A women business owner like you can use all the help she can get.
Whether it’s a great marketing idea, getting funding for a women-owned business, or – today’s lesson – simply discovering ways to be more productive with your time.
Lack of focus leads to low productivity. Low productivity negatively affects your bottom line. (And drives you nuts.)
Productivity guru, David Allen suggests some very basic ideas for getting the most out of your time in his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity.
Allen suggests that you need to get ALL of your stuff into one place – your “In Box”. All of your stuff includes all of those things that are incomplete, anything that needs a decision about a potential action, and all the things that are out of place.
For now, let’s focus on the things in your head and heart. They are just as important as physical stuff — most likely more important.
To get started — get a large stack of paper and clear one hour. Begin a mental inventory of all the “to do” items in your head. This is the beginning of your brain dump.
Don’t be scared. Jump in. Go for sheer volume.
It’s okay if you want to start thinking about huge items like “end world hunger.” It’s equally acceptable to consider, “make kids’ eye appointments.”
You’re going to write only one item at a time on each piece of paper as you think of it. This is important for how you will be processing these tasks later.
You want to think through projects, commitments, meetings to be scheduled, banking, upcoming events, computers, equipment, etc. Thinking about your children, spouse, family, friends, your professional life, colleagues and community activities may seem daunting.
Trust me. This really works.
It’s helpful to use a tool called a Trigger List to help jog your memory. You can view a good one put together by OrganizeIt at http://www.organizeit.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/trigger-list.pdf .
After an hour or so of putting one item on each piece of paper you probably have a pretty full “In Box.” Now do one more thing and add any voicemails, emails, or tasks from your organizer for which you have not determined a next action. (You can print these one per page.)
Everything is now on paper. You’ll have a big stack. And you may feel worse at this point. But here’s the good part.
Now it’s time to start getting free from the stack . This doesn’t mean doing everything. It means that you will methodically decide what each item is — and what you are GOING to do with it. Here’s your decision chart for every item from David Allen’s site www.davidco.com
There are a few must-follow rules as you work through your decision process:
- Start with first item in the stack and work down. (No cheating and no scanning for emergencies!)
- Deal with ONE item at a time (This is harder than you think, but you can do it.)
- If you touch an item, deal with it. (No returning an item to the stack.)
Okay, this is it…
Get your first item off the stack. What is it? Is it actionable? If it’s not, trash it – put it in a tickler file – or create a reference file. Keep reviewing the flow chart until it’s in your head.
If your item is actionable, determine if it’s a project or individual action. Follow the process. It’s easy. And it’s necessary to any woman business owner who wants to organize her life.
If you have an individual action, do it – delegate it – or defer it as outlined in the diagram. Major Bonus: Immediately deal with any action that will take you two minutes or less.
Be patient. The best way to learn this process is by doing it. You will get better at making these decisions with each sheet of paper you deal with.
You should begin to feel better and better — sheet by sheet — as you work through the process. Be prepared, this process can take a few day. But it is well worth it.
When you have finished “processing” you will have:
- Round filed anything you don’t need
- Completed a ton of short two-minute tasks
- Delegated a ton of important stuff
- Sorted any actions that will take more than two minutes into your own personal organizing system and/or placed on your calendar.
- Clearly identified your major projects
Once you’ve been through the process, you’ll feel your mind freed to move on to more productive things. It’s a strategy every women entrepreneur should focus on. Getting more out of your time leads to more creativity, more peace of mind – and more to the bottom line.