomplish. Keep the task list close at hand, whether on paper or digitally, and cross off items as they are accomplished. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks, divide them by theme, such as all marketing tasks together, accounting together, etc.
Time management is equally important when it comes to managing your professional projects and tasks. Use time blocking to allow a certain period of time when you only concentrate on the tasks within a theme, essentially wearing only one of your many entrepreneurial “hats” at a time. It is important to track your time, whether productive or non-productive, regardless of how you charge your time to a client. When tracking you may find that you overcharge for some tasks or projects, and undercharge for others. Either way it is good to know where you spend your time, which naturally modifies productive habits.
You may also find that there are some tasks involved in a project that you absolutely hate doing, and that you realize do not have to be done by you. It’s time to outsource them, whether to a virtual assistant, an employee, or another company. The time you save by outsourcing some of your tasks can then be put to use on those parts of the project that are best handled by you – without the other tasks weighing on your mind while you are working on the “important “ things. You may find that projects can be accomplished sooner and with less stress on your part – a win-win. Suddenly you have time to develop new business, take a mini-vacation, or just breathe. The last four months of the year may be your most productive yet!