Is Your Business Day In Focus?

Last Sunday, I met my friend Liz for breakfast at a local diner in New Canaan. She’s from Boston and we don’t see each other often, so when we first sat down the hubbub of the restaurant faded into the background as we started talking and catching up.

We ordered our food, kept chatting and ate happily. Eventually (I lost track of time), I looked up and realized that the restaurant was nearly empty and the rush of breakfast was over. And that’s when the trouble started.

It was nearly impossible to get anyone’s attention for the check. And, after we finally did, it was equally challenging to wait for the waitress come back, pick it up, and then run our credit cards. What should have taken one minute took ten.

I’m sure you’ve had this same experience: It’s often much easier to get served in a busy restaurant than in an empty one. Once the frenzy dies down, the staff shifts its attention to other things besides service.

For many of us as solo professionals, things work the same way.

When I first started working on my own it was difficult to stay focused. Not because I was so busy, but rather, because I wasn’t – I had more time than work. So I roamed around, wasting time, never bothering to put any systems in place.

It was not until I had tons of work, that I also gained focus. At that point, I couldn’t afford to waste time since that would have led to missing deadlines, working unreasonable hours or both.

What it taught me, though, is that developing rules and systems to stay focused makes sense whether you are busy or not.

Here are some strategies that work for me:

  • I begin work pretty much the same time every day
  • I start the day looking at emails that have come in overnight and prioritize them into my day, before I jump into any project
  • I work on one task at a time, when at all possible
  • I block time on my calendar to work on specific projects
  • I plan to be at my desk all day, almost every weekday
  • I organize my data in a way that lets me quickly and easily find files, info and project plans

And here are some things I don’t do, most of which involve avoiding many household projects that are within reach (I work from home):

  • Unless there is a laundry emergency of monumental proportion, no laundry gets done during the work day (even though it would be easy to “just throw a load in”).
  • I only clean the kitchen before I start work or after – not even to unload the dishwasher.
  • I don’t talk on the phone with my friends to catch up.
  • I block time on my calendar to work on specific projects
  • Any personal business – like bill paying, shopping or answering emails gets done before the first client work starts – even if it delays the start of my work.
  • If the bed doesn’t get made in the morning, it waits until the evening.

Over the years I’ve learned that the faster I can get settled at my desk, the more productive my day is. Focus is precious and time is money, especially when you work for yourself. Guard both as best you can!

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Things I Can’t Live Without: Acuity Scheduling Software

I’ve used and tested many scheduling software solutions before settling on Acuity.

It’s my favorite because it syncs seamlessly with my Google calendar, let’s me use custom headers and reminders that look like my RocketGirl self and makes scheduling time with me a snap.

Check out three ways I use Acuity here (and consider using it in your own business):

Client Meetings

Prospects

Consulting 

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Are You Wasting More Time Than Necessary?

One of the things I love about my clients is that they are all entrepreneurs. They’re excited about their work and they’re passionate about their ideas. They love their businesses (sometimes) as if it were one of their children. And they spend a lot of time working.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that many entrepreneurs don’t always feel like they’re getting anything done … despite the long hours and hard work. They’re pretty sure they’re being inefficient and feel like there’s never enough time.

And that’s exhausting.

The antidote?

1. Get clear about what you’re trying to accomplish. I see clients every day who are heading in 15 directions all at once. They jump from one thing to the next and back without any clear destination, always chasing the next shiny object.

The best way to do this is to take time to make measurable goals that are easy to articulate. For example: “In 2017 I want to increase revenue by $30,000;” “I want 10 more monthly retainer clients;” “I want to delegate 10 hours of work per week to an assistant.”

2. Make a plan that supports your goal. If your goal is to increase revenue by $30,000, identify five or six activities to support that objective. This might include raising prices, additional public speaking, attending more networking events, writing a newsletter, publishing on LinkedIn, etc.

Be deliberate about this. This is how you are going to spend your time.

3.Set up support systems. In order to know whether you’re carrying out your plan, it’s important to track what you’re doing. Part of my plan to increase revenue this year is to attend at least one networking event a month, meet with one new person every week, publish my newsletter every other week and speak at six events. There’s no way I could track my progress in my head, so I have an excel spreadsheet to track my success each week.

Am I flawless in my execution? No. Does it help to see what I’m actually doing so I can make mid-course corrections? Absolutely.

4.Don’t be afraid to say no. If you get a request that’s not aligned with your goal, it’s important to say no. If you have a bright idea that’s also not aligned with your goal (no matter how bright) it’s equally important to say no.

For example, one of my tactics for growing my revenue this year is public speaking, but with parameters; I have just one particular presentation that I offer. That’s the only one I’m willing to give this year. Spending a week coming up with a new presentation for each event is not an option.

Do your goal setting and planning in quiet. Also, do it separately from your day to day activities. Be clear in your language and remove any ambiguity. Stick with it, even when you’re feeling short on time or energy. Be sure to add time to keep updating your systems.

In the end, you’ll feel more focused, get more done and enjoy your business a lot more than you thought you could.

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Things I Can’t Live Without: My MacBook Pro

I have used PCs since the 80’s. I know, a long time. And my primary computer is still a PC. But … when it came time to get a new laptop last month, I took the plunge and bought myself … Continue reading

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Holes in My Sweater…And Your Business

During the week between Christmas and New Year’s I went to Lord and Taylor to check out the sales. I hit the jackpot with a great Nic and Zoe (one of my favorite brands) sweater on the sale rack with … Continue reading

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Things I Can’t Live Without: My Pink Apple Watch

I held out for a long time, but when Greg asked me what I wanted for Christmas I had a four-word answer: “Pink Apple watch, please.” He delivered (he always does) and it’s been watch love ever since. The first … Continue reading

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It’s January, Time to Get Things In Order

I have always loved the last week of the year; 2016 was no exception. By then, the excitement (and work) of Christmas is over and the business world moves just a little bit slower. I’m not one for New Year’s … Continue reading

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