How to Use Time Blocking to Boost Productivity

How to Use Time Blocking to Boost Productivity

Have you heard of time blocking? This is a simple method of structuring your time so that you use it more effectively and become more productive. Many of us wish there were more hours in the day to get things done, especially when there are so many things competing for our attention on a daily basis. For example, you might be working on one thing, when suddenly you become pulled in a different direction. In this manner, you are reacting to the challenges of the day, rather than being in control of them. So, how can time blocking help?

What is Time Blocking?

Put simply, time blocking is scheduling out blocks of time throughout the day to work on specific things. Marking these blocks in colour on a calendar is an excellent way to get a visual overview of how you need to spend your time, not only to complete tasks, but to avoid spending too much time on the things that don’t need it. For example, you could block 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon to read and respond to emails. That way, you can stop checking it throughout the day, saving you time and mental energy.

Each time block can be used to work on a single task, or a small group of similar tasks, helping to eliminate distractions and make you more productive. But there is also another benefit. Because you can time block in advance, you can create a plan that gets everything done, without having to constantly make choices about what to concentrate on. All you must do is follow your calendar!

Here’s an example of my own time blocking:

You may need to play around with the lengths of time blocks before you find what works for your situation. For me, once I know how many hours per day I need to dedicate to each client, it makes it easy to know how much time to block out to do the work.

I also think it is important to block out time for oneself, either as breaks or to do something you enjoy. By doing so, you can refresh and reset your mind before your next work time block.

Why Time Blocking works

Time blocking allows you to find your flow! We often need to stay focused on a task for some time before we unlock our creativity or get into that zone we need to be in to make real progress. The ‘deep focus’ gives us the opportunity to access that golden state of concentration, something that is hard to achieve when your attention is being directed to many other tasks.

Also, when something is scheduled, and you can see it in bold colour on your calendar, you are more likely to commit to it. There is a famous quote known as Parkinson’s law, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Open ended timelines are a breeding ground for procrastination, so time blocking can be a way to find the focus you need to see jobs through to completion, reduce stress, and achieve more.

Time blocking can help you stay focused and remove those distractions that compete for our attention throughout the day. It helps lessen feelings of overwhelm, and gain clarity over your priorities. Many people who use time blocking feel more relaxed and in control of their workload, making them more effective at what they do.

If you are feeling the strain of running your own business, I can help. I offer a range of OBM and VA services that can help free up your time, enabling you to take your business to the next level. For more information, drop me a line!

Airtable…What Is It and How Could It Benefit Your Business?

Airtable…What Is It and How Could It Benefit Your Business?

When running a business, there’s always a lot of organising to do. You are likely to be familiar with the good old spreadsheet, something that is standard when it comes to managing the many tasks, processes and projects that you do every day. Similarly, you may use database software to collect information, create files, records and reports. But what if there was an easier way to handle this information? Let’s meet Airtable!

What is Airtable?

Airtable is an online spreadsheet tool and database all rolled into one, allowing information to integrate between the two, as well as being shared from other apps, and makes it easy to store structured data. Its flexibility makes it ideal for many types of project and information collation, both in a business sense and for personal use. Here are some of the top features:

Flexible Views

Unlike Excel or Google Sheets, Airtable can display information in many ways. For example, you can use tables, columns, or even photos to display items in a way that suits your working style. Within the Airtable workspace area, you can access a calendar view, gallery view, and a Kanban view, where information is shown as cards in a stack that can be dragged and dropped to where you need them. Organising and storing information using Airtable’s colourful interface makes boring spreadsheets and databases a thing of the past!

Database Building

Most businesses use databases, for example, a contact list of suppliers, a customer database, or staff records. Airtable has all the features you need to create any kind of database, such as single bases, tables, input fields, records and different ways of viewing information. The information added to each base can be relational, making it easy to create, add to or bring up records at the touch of a button. There are also over 200 templates that you can customise if you prefer not to start from scratch. With Airtable, finding a specific piece of information is quick and efficient, as is accessing a ‘bird’s eye view’ over your databases.

