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For Creatives

January 11, 2021

How To Efficiently Organize Your Time

Time management for many – if not most – is that seemingly elusive aspect of business that touches every function of your business. Managing and using your time efficiently and effectively is the key to productivity but implementing time management strategies can be a challenge

This is because there truly is no one size fits all approach for managing time

  • Our time bank varies considerably. 
  • Our responsibilities are ever changing. 
  • The demands of our business require different quantities of our time and attention. 

 

And the strategies are plentiful – batch scheduling, automation, delegation, timed approaches, etc, etc, etc. 

Perhaps you’ve tried a handful of these over the lifetime of your business. And maybe few have stuck or seemed effective. 

I get it. I’ve experienced this seemingly never ending cycle of trying to fit my business (a square peg) into what everyone else is doing (round hole). 

Not to mention having to figure out time management during a pandemic.

Looking at you:

  • working from home
  • with your spouse
  • your kids
  • and uncertainty!  

 

Until last fall, after the hardest year to run a small business in the event industry, I made the decision to do things differently and it clicked. 

  • My days felt more focused
  • I stopped feeling like I hadn’t accomplished anything for days on end
  • Finally found a way to balance business backend with client work

 

Not to mention my time with my kids felt more enjoyable because I was able to be present without that constant worry. 

And it started with a few simple changes that are incredibly quick to implement. Let’s get started… 

Getting Started

One of the most important places to start is with the identification of the tasks you need to do to get the job done. If you haven’t done this exercise before, I highly recommend setting a timer for 15 minutes to identify everything you need to do for your customers and then everything you need to do to run the backend of your business. 

You need this visual representation of your business operations to then do three critical things: 

  • Eliminate the clutter 
  • Organize the essential elements 
  • Identify where systems and automation could help and subsequently lead to future delegation

 

So grab your pen/paper or google doc (what I recommend) and start writing down everything you do to operate your business (yes even include those things you should be doing/would like to be doing if you had more time – we will get to them)

*spoiler alert – if you are short on time grab our free guide we’ve done some of this work for you! Because 2021 is about simplifying and the easier the better, right?

Identify the Essentials

Next you will take your list of operational tasks and start to tease out what is essential. This is where you need to get ruthless. In order to really start to clear the clutter, you need to be able to identify what will help you move your business forward while still maintaining great client experience.

This balance can be hard but with focus and a plan it is possible. 

First decide

  1. whether a task has a role in either serving your clients or
  2. helping to grow your business. 

If a task doesn’t align with one of these two categories – it may not be essential. At this point, I want you to table it until you have the rest of the tasks running like a well oiled machine. 

Now that you have a visual representation of your most essentials tasks, our next steps will be to create systems that support (1) your client work and (2) your business backend. 

*the guide here – highlights tasks that are often considered essential in case you work through your list and feel like every task has been highlighted. Totally get it – everything is essential but remember we are working to simplify so that you can do more!   

Test Out A System 

What exactly is a system? Very simply is a step by step approach that includes every detail (and associated element) you need to complete a specific task

It is what operationalizes a task. 

The best systems are those that help you complete a task quickly and efficiently. They simplify both the work and the time it takes to complete a task. And consolidate the elements required to complete the task. 

So how do you get started with creating your first system? Here are five steps to take to get started today

  1. Consider whether you will create an electronic or paper system
    • I recommend that you house your systems electronically because it allows for flexibility, accessibility, and efficiency
  2. Research project management systems that can house systems you create: 
    • I recommend evaluating a project management tool like – ASANA, Trello, Honeybook, Basecamp, Aisle Planner. These are setup with tools to help support the systems you will create.
  3. Start with the tasks you do when you work with one client. List those out in sequential order. 
  4. Now that you have them in order, identify the associated elements that are needed to support each task (think emails, templates, documents, questionnaires, etc). Gather those. 
  5. Build your system in a project management tool (sometimes called CRM) and make it a template so that you can use it over and over and over.

Already have systems established in your business?  You are one step ahead here.

Let’s use this time to make your system works for you

  • Are there areas that you can revise, simplify, remove steps that derail you from completing a task quickly and efficiently?
  • Are there areas that you could incorporate templates to help enhance the work you do?
  • Are there areas you could add to your system to improve your customer or team experience? 

For those with established systems, it is important to evaluate your system on a yearly basis to make sure it still serves you, your team, and your clients well

*this quarters free guide breaks down the system we use for creating content – including the essential templates you need to streamline the process and a few freebies as well. 

Make A Plan 

The plan is what helps bring it all together.

  • It helps keep you accountable and
  • empowers you with the roadmap towards consistency

And consistency is what will help move your business forward. It seems simple but often the hardest part is keeping up with it all. The plan has you covered here as well. 

So what are the basic features of a great plan

  1. Visibility 
  2. Realistic 
  3. Clear Deadlines with some breathing room 

Putting your plan where you can view it often – daily is best – helps to ensure you know what tasks are in focus for that day and when they need to be completed. 

Keeping your plan realistic is essential. This is where a quick honest evaluation of your time is important. Knowing things like:

  • how much time you have for work and
  • when you work best is really valuable to setting realistic expectations for your day. 

I have often found this exercise brings so much clarity.  More often than not, my expectations of what I want to get done in a day/week/month don’t align with the time I actually have in my time bank – leading to so much frustration and disappointment. 

But seeing what time I have and adding in those essential tasks – usually helps to identify extra time chunks to do other things! 

Finally the deadlines are the piece that help maintain accountability. Because a plan for plans sake is nothing without action and deadlines help put pressure on us 

The keep to making deadlines work is twofold – a little wiggle room + working ahead – leading us to the final piece of how to work efficiently. 

Working Ahead

This one is a big one. One that if adapted helps to create success with the systems and the plan you’ve put together. This strategy is one that is often overlooked. But the impact of working ahead is significant. 

Working ahead

  • Elevates stress
  • Decreases feelings of constantly chasing/reacting versus proactively attacking your day
  • Allows you to strategically plan for goals and support those goals with action

Working ahead is one of the best ways to find success when you implement the plan and systems above. Mostly because it takes eliminates the feelings of rushing or feeling like you are behind. 

It’s something I’ve been trying to implement in my own business for years. Until last fall when I said this is the only way I am going to see traction in the year ahead.  

So I gave myself a break from the contrast hamster wheel of trying to do all the things and just focused on creating content for the month ahead. Was it perfect?

Nope but it brought to light how to make adjustments to my plan and try again for next month. 

And that is progress. 

Give working ahead a try this month with these two simple steps:

  1. Create two marketing days in your calendar – days where you schedule your marketing content for the next two weeks. Be sure to space these out on your calendar
  2. Try to spend 3-4 days writing content for next month. Just four pieces of high quality content that are tightly aligned with providing solutions for your audience. Things that help them move the needle forward. {we’re planning some posts for how to use these high quality content pieces over and over again next month}

A Final Word of Encouragement

There you have it friends, four strategies (plus tons of bonus aligned content in this quarter’s free guide) you can use today to help you efficiently organize your time.

I want to encourage you with one final thought – don’t give up. You are in this for the long haul and the bricks you are laying today will help to set in motion some pretty incredible results. It will be tempting to give up – especially because we all want to see immediate results – but that isn’t what this is about. 

  • Community building takes time
  • Content development requires that little by little mentality 
  • Consistency is key

Don’t give up friend – keep going. Just keep going. 

Cheering you on today + always!

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