Entrepreneurs need to juggle. Thoughts, tasks and different roles merge into a never-ending list of to-dos, many of which are seldom done. This leads to overwhelming panic. Before you know it you are only focused on the small, quick and easy tasks, paying little or no attention to the important things that may help your business grow. Here are three ways to conquer inefficiency.
1. Work smart with lists. The perfectionist may over-use lists, wasting time writing and rewriting, categorising and colour coding them. The detail dodger, wanting to just get on with things, jots tasks down on scraps of paper, on the back of an envelope and even on the odd serviette after a business lunch. If you are a drop-and-hop organisational type you might simply stop what you’re working on to tackle a new task as it comes in, without bothering with lists at all.
Regardless of your organisation style, effective list-making forms the foundation of your efficiency. Choose one channel (paper or electronic) to consistently dump your thoughts. It’s not about what needs to be done today (that’s what your diary is for) but rather everything that you need to do now and in the future. The rule: one life, one list.
2. Prioritise your list based on revenue. Now that you have a running list of everything you need to do, take the last five minutes of every work day to review this list and prioritise it according to the tasks most likely to generate income. Imagine a triangle divided into three levels:
- The largest and bottom level is the flat base. This is the space for all your tasks that are not urgent or important right now (your number 3s).
- The middle segment includes the tasks on your list that may be important but not urgent (your number 2s).
- The top segment is reserved for your number 1s: These are the things on your list that allow you to generate income or perform your core job function so someone else can be bringing in revenue. This is where you need to be spending your time.
Number each task on your list with a 1, 2 or 3 based on importance and priority. Then begin with focusing only on your number 1s instead of being overwhelmed by the whole long list.
3. Schedule according to priority. Studies have shown that people are most productive in the morning, yet most of us dive into email first thing and then get stuck in reactive mode for most of the day.
Start your day by checking your priority list and choose one big task (or a few smaller ones) for the first hour of your day. Working on high-priority tasks when you are most alert will result in a higher quality outcome, as opposed to tackling the task when you are tired.
Common Efficiency Myths
- Multitasking is productive
If you have ever tried to speak on the phone while typing an email you will know that your brain just can’t process two such tasks simultaneously. Rather focus on one task at a time by dividing your work day into grouped time slots (such as 3 x 1 hour communication sessions a day to focus on email, telephone calls and drop-ins). By grouping similar tasks together, you have a greater awareness of time and get more done.
- Delegation wastes time
If it is a once-off task that won’t take you too long to complete, do it yourself. However, when it involves a task that needs to be executed regularly (daily, weekly, monthly), it is worth the time and energy to delegate the task.
- Implementing a system will slow you down
While it will initially take some time to set up the perfect system, once this system is in place, all you’ll need to do is maintain it. A system that suits your working style and complements your job function will free up time for you in the long run — particularly when you are busy.