This is a guest post by Monique Wells of understandingtimemanagement.com
Women entrepreneurs, particularly women solopreneurs, face unique time management challenges in operating their businesses. As a coach and trainer who helps women solopreneurs “get over overwhelm” that so often results from less than optimal prioritization, handling of external communications, and other habits and behaviors in the workplace related to time management, I am constantly seeking the opinions of industry experts about how to reduce or eliminate these challenges.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Brian Tracy, one of the authorities whose time management principles and advice I admire most and incorporate into my life – both at work and at home. I have included three “hot tips” from our interview below. If you follow these, you are guaranteed to see an improvement not only in your peace of mind, but also in your productivity and ultimately, your profitability!
Tip #1: To overcome overwhelm, ask yourself, “Is there anything that I am doing today, that knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t start?”
Brian shares this question, which he calls the “zero-based thinking” question, in his training sessions and business seminars the world over. He says that “…you cannot become more efficient by doing more things. You can only become more productive by doing fewer things.” So the question becomes, “What am I going to stop doing to free up time for the things that are really valuable?” When you answer this question for yourself, you then need to think about how to stop doing the thing(s) that you have identified as quickly as possible.
Tip#2: Become your own best monitor for time-wasting activities at work.
Solopreneurs generally work at home. For men and women in this situation, a major time management challenge is the ease with which we become distracted by things in our environment. For mompreneurs, it can be especially difficult to avoid the temptation to address home-related tasks during working hours. It is important for home-based entrepreneurs to be self-disciplined and create a work environment that mimics that of a traditional office where you would work as though your boss were standing over you.
Brian advises the following: Imagine paying yourself $100 an hour or 100 euros an hour to tell yourself what you should do more of or less of, and what you should start doing and stop doing during your work day. Then follow your own advice! Dress for working at home as though you were going out to the office. Make your to-do list, prioritize the items on the list, and begin working as soon as you sit down. Work as though you were your own most highly valued employee, dealing with valuable things consistently and regularly, and getting them done quickly.
Tip #3: To improve your productivity, guard against spending time discussing personal matters with clients, colleagues, friends and family during the work day.
Over the ten years that Brian has been working with small business owners, he has observed that, compared to men, women have a tendency – and seemingly feel obligated – to respond immediately and fully to communications of all kinds during the course of the business day. In his experience, we spend enormous amounts of time providing “emotional first aid” to people – we try to help them solve their non-business-related problems during office hours. He suggests that when conversation drifts from the business topic at hand, or when the opening “chit-chat” goes on a little too long, we use phrases like:
“This is a great question. Why don’t we come back to that after 5 o’clock?”
“Tell me, what can I do for you right now?”
to bring things back to business.
I have the tendency to want to connect with clients and others that I speak with by introducing or responding to some element of personal interaction, whether by phone, by e-mail, or in person. It is not often a great time waster for me, but there are times when this aspect of communication can occupy an hour or more of the business day. I know others for whom this is a constant preoccupation, and therefore a significant time waster, during the day. We need to curb the feeling that we are being discourteous or unpleasant in bringing conversations back to business.
Are you overwhelmed at work? Do you experience distractions or have the tendency to communicate about non-business topics during working hours? Share your stories in the comment section below!
Monique Y. Wells is the Paris Muse of Time Management™. She helps women solopreneurs who work from home “get over the overwhelm” that they experience during the workday. Monique owns two small businesses, and has over ten years of experience in maximizing productivity within the constraints of the number of hours available for work each day. Find her at http://understandingtimemanagement.com.