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!

Is an ‘all-round’ Tool the Right Option for Your Business?

Is an ‘all-round’ Tool the Right Option for Your Business?

The Pros and Cons Explained

Every business relies upon systems and processes, and this requires tools. Yet, finding and implementing the right tools that work exactly how you need them to can be a time-consuming process. Not only that, but once you have those systems up and running, you may need to change things around if your business changes.

There are many tools out there that help keep those everyday tasks simple. Some are ‘all-round’ tools that perform several functions as part of a single platform. Or, you may prefer to use separate tools for different processes, and link them together. There is no right or wrong answer to this, it simply depends on the nature of your business and how you prefer to work. If you are having trouble deciding, here’s some pros and cons of both options explained.

Using All-Round Business Tools vs. Separate Tools

  • With an all-round tool, there is increased collaboration between team members. When your team are all working together using the same platform, it increases communication and collaborative working. This helps processes run more efficiently and problems can be spotted and solved more quickly.When using separate tools, data is scattered between them. This makes finding information and communicating it effectively a lengthier process. If you have more than one team, such as a marketing team and a CRM team, you may experience some disconnection that could have a negative impact on your business.
  • All-round tools may save time, as you are not continually switching between tools and apps to get a job done. Having to search for information between tools might not seem like it takes much time, but add this up over a week and you might be surprised at how much time is wasted. However, it is possible to link separate tools together to create effective workflows. This means that while it may be a bit more of a challenge to set up, you still get many of the benefits from linking separate tools as an all-in-one option.
  • Using separate tools, you can design systems to meet your precise requirements. It can be difficult to find an all-round tool that does everything you need, which is why many people prefer to use several different tools. That way, you can customise your systems and processes by using different tools to fulfil the demands you need, rather than trying to work around something that doesn’t quite fit when using an all-round tool.
  • Less tools saves your business money. Effective tools with the features you need are often a one off-cost to purchase, or subscription based. If you add up the costs of all the tools you are using, it may make more sense financially to opt for an all-round tool.

Examples of All-Round Tools

If you choose an all-round tool, there are many competitive options such as Dubsado, Plutio and HoneyBook. For the coaching industry, Coach Accountable is a good solution that helps deliver more programs with less work. Or you could check out this list of coaching tools and software that integrate many business areas, such as accounting, scheduling, communication and content management.

How do I link separate tools together?

If you choose to use separate tools for your business, linking them together to create effective workflows can be done using platforms such as Zapier and Integromat. This can be done so some actions trigger automatic responses that work between the tools and platforms.

The bottom line…

There is no right or wrong answer to whether you need an all-round solution or separate tools to manage your business. The best way to decide is the weigh up the pros and cons, and work out what would work best for the way you currently operate and the future of your business.

If you are looking for help or advice on what tools to use, or how to implement an all-round solution, feel free to drop me a line!

The Best Time Management Systems for Entrepreneurs

The Best Time Management Systems for Entrepreneurs

Managing time effectively is about more than upping your productivity. It helps you think creatively, enjoy your work, and get a work/life balance that benefits you and your business. Time management is key to feeling good about what you do, but to do that, you need systems. Here are some examples of systems that can help you organise your time so that you become more organised and efficient.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of time management systems, it’s a good idea to think about who you are. Your personality plays a key role in how you tackle tasks, your style of operating, and how you interact with others. When coming up with systems to help you manage time, something that works with your personality is going to be better than something that doesn’t fit well.

Tried and Tested Time Management Systems

Pomodoro Technique

This is a great idea for all those procrastinators out there (you know who you are!). The Pomodoro Technique is where you use a timer set for a specific amount of time. During that time you commit to working on a task without distractions. When the timer stops, you stop. Traditionally the timer is set for 25 minutes, followed by a short break, but you can set it higher or lower to suit your individual preference.

What is good about this is that you can fool your brain into working on those less appealing tasks. After all, we can all stand 15 minutes of concentrated effort, even if we don’t feel like it. But, what happens during that time is that we often find our flow. It becomes easier to finish the task. And if you don’t, then at least you have made progress, which is better than still being stuck procrastinating! All you need for this is a timer and willingness to commit.

Time Blocking

Forget to-do lists, time blocking is a far more effective method of organising your time and tasks. Time blocking gives you a visual representation of how your day, week or month is planned out. There are apps out there you can use, good old Google Calendar or even a spreadsheet works as a daily planner.

Using colours for time blocks helps you differentiate between activities. For example, you could use different colours for different clients, or one colour for admin type tasks and another for scheduled meetings. You don’t have to stop with work either, you could schedule time blocks to include time spent with family, exercise and relaxation.

Time blocking helps you get a balance between work and life, because you can see exactly where your time is being spent. If your planner shows too much of one colour, then maybe it’s time to delegate or make some changes.

The 1-3-5 System

Rather than a traditional to-do list (that often simply makes us feel overwhelmed), the 1-3-5 system is where you write down a series of tasks you want to complete that day.

  • 1 high priority task/ large task
  • 3 medium tasks
  • 5 small tasks

This makes your priorities easier to manage, and helps you to make progress without feeling overwhelmed. It is amazing what you can achieve, and how much better your time is spent when you have a system, as you stop wasting energy trying to do it all at once.

