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The world around us measures success by only one standard. If you are anything like me, my goals aren’t to rule the world or own my own yacht, they are to provide for my family and have a little extra to enjoy fun memories with them. Sometimes though the call of doing more so you can have more gets a little too strong and you find yourself burning all the candles and forgetting about the real goals you had.
We are all guilty of getting our priorities out of whack. Working from home for the past 9 years with a computer always within arms reach I’ve found a few things that help to keep things in check and actually help me get more done in a day.
Tip: As you get started, let your younger kids be your guide, helping you to see how well you are doing on balancing needs. When you start see them play pretend that they are answering emails or even telling you that you are too busy to do something, they are just mimicking what they always see and hear from you.
Create Weekly To-Do Lists
Map out each week what you hope to get done. Rather than daily lists, having a weekly list gives you more time to accomplish your goals and more flexibility on things that didn’t get done today.
While there are many things that you do great, it doesn’t mean that everything has to be done by you. Take your weekly to-do list and highlight everything that someone else could handle (even if you don’t have someone else). Once you see how much is highlighted either delegate those items or get creative as to how you could delegate them if someone were there to help. For small business owners that don’t have help, think about tasks around the house that your kids could do instead of you or getting a mother’s helper a few mornings a week. One other fun cheap tip… contact local business schools about getting an intern! Many are unpaid or super in-expensive and they can help with a number of work related tasks!
Set Work Limits
Self Employed people are living the dream, but it’s an exhausting one. If you take vacation leave, sick leave or just a weekend off you immediately feel guilty because you can’t make money when you aren’t working. Honestly though, you can’t work 80 hours a week and expect your family to be cool with that. You need to set your own hours just like employees would. When those hours are up, you are done. No checking email on your phone, or opening the computer.
This will do two things, first your family knows that when you are “off” you are truly theirs. Second, it makes you more productive during your work hours. You know your time is limited so it helps you stay off facebook, and other time wasters.
Need to step it up to the next level? Set wireless time-limits on your router to turn off from 5pm to 8 pm. Now you can’t do email, it won’t work…
Find Efficient Solutions to Common Issues
Take a moment and think about what takes up most of your work time. If it is a lot of the same thing, answering phones or emails, HR questions for employees, payroll etc. then you need to focus on finding ways to make those items easier and faster. That may mean spending a tiny bit more to find better solutions than you currently have.
Two examples for me… first is email. I love questions and helping folks but answering the number of email questions I get each day can be impossible. Turns out Gmail has a helpful tool called canned responses. It doesn’t mean I don’t read the email or even answer it personally, but for common questions I can have the answer pre-typed out and select it from a list. Then add a bit more to the email and hit send. I don’t have to spend time re-typing the same paragraph 10 times a day! While this doesn’t apply to every email at all, having just 10 commonly asked questions set as saved responses can cut out over an hour a day spent on email! Look at that over the course of a week and that’s 5 hours saved.
Second for me was payroll. I have a number of stay-at-home moms that help cover stores in their area each week. They make a little extra money and I have a little less on my plate. I was trying to do payroll by myself through the bank every other week and it was taking 2-3 hours to get everything set and then pay all the different taxes through the websites for each government office. While I was only paying $10 per payroll to do this, it was taking a lot of time! Now we pay a little more per payroll and use a company that tracks time, does all the calculations and even handles all the tax payments for me. I can process payroll in less than 5 minutes most weeks! In the end it also helped save time in other ways, as folks can pull their own paystubs and get questions answered through their own login without me having to stop and help them.
If you aren’t sure how much time are are spending on tasks try this:
Set an alarm on your phone every hour. When it goes off write down what you did that hour. You’ll only need to do this for a day or two to get an idea of where time is going.
Put a Clock on Your Desk
Get the biggest clock you can find and stick it right in front of your face. This will make it fairly impossible to forget what time it was and lose track of your day.
Set Time Limits for Tasks
If you have calls to make or even an article to write, then decide before you start how much time you will devote to it. For me I know if I am making a new Publix ad that it should take me about 3 hours. If I find that I’m taking much longer than that I need to figure out what is going wrong. It could be that Publix put out a really long ad, but odds are it’s probably that I got distracted or interrupted. Having a time limit for list gives me a goal to work towards and helps to keep my working efficiently.
Consider how much time you would be okay with someone billing you to do the same thing… if someone billed me 10 hours to make one grocery list I would choke, I know how fast it can be done and need to hold myself to the same standards I would hold employees too.
Add Your Family to Your To-Do List
It feels great to cross things off a to-do list, sometimes so great that we would rather go on being productive then stop and play outside with the kids. To avoid that temptation, add the kids to the list! Put on your list time to play legos or go for a walk. I don’t say this to make time with family trivial scheduled activities, it’s more to make you focused on getting to those items on the list the same way you are working on other things. Don’t leave family out!
Ask Your Spouse for Input
A little marriage advice for you… start each day by asking your spouse what they would like you to get done today. You may have items on your list that you think they would really like done, only to find out that they could careless about that.
Another personal example in our house was that I used to wake up every morning at 6 am to clean the kitchen and pick up the house before the day started (I was to exhausted to do it the night before). I thought this was helping my husband start the day better as he had first shift with kids. Finally sitting down to talk with him about what in my day mattered to him, we discussed that he could care less about the kitchen and would rather I wake up with him and start our day together with a messy kitchen. It may feel weird to put your schedule in front of them and asking for their input, but in the end for me it was a chance for my husband to say he wanted more time with me and was a very loving, sweet, conversation.
Have any other tips that help you keep your priorities right and time under control?