You may be asking yourself, “what is the difference lady?”
It took me sometime and a great book to realise that being efficient and busy in my business did not always mean I was being effective. Sure, I was working my butt off from 9 to 5 (and then some) and putting everything I had into it. Most days I got the ever growing to do list accomplished but still felt the looming weight of all the tasks still to come. I was never satisfied and rarely felt productive in my business. Why?
Then it clicked for me. In working for others for 15+ I had created a habit of being ‘busy’. Being busy for 38 hours a week in someone else’s business did help in making me super-efficient, but efficient in what exactly? Working on tasks that, while usually helpful and did streamline a lot of projects, they were just not necessary or even measurable in their effectiveness for a sound or profitable outcome. I was busy, efficient and great... at pushing paper.
I carried that habit over into my business. And 9 months into it, with all the blood, sweat and tears, I realised I wasn’t being effective. I had a mixed bag client base, was planning to make plans, social media comparing and email surfing for 80% of my day, without a clear vision or direction of each task and it’s intended outcome. So, I was super ‘busy’ again but not at all effective.
So how did I put a stop to it?
I became open, honest and really ego crushingly transparent with my own self.
I really broke down my work day. I asked myself what tasks I do, even the smallest task of checking emails or social media stalking. Who I do them for (client/my business). How I currently do that task and how long it takes. Are there tasks I can pass onto someone else with a stronger skill set in that area (yes, VAs have VAs). I asked myself which tasks I needed to do, but always seemed to avoid. I watched myself over a few weeks to gauge my really productive hours of the day. Most importantly, I asked myself why I do them and if they are even effective in my business.
Cut the slack (removed or automated tasks).
Once I broke down the tasks individually, I was able to remove 30% of my made up ‘busy’ tasks and automate 20% of the rest. The other 50% left was time spent on client work… which leads me to my next plan of attack.
Refocused my client base.
I had started like most start-ups by taking on anything and everything. I had the fear of “If I ended contracts with the clients that aren’t being professional with me, I will have no work?” (insert panic attack here). It took me only a day to recover from this fear to realise that the clients that caused me the most unpaid work or stress were taking up 80% of my client work time. Not only that, they were also only bringing in 20% of my revenue. Reverse it and 20% of my clients were bringing in 80% of my revenue and caused me little to no business stress. So, over the coming weeks I focused on finishing up the existing work of the 80% client and freed up my time to secure clients not dissimilar to the 20% client (the ideal client).
Turned off social media / emails.
I stopped looking at other people’s work and their magically presented online social lives so that I was just focusing on my work. I removed all notifications from my phone and computer and created three 30-minute slots in the day where I logged in to respond to email and if time permitted, supported my fellow entrepreneurs with a few likes and thumbs up. There is some great work out there. I did not upset any clients by emailing within 24 hours rather than within the hour and I did not miss anything pressing in the online world. I cannot emphasis how much time I have gotten back, how much more efficient and effective I have become in just this change alone.
Created an ideal diary (with action plan).
I created an 'ideal diary', that also covered off on my refined tasks list. For those not familiar, it is a week long diary filled out to how you would like to see you working week look. This wasn’t just covering off on work tasks, it also has allowed time for me to fill my bucket in other areas of my life.
I made my 38+ hour working week into a 20-hour work week and was also more profitable for it both financially and emotionally. I did the same work as before but better and with more focus. I really get to enjoy what I do again as I have freedom to choose both my lifestyle and client. In full transparency, I have taken other actionable steps on this topic and wish only to save you time in our busy lives, so I best leave them for another blog in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.