Time-Tracking

Most of us will be familiar with time tracking apps. Many entrepreneurs and freelancers use them to track billable hours. But, it is also very useful as a tool to show you what you spend most time doing. Time tracking apps that I use are Rescue Time, and Timing App. These can be set to run in the background so you can review how you spend your time when it suits you.

Having this insight means you can devise a new schedule where you spend appropriate amounts of time on tasks, and organise your time more effectively. It helps you to see where to streamline your processes, such as through using automation. Or what tasks you could outsource to a VA or OBM.

My Business Task Audit is another way to gain that insight into time spent on tasks. Its free, and could give you that organisational push you need to take control of your time, rather than it controlling you.

When we have poor time management, we have more stress and are less productive. Having some simple systems in place can transform how you work, increase your energy levels and make you feel more positive. It is amazing how a simple shift in how we spend our time can transform how effective we are at work, as well as how we feel.

If you are looking for some help in developing systems and processes that can make more of your time, feel free to get in touch!

The Art of Delegation – an Essential Tool for Efficiency

The Art of Delegation – an Essential Tool for Efficiency

In your business, have you ever stopped to really consider how many tasks you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? It may surprise you. It’s no wonder that so many of us feel overwhelmed at times. What if there was a way to cut down on tasks, without compromising on the quality and quantity of your output? Well, there is! It’s called the art of delegation!

What can I delegate?

Delegating is where you offload some of your tasks to others, freeing up your valuable time. When you are busy with the day-to-day operations, it can be hard to know exactly what can be delegated and to whom. First, you need a breakdown of all the jobs you do within your business, and that’s where the Business Task Audit can help. It helps you identify everything that you do, so you can get a clear idea of what can be outsourced to someone else.

Benefits of delegation

The most obvious benefit of delegating tasks is that it helps you to manage your time. This enables you to improve your focus on other jobs, or creative thinking, strategizing, or even just have some time to yourself!

If you are not ready to hire someone, or outsource tasks, you can make use of automation tools to help you work smarter. Rather than delegate to a person, hand over your email marketing, social media, call scheduling and more to software and apps instead!

Better time management has the added effect of making you more productive and drives forward the growth of your business. So, delegate those time-consuming tasks!

Should I outsource to a VA or an OBM?

A VA (virtual assistant) can be a fantastic asset to your business. They are usually well-versed in many of those repetitive admin tasks, understand how to use lots of different software and business tools, and can help take some of those everyday jobs off your list.

But, what if you want to outsource more complex projects? That is where an OBM (online business manager) can help. An OBM can handle entire projects, use their analytical skills to improve workflows, and can assist you in strategic planning for the growth of your business. They can look closely at your business systems and create alternative ways of working that are more effective. An OBM has those higher-level management skills. They get to know your business and bring fresh ideas that could help take it to the next level. Read more about the differences between a VA and OBM.

Take the leap!

So often as business owners, we feel as if we must be in control of all aspects of our business. This means that we under-delegate, or think that in order for things to be done right, we must do it ourselves. After all, it would take time and effort to train someone new. Or, perhaps it is a fear of failure that makes it so hard to let go of our ways of doing things.

It is important to remember that delegation will benefit your business. When you are juggling too many tasks, YOU are the one who is more likely to make mistakes. Whether you hire an OBM, a VA, or pass some extra tasks on to your existing team members, delegation will help your business run smoothly and lower your stress levels!

If you’re ready to take charge of overwhelm and make better use of your time, begin by downloading my Business Task Audit. It’s a simple process, and a valuable experience. When you see how much time you could save and how much more you could achieve by delegating, you’ll be excited to start!

Effective Workflows – the Top Secret to Efficiency in Your Business!

Effective Workflows – the Top Secret to Efficiency in Your Business!

Do your workflows enhance your business? Or do they hold you back? Do you even have effective workflows in place, or are you scrambling to get tasks done and solve the problems that arise each month? It’s a common issue among many businesses, in that you and your team are so caught up in managing the day-to-day, there never seems to be the time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Yet, getting the right workflows in place is essential for saving time and improving efficiency.

What is a workflow?

A workflow is a set of actions and results that must be performed in order to get a job done. To map out a workflow, you can use digital tools and software, stick notes to a wall, or even use good old-fashioned pen and paper to recreate the processes and show them as a flow chart. This gives you a visual, step-by-step guide to how things are currently working and who is responsible for each part of the process. Having a bird’s eye view makes the big problems obvious, or could highlight the smaller sticking-points you were not aware of, putting you in the position to make effective changes.

Mapping Workflows

Taking the time to map out your current workflows is key to getting a full understanding of how your business runs. To get the most from mapping workflows, begin with the areas of your business that cause you the most hold-ups. This helps you to get the urgent changes in progress and bring the most benefits to your business.

If you have a team of staff, a workflow map means everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, and in what order. When looking at workflows, it is important to get input and feedback from team members who are carrying out the processes, as they know first-hand what works well and what the hurdles are.

Mapping workflows allows you to create simple processes to save time, such as automating actions that are repeated frequently. For example, in setting up email auto responders or creating templates to use for common documents, you and your team are already saving time and energy. When you begin to look at your workflows in more detail, you will see even more ways to improve efficiency. No matter how busy your day-to-day operations are, it is worth taking the time to map workflows because the benefits are exponential.

Benefits of Effective Workflows

Effective workflows can help simplify tasks, cut out unnecessary steps