A lot is written about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, with many different viewpoints on what sort of skills are most likely to help you navigate your way to victory in the hugely challenging world of business.
Well today we wanted to talk about one skill that is of particular importance to the mumpreneur who is always, it seems, two steps behind on tasks due to an overwhelming schedule. That’s right, here we are referring to time management.
But is there anything to master here? I mean heck, if we have too much to do at any given time – and many will tell you that this is always the case – are we not simply at the mercy of that “to do” list as we jump from task to task until the night falls and we clock off for whatever amount of sleep we can get?
That’s one way to look at it. But another is to examine our habits and ways of doing things to see if there are ways we can cut down on the amount of time we spend on tasks in general. Or to find better and more efficient ways to do things that will allow us to get a few more hours out of our week if needed – whether to do more work, or (better) to gift ourselves a bit of downtime.
The point is this: In the case of the mumpreneur, where a jam-packed work schedule wrestles for space with a busy family life, “owning” your hours wherever possible should be a “to do” list task in itself.
How to succeed here? Lots of tips and tricks. Let’s now review six of Virtuzone’s favourites.
1. Stop answering all emails
I know the first entry on our list is likely to strike fear into the hearts of many: “Leave an email unanswered! Really?” Yes, really! I’m not saying ignore your inbox all day – there will always be emails that need a response – but if you are the type of person who feels most emails need your attention or need some sort of answer, stop it. Get in the habit of deleting (read “ignoring”) all but the most essential ones.
And there’s another aspect to all this: According to research, each time we answer the call of our inbox, it takes time to refocus on the previous task at hand. Research from the University of California-Irvine found that it can actually take as long as 20 minutes before we are fully focused again following email interruptions.
Research from the University of California-Irvine found that it can actually take as long as 20 minutes before we are fully focused again following email interruptions.
So two takeaways: 1) Ignore and delete all the non-essential emails; and 2) Stop incessantly checking that inbox.
2. Always cook for two days at once
K, so this may not be strictly work-related, but you are a mumpreneur, so any personal life-hacks can only be good for business! When it is your turn to cook for the family, double up and portion out across two days. Do this across the whole week and you have almost halved your prep and cooking time in one fell swoop.
This is a hugely popular time-saving method publicised by many a food blogger, as well as by publications such as Health.com and EatingWell.com. And the best part is it doesn’t even have to be an identical meal. For example, Sunday’s roast chicken can very easily become Monday’s chicken sandwich or chicken soup!
3. Stay organised
I have heard it said that you are either born an organised person or you are not. While that may be true to some degree, there is plenty that those who fall into the “disorganised camp” – me included – can do to stay on top of the daily demands on our time.
Really it all comes down to structure and process.
A couple of random examples: If you file your emails in clearly marked folders, you will make a small time saving every time you need to find something in your inbox. And by having a clearly defined process or series of templates in place to deal with, say, customer complaints, time savings will be considerable when you compare to a process of dealing with each issue in an ad-hoc fashion.
If you file your emails in clearly marked folders, you will make a small time saving every time you need to find something in your inbox.
So do an audit of your structures and processes and see where there is room for improvement. Because once a few essentials are in place, those minutes of savings due to greater efficiency per task will quickly add up to hours and more.
4. Take time each morning to plan your day
As any mumpreneur will know, no two days are ever the same. You may think you have a good idea of where a day might be heading, only for distractions to creep in and completely throw you off what it is you had in mind that was to be achieved.
A great way to avoid (or at least minimise) this is to sit down at the beginning of every day and compile a list of everything you want to achieve – factoring in hypothetical distractions so that you build a schedule according to realistic time allotments.
And the word “realistic” is absolutely key here. Not only will careful and accurate planning help you stay on task throughout the day, but it also helps you prevent procrastination – as you have a running guide as to where you should roughly be at any given time in the day.
This is not for everyone, of course. Many prefer to not be held down too tightly to schedules. But then you can always find a happy medium here – your own balance. Just keep in mind that according to research cited in The Business of Good People, by Dr. Ragha Korrapati and Dr. Balaji Kannan, “for every one minute spent planning and pre-planning, you save up to ten minutes in execution.”
Food for thought.
5. Know when you are most productive
One of the best ways to find extra time in your day is to establish when you are most focused and to then schedule your work accordingly. For example, are you a morning person, or are you a night owl that fires on all cylinders post-10pm? Do you find you are most distracted just before lunch, or have less energy and therefore poorer concentration in the early afternoon?
Start by analysing your behaviour throughout the day, noting when you usually start to get restless or procrastinate versus when you have the most energy for work and are best able to focus for longer periods. Then simply start moving towards using your time in better ways – according to that rhythm of yours. During those focused, high energy periods, carry out the most important tasks; and during the restless or distracted phases, carry out the less important tasks – or simply take those much-deserved breaks!
Analyse your behaviour throughout the day, noting when you usually start to get restless or procrastinate versus when you have the most energy for work and are best able to focus for longer periods.
6. Stamp out time wasters
So many of us are unaware of just how much time those common timewasters – web browsing, fiddling with smartphones, texting too much with friends – can steal from our day. Remember that stat about how long it takes us to refocus after being distracted by an email? Now consider that, according to Deloitte, the average person checks their cell phone 46 times a day – and now you see the true potential of just how much time is lost daily on what amounts to unnecessary activities.
The best way to wrestle time back from this particular brand of procrastination is to simply stop doing many of those things. The second best way (for those who cannot stop), is to set aside clearly defined times for it all. For example, if you know you start to lose focus after two hours on a task, then schedule in a 15-minute slot to catch up on the news or text friends every 120 minutes or so. You can even work off a timer. And while it may seem regimented, give it a try for a week and I guarantee you’ll see a noticeable difference in your productivity.