When every hour you spend impacts your bottom line, I have learned a few tricks to working smarter.
- Do not be a slave to email. When I am working on projects, email can be a continuous distraction. “I will just see what x client wants really quick” can easily turn into a mental distraction as I try and work out the issue. Worse, I will drop everything that I am working on to address the issue. In the past few months I have learned to focus on one task or a group of tasks at a time, then break, check email, and move onto the next task or group of tasks. I also pick an hour or two to just focus on answering email messages. This allows me to stay focused and get tasks completed and off my plate.
- Pick a work schedule and stick to it. Start work and end work at a reasonable and consistent time. If I know I will work from 8am-4pm, I can budget my work and play time accordingly. I may not want to always work at 8am, but I know I do not want to work at 7pm either. Setting a schedule allows me to differentiate work and play time – making both much more enjoyable.
- Realize not everything is an emergency. This was extremely difficult for me when I first started consulting. Just because a client emails at 11pm does not mean I need to email them back within 30 minutes. Set boundaries (and a schedule) so you can differentiate between a true emergency (server down) and a client’s request to change colors (not an emergency).
- Build in time for business development. I use Mondays to do all my accounting, company web site updates, marketing, etc that will help me advance my company’s position for future growth. Current clients are very important, but so is getting the next client. Do not fall behind!
There are a lot of ways to work smarter and I would appreciate any other suggestions.