Connection to other Apps

Airtable can seamlessly integrate with other apps and software such as Google Sheets, Zapier, Slack, Google Calendar, and Dropbox. This makes it easy to share information to and from Airtable, and collate it in a single place.

Automation

This is a key feature that helps you streamline your processes and save time. Using Airtable means you can set up triggers that create an action to be performed. Triggers could include the new addition of information to an area of your database, such as a new record or an amendment to an existing one. This reduces the time spent on those repetitive tasks and makes you, or your team, more productive.

Collaboration

Airtable has many collaboration features that enhance communication between team members. Different permissions can be set for people, such as editor, creator and commentor, and you can notify someone in a comment using the @ symbol with their name. This fast communication allows teamwork to move faster, as everyone has access to the same information.

Using Airtable has the advantage of saving time and increasing productivity for you and your team. Rather than installing technically complex database software and tweaking it for your business, which can often require coding skills, Airtable has simplicity, yet also the power and features you need.

If you think Airtable would be a good fit for your business, why not get in touch for a quick chat? I can help you see the benefits it would have for your specific business, and how it could make a difference. Feel free to schedule a call or send me an email!

How to Switch Off and Be More Productive

How to Switch Off and Be More Productive

There’s a fine art to productivity, and ‘how to be more productive’ is a very popular internet search. There are a staggering amount of tips, apps and tools that claim to make you more productive as a person, both in your work and your home life. With so much choice, learning to be more productive can actually become overwhelming in itself, leading to even more procrastination and uncertainty about how to tackle your tasks. Sometimes we need to learn to switch off in order to get stuff done!

Are too many productivity tools slowing you down?

To begin switching off, take a look at all the tools you use on a daily basis. There are some great productivity tools out there, and something on offer for almost every kind of task. For example, there’s ClickUp, Trello and Asana for project management. There are diary management and scheduling tools such as Calendly, and social media management tools such as Loomly and Hootsuite. What about basic Google Docs and good old-fashioned pen and paper? They are also common tools people use every day.

It doesn’t really matter what tools you use, as long as they work for you. Once you have found something useful, stick with it. It’s much better to use one or two tools effectively than waste time trying to manage several tools at once.

The benefit of being offline

After a storm in rural France where I live, I was without internet. You can read about it here. At first, it sent me into a kind of spin, as much of my work is based online. But, being without internet actually allowed me to focus and be more productive as a result.

The problem with the internet is that it is a huge distraction. You could be working away and you notice a new email ping into your inbox, so you stop what you’re doing to read it. Over the course of a day, many small distractions can lead to a big decrease in productivity.

When online, you probably have a lot of tabs open as you jump from one page to another. This encourages multitasking, which is yet another method of working that really slows you down.

If you do need to be online to do a particular task, turn everything else off. This means putting your phone on silent, closing down unnecessary tabs, including email. You will find that you get the job done more quickly, and often with much less stress and pressure as other things aren’t competing for your attention

Take regular breaks

If you are someone who struggles with productivity, taking regular breaks throughout the day can help reset your mind before continuing with a task. It might sound contradictive to take more breaks when you are busy, but when you are feeling stressed over a task, working without a break can lead to burnout and make you feel miserable! You will find you get more done in twenty minutes of positive action followed by a short break, than in an hour of slogging through a task with no break in sight.

The bottom line

Many people get caught up in the productivity trap, where they become so keen trying out new apps or reading about productivity online that it has the opposite effect. Sometimes you simply have to switch off the distractions and get stuff done!

The world will not stop if you don’t check your email for a few hours, or you turn off the notifications on your phone. By prioritising one task and zoning out the rest, you’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like some help with online business management, feel free to get in touch!

What Does an Online Business Manager (OBM) Do?

What Does an Online Business Manager (OBM) Do?

