Feb 25, 2009

Managing Your Time Wisely

Does this picture resemble you?

Are you constantly juggling between your family life and your business life?

Do you even have a personal life?

What about work/life balance? Do you even know the meaning of that? Could you honestly say that you ritually follow a strict work/life balance?

I have often struggled with these very same thoughts, concepts, and problems myself.

But I want to share with you some of the techniques and principles that I now practice to help me gain more of a work/life balance.

Create A Calendar

The first thing you must do is to create a calendar. It a white board type that hangs on your wall, one in paper form that you keep on your desk, calendar book that you write into, a smart phone or PDA, or a calendar in Google calendar or Microsoft Outlook. Regardless of where you keep it, just keep one.

Start out by putting in the things that you would like to do with your family/life/personal aspects. These are the things that will bring you the most joy, and if your happy, it will help you get through your business part of your life. Write in things like Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Or better yet, write Breakfast with the Wife/Husband, Lunch with my Daughter, or Dinner with the Family.

Next, put in your trips to the gyms, theater, mall, window shopping. Add your runs to the supermarket, post office, seminars, webinars, chamber meetings, lead group meetings, etc. Now, set aside hours for heads down work (this means no picking up the phone, no client discussions, nothing to distract you from work/work/work). Disconnect the phone if you have to during these hours.

Finally, enter things like return calls, meeting hours, social networking, etc. By the time you're done, you will have a real sense of what it takes to complete your day. You will be surprise at the amount of overload you are currently carrying.

Prioritization and Surrogate Hours

At this point, you're probably wondering what to do about the overage of other tasks or items. This is where you need to employ what I call "prioritization". You need to prioritize which items you need to do on a daily basis and which items you can do on a less frequent basis. For example, you might decide that you need to call clients back on an every day basis, but you might only have to frequent a website like FaceBook or Linked in on an every other day basis. Or you might be able to set a side a few "surrogate" hours that can be replaced with these types of tasks. For example, I often look for new clients on oDesk, eLance, and Guru. However, I don't set aside three hours per day to do this. Instead, I'll visit oDesk on Monday, eLance on Tuesday, and Guru on Wednesday. During a one hour period set aside for doing this everyday. This is my client lead generation "surrogate" hour.

Source Out As Much As You Can

My next major tip for you is that you MUST learn to "source out as much as you can right now". Especially if you are still working a day-gig. It will be harder to do this once you drop the day-gig and go off on your own. The reason is that psychologically, once you're on your own (and not receiving a weekly or monthly paycheck from an employer), you'll feel that you can't afford to have someone else do for money what you could do yourself, and in turn, you'll end up taking longer to do each step because you'll be doing it for all of your customers. Sometimes we let our emotions and pride get in the way and it hurts us in the long run. For example, I felt that I had to build every website that came through my doors: 1. because I felt that I wanted to hold onto as much of the payment as possible for survival, and 2. because I felt that no one could do it the same way that I would...that was my pride speaking to me.

As soon as I let the emotional side let up a bit, I was able to bring in consultants, monitor the work, spent less time on actual development, and it opened me up to work with more customers, and bring in more work, which in turn leads to hiring more workers, allowing me to bring in more customers, less work, etc. etc. etc. It's an ongoing cycle that starts to grow as soon as you let go of the psychological stuff.

In your case, it might mean that you hire a ghost writer to do blog posts based on your ideas, or you sell products from a full-service center where they fully package and ship for you without you lifting a finger. Or you hire a website design company to build your website (hopefully us...sorry couldn't resist the urge to throw that in there).

Find A Niche Market

The next piece of advice that I offer you is to find a niche market and sell the crap out of it. Here's 2 examples:

1. NewEgg.com - offered nothing but electronics for a very long time. They built their clientele because they offered better products than your average Best Buy, better prices than Amazon.com, and free shipping on just about everything. Once they grew their clientele into the millions, they decided to start selling other products. Now they even sell sneakers and clothing. Soon, they'll be able to compete with the likes of Amazon, but it all started with a niche market.

2. One of my clients sells office supplies and are now trying to build an e-commerce website to compete with the likes of OfficeDepot online, OfficeMax online, and Staples online. They use a drop shipment company that handles the actual product package and delivery. I think the company is called BigBook. One of my client's competitors started out using Big Book too. They built the crappiest website and had only a 10% - 15% of the product line on their site. They catered to a niche market and offered that niche the products from BigBook through their website. They went from nothing to over $100K per month in no time. The guy recently sold the company for a few million dollars and is now starting another company to do the same thing again.


Does it mean that I no longer work until 2am or 3am on some days? No, there are times that heavy deadlines come along which require it, but now I do it if I choose to, not because I have to.

This is probably stuff you've already thought of, but in case you hadn't, I wanted to provide you with some thoughts to help you out. That's what we do for each other...right? Hope it does help.

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