If you’re a small business owner like me, good time management skills and tools are an absolute necessity. We often have so many “alligators snapping out our heels” that we don’t know where to start. Here’s my “extreme time management system.” Adopt it as your own and you’ll feel like you’ve gained several hours a day. It’s how I squeeze 26 hours out of every day.
The system calls for extreme organization and a lot of discipline. It’s NECESSARY for me. This is the system that allows me to:
a. Run an affiliate program
b. Manage 22 websites
c. Publish a weekly blog post
d. Publish 2 daily niche lists
e. Visit an average of 15 discussion forums a day (3 of which I help moderate)
f. Write 2 new articles per week
g. Process over 800 emails a day
h. Provide off-line consulting
i. Fit in a daily workout and still have time to
j. Spend with my family and friends.
The system has 2 parts – Organization and Discipline.
First is the discipline. The discipline is nothing more than following a few simple, self-imposed rules. These rules are:
1) Whenever opening any email (or snail mail) process it right then. That simply means replying to the email or adding it to your “to-do” list (in a specific place) if it will fit into your schedule better later. Make notes in your organizer of any correspondence that may need tracking. Add any new contact to your contact database if appropriate. If the email contains a gem for an article or post, make a note in your organizer or even make an online post. If the email contains any data you will need to refer to later such as website URLs or passwords, enter them into your cross-referenced database.
Every time that you read an email, you have to decide what needs to be done with the information. Making and acting on that decision once is an amazing time-saver! If you don’t do this, then you have to go through the exact same decision process the next time that you examine the email.
2) Whenever presented with any task, ask if it makes sense for you to do it or if you’re better off hiring someone else to do it. We have to recognize our skills and get others to do those things that would cost us too much time and energy. Some things are better done by professionals we can hire or even family members who get to pitch in. Learning to delegate and “farm out” chores is essential to getting any significant job done.
3) Identify what the most important tasks you need to get done FIRST and then work on them in the order of critical are. Balance is also necessary here because things like exercise and maintaining personal relationships must be priorities. I schedule these right into my day. I print out my to-do list and refer to it often to avoid getting sidetracked.
4) Learn to say no when appropriate. Realize that with this system you can do much more in the same time but, there is a limit to what you should obligate yourself to do. Don’t get into the habit of taking on more obligations than you can possibly accomplish. As you get known online you will soon discover yourself being asked to review numerous websites, ebooks, and pieces of software. Politely decline when you have all you can currently handle. This allows you to focus and get more tasks actually completed!
After mastering the discipline required, an organization is a MUST. I have one primary tool that keeps me extremely organized. It’s a piece of software called the Internet Information Manager. If you have ever spent half an hour sifting through emails looking for an URL or password you’ll find this tool an answer to your prayer. If you have ever searched frantically for an email so that you could intelligently respond to another email, you will appreciate this tool. If you have ever tried to remember the name of an individual, website, or blog associated with a particular project, you’ll absolutely love this tool.
What is this Internet Information Manager? It’s a piece of software you install on your computer that allows you to store all of the information you use frequently in one place. Everything from projects, to articles, to contacts, to website URLs are stored in a cross-referenced database. It is my big organization and productivity secret. I’ve used it for a while – as I tinkered with the beta version. It’s now such a part of my daily system that I wonder how I ever got along without it. If my computer is turned on, this tool is open. You need a similar tool. I use it to:
– Keep track of all ongoing projects – Manage my to-do lists – Store all of my contacts. These contacts are cross-referenced so that with the click of a button I can go to an associated affiliate program, website, ad campaign, search engine, or project – Start an email in my default email program with the click of a button – Launch my default browser and whisk me to my favorite discussion forum. This is how I jump from forum to forum at dizzying speeds. A cable internet connection helps too.
The key to the system is so productive and so easy to use is that it’s all cross-referenced. So as I surf the boards and come across an idea for an article, a project, or some research data, I can quickly plug it into the appropriate place in my database. This keeps the information always at my fingertips. When I am ready to write an article or complete a project, all of the data is in one place (waiting to be processed).
The other productivity tool that is a must is email filters. Most email clients allow you to easily filter your incoming email into folders you create. Use this feature to store emails on a specific topic, or specific groups of people all in the same folder. Use it to filter all incoming emails into one place, all orders into one place, all personal email into another place. I transfer data from most of my email to my Internet Information Manager, but I store the original email in my email program (Pegasus).
Similar to filters are email aliases. Create special email addresses for specific purposes. It difficult to get all of your contacts to use the correct address but this is a real time saver. For example, if you have an assistant that handles your mailing list, use an email alias to send all of those emails directly to them. There is no need for you to waste time reading emails you don’t need to read if you have properly trained your assistants. Train them, empower them and then trust them to get it done.
Speaking of training – it is another tool for increasing your productivity. Learn to really use the software you know you will frequently use as soon as practical. You’ll discover many tasks this software can help with that you would otherwise miss. Also, consider time spent training an assistant to properly do a task an investment. Avoid the temptation just to do everything yourself. It will save you much more time in the long-run and frees up your time to do the things you should be doing.
I’ve shared with you how I squeeze an inordinate amount of work into my day (when necessary). I’m also careful not to overload myself and damage my health. This is also something you need to watch. Success at the expense of your health and happiness is not success in my opinion.
Adopt this system today and you’ll soon be amazed at what you can accomplish in very little time. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised at the amount of free time you find.