An online business manager (OBM) is there to provide support to people who need expert skills to help run their business.  Unlike a virtual assistant, an OBM has a leadership and managerial role to fulfil, such as handling teams and complex projects.  They also have freedom to make decisions that impact the business.  A good OBM will use their skills to increase revenue and profits, drive growth, as well as taking some of the weight off the business owner. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the tasks an OBM might do:

Project management

An OBM leads projects and uses their initiative to ensure goals are met within planned timelines.  After discussing priorities and outcomes with a business owner, an OBM develops strategies, plans and processes for their team to follow to achieve those desired goals.  In this role, an OBM will be liaising with their team as well as outside sources such as contractors, organisations, and individuals that are involved in the project.

Team management

Organising a successful team includes hiring, firing and working with people to get the best from them.  An OBM needs to have excellent communication skills, not just to be able to tell team members what to do, but also to listen and have empathy with them.  This allows an OBM to solve team problems quickly and fairly.  The success of a project relies upon a cohesive team that works well together and, when team members feel valued, they do a good job.

Marketing

This is an example of a business area that can be delegated to an OBM to run.  An OBM may coordinate the activities of copywriters, social media managers, and SEO experts.  They are also able to study the measurable data, such as website analytics and social engagement, in order to see what works well and how to improve.  Not all clients will require every aspect of an OBM’s skill set, but being able to hand over a whole operation such as marketing allows business owners to use their time on other things.

Operations management

Being tech savvy and experienced in a number of processes means that an OBM is in the best position to suggest helpful changes that make operations run more smoothly.  This could include improving bottlenecks, automating processes and devising and implementing new strategies and workflow systems that get things done more efficiently.

Actively seeks new opportunities for the business

An OBM can take a proactive approach in driving the overall success of a business by finding new opportunities.  This could be new ways to generate revenue, expanding customer reach, improving brand image and engaging with potential clients or customers.  This might also include networking to identify new partnership options and other opportunities that could be of benefit.

Hiring an OBM

For business owners, hiring an OBM can be the step that takes their business to the next level. It allows you to free up time if you are feeling overwhelmed with tasks, to explore new ventures, or perhaps you need a fresh set of eyes to help your business grow more quickly.  Whatever the reason, an OBM is an asset that many business owners can’t do without!

One of the joys about being an OBM is that every client is different.  That means no two OBM roles are the same.  It keeps things fresh, interesting and with a large scope to grow and develop professionally.

As an OBM, I really enjoy getting to know business owners, helping to solve their problems and improve the way their businesses run.  If you would like to have a chat about whether an OBM is right for you, or about what you could delegate, please get in touch!

Skills Every OBM Needs to Successfully Manage a Team

Skills Every OBM Needs to Successfully Manage a Team

An Online Business Manager (OBM) must have a varied skill base to be good at what they do. Team management is an essential skill to get right to ensure goals are achieved in a positive manner.

Managing a team successfully is much more than being able to coordinate everyone’s activities and deadlines. It is an array of interpersonal skills, as well as organisational skills, that enable an OBM to get the most from their team members and decide on the success of a project.

Here are some essential skills every OBM needs for an effective and happy team. Some of these skills overlap, showing how each often relies upon another – just like a team itself!

Understand your team as individuals

An OBM may be managing people who specialise in different skill sets, as well as being from different walks of life. Examples include virtual assistants, copywriters, social media managers, web developers and more. An OBM manages people who are task driven and need accountability to meet deadlines.

On top of that, it is important to remember that these people are individuals. That means they all have strengths and weaknesses. Getting to know your team is essential in order to get the best from them, and for them to be happy and productive members.

Communication Skills

Giving instruction, delegating, understanding problems and finding solutions all rely on effective communication. Finding the best ways to collaborate allows good communication between the OBM and their team, but also between team members themselves. There are a variety of platforms that make communication easier, such as Asana, ClickUp and Trello.

Effective communication is about clearly explaining roles and what is expected of people, but it also includes listening. This leads to emotional awareness, which is another key skill for any team leader.

Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness is a skill that helps you understand your individual team members and communicate with them. When you can put yourself in another person’s shoes, you are able to motivate and encourage your team, as well as understanding what may be holding them back from achieving their potential.

Having emotional awareness helps you smooth the way ahead for your team members, offer constructive criticism and advice to help tackle obstacles and get results.

Decision-making

So, you have a great team, and everyone is keen to bring their ideas to the table. That’s great! But an effective team leader needs to have the experience and confidence to make decisions to take projects forward.

Some decisions you make may be popular, others may not. Being able to communicate logically and using emotional awareness will ensure that no one is offended if their ideas are not used. Giving your team feedback and constructive criticism will help them understand why you make such decisions and emphasise the importance of achieving a goal rather than decisions being taken personally.

Putting it all together…

Your team are the people around you who perform the necessary tasks to achieve a goal or take a project forward. In that way, an OBM should also view the client as a team member and use their skills to fully understand their needs and communicate methods and progress often. Having these team management skills in the armoury is what helps someone to become an effective OBM.

As an OBM, I understand that people skills are a big part of being an effective leader and can determine the accomplishment of a project. When you have a good team behind you, your business is set for success!

If you would like to work with me, find out more about OBM services by getting in touch.

A Guide to ClickUp, and Why You Should Use It for Your Business!

A Guide to ClickUp, and Why You Should Use It for Your Business!

Do you use a project management system? If not, why? A good system can make a big difference in how you plan and organise your time, not to mention your stress levels!

Sometimes it can be daunting to begin with a new app or software, especially if you don’t understand the features, or maybe you don’t have time to sit and learn about it. But that’s where this guide comes in! Here’s everything you need to know about ClickUp, a project management system that can help you grow your business and manage your time more effectively.

What is ClickUp?

ClickUp is a project management solution that enables you to easily manage your business, team, and all your tasks in one place. Designed for individuals as well as teams, there are plenty of ways that ClickUp makes life easier. Here are a few of the reasons why I love using this project management system:

  • Communication – collaboration between team members has never been easier than with ClickUp. Get instant messages and notifications to do with tasks, much like a chat thread. You can see who’s online, invite people to projects, and each team member can see who else is watching or involved in the project or task. This means questions or problems can be sorted out quickly, and everyone knows what each other is working on.
  • Tasks and Subtasks – each larger task can be divided into a number of smaller subtasks, helping to break projects down into chunks. You can assign responsibility for any task or subtask to different team members. This step-by-step overview allows each person to see clearly what is expected at each point of the journey. When everyone knows what they are doing, it saves so much time!
  • Task Status and Dependencies – another useful feature of ClickUp is that you can add dependencies to tasks, so that it shows what needs to be done, in order, before the task is complete. You can also customise the task status, such as marking it for review, open, in progress, issues found or done. Colour coding means you can see how your projects are progressing, all at a glance.
  • Automation and Integration – there are lots of useful automation tools to use in ClickUp, where you can trigger an action once a condition is met. Inside a task, there’s an option to track time. You can also sync to calendar, integrate your email accounts, proof and edit PDFs and much more. New apps, or ClickApps are often developed, so there are always plenty of new ideas to try. If you feel overwhelmed by features, you can toggle off the ones you don’t need.
  • Free Forever Plan – what makes ClickUp stand out even more is that it is free to use. You have the option to add unlimited tasks and unlimited members for free, unlike other project management tools that want you to subscribe for a fee each year. With the free version of ClickUp, there are more than enough features for most businesses. But, if you did want some advanced features, such as unlimited storage and integrations, you can even make a deal to set your own price!

If you are still on the fence about using a project management system like ClickUp, I recommend checking out the ClickUp and AskYvi YouTube channels, as these show some really helpful tips on making the most of this tool. They can also help you get started more quickly, especially if you don’t have time to read through the learning guides shown on ClickUp.

A good project management system can be a game changer for your business, not to mention the benefits it brings to your own time management. For more advice on using ClickUp, or for any other questions about online business management, feel free to get in touch!