Don’t work for the business. Make it work for you.

The holidays can be an especially hectic time as we wrap up the calendar year (and for most of us, the fiscal year) while trying to keep up with holiday activities and make plans for the new year. That’s why I wanted to share a few simple tips and tools that will help you take control of your time and make room for a few egg nog martinis with family and friends. 

1. To go big, don’t go solo

Doing a regular inventory of how you are spending your time is paramount to making sure you are putting yourself to your best and highest use. If you find yourself spending time on tasks that don’t have to be you doing them—think bookkeeping, sales calls, appointment setting—it’s time to start delegating.

Whether you hire someone you know, put out a job ad or find a virtual assistant, this person will be able to focus on the minutia in which you’re buried so you can focus on game-changers for the business, like meeting with new clients, fundraising or strategic partnerships. Delegating allows you to work on the business instead of spending all your time working in the business. If you are thinking “Sure, Julia, I’d love to hire someone to help but who is going to pay for that?” then start by hiring someone you know will lead to additional sales (like someone to help with sales outreach or going through your Linked In contacts to find prospects). That way you’ll see the pay off in sales relatively quickly, and build your delegation muscles at the same time.

You can use my Delegate Your Way to the Top spreadsheet as a PDF (or click here for Delegate Your Way to the Top as Excel) to take an inventory of how you are spending your time–and  start figuring out what you can hand off.

2. Start using scheduling software

Do you spend many hours each week making phone calls or playing email tag to arrange meetings? You can eliminate all of that with scheduling software and spend that time on more revenue generating activities like creating new products or networking where you will meet clients. Some cost-effective and easy-to-use options are Calendly, BookedIN, and Schedulista, the last of which actually lets clients see your availability and book appointments through your website, Facebook page or an email link. Problem solved. Now just follow your calendar and show up. Or use your new assistant to help you set up meetings and follow up with important contacts. Which leads us to the next one…

3. Start keeping better track of contacts

How much time do you spend searching for someone’s contact info before you’re actually able to call them? It may seem like just a minute or two, but have you ever considered how those minutes add up? You don’t have to be an IT expert to get all of your contacts organized. You can use something as simple as an Excel sheet or use software like SalesForce, Nimble or Constant Contact. The other advantage of using these Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems is that you can keep all your notes on clients/customers and set reminders to do follow up calls and outreach.

4. Stop rewriting the same emails and messages

Sales pitches, requests for meetings, setting appointments, thank you notes, news updates… we all have those emails we send out over and over. Instead of writing them anew or storing them in drafts, you can use one of Google’s more useful and overlooked tools called Canned Response, which saves the text of actual emails as a template you can quickly and easily find in the future.

Don’t use Gmail? No problem! Start saving these messages as Word documents with descriptive file names in a folder on your desktop. Then all you have to do is open it, copy/paste and send!

And for certain emails that you send on a regular basis, like newsletters, you can use an automation service like MailChimp or Aweber.

5. Win the battle against email

How many spam emails do you get a day? What about newsletters or special offers? While some of them may be of interest to you, they are often just distractions that clog up our inbox.

Make it easier on yourself by creating an email filter for any message that includes the word “unsubscribe” and a folder called “Optional”. Any time you receive these potentially interesting emails, they’ll automatically be sorted into your “Optional” folder.

You get to choose how often you go through them (I look at mine 2 times a week) while your most important emails that are actually about work appear, uncluttered, in your inbox.

6. Feed your mind and your body

No matter how insane your day is, staying healthy is key. Eating right is not always easy when you’re swamped with work, running in and out of meetings and/or traveling, but without healthy foods and lots of water, you’re going to find yourself running low on energy—and ideas.

Take the time to stock up on foods that will not only give you the nutrition you need to keep moving, but will also boost your brain power. Candy bars, caffeine and energy drinks only give you a temporary rush of energy, but you’ll crash hard once that’s gone. Check out what the health experts say are the best foods to eat to help keep you energized, including foods like berries, granola and nuts. Good news, coffee made the list too!

Your business can only grow as big as you do

If you don’t find ways to mitigate the stress and feeling of overwhelm, you’re going to burn out before you ever reach the $1M mark. The more time you’re able to free up, the more time you’ll be able to devote to the work that you love, that you’re good at and that’s going to grow your business and create the awesome life you deserve.

As Jessica Herrin and Founder of Stella and Dot, says, “I wasn’t building a company. I was building a life.”

Once you start implementing some of these efficiency tricks, share them with other entrepreneurs in our Female Founders Going Big Facebook Group, and find out what their favorites are. You may be able to shave off as much as 2 hours from your day with the right delegating and outsourcing, and put that time into growing new business or taking some well-deserved time off to recharge this holiday season.

Stay brave and stay merry,

Julia

2 thoughts on “How to Go from Overwhelmed to Super Productive

  1. Julia,
    these are very useful productivity tips. Great content. thank you,
    Scott

  2. Really useful! Especially #1, and #4 and #5 are such great, easy-to-apply ideas. Thank you Julia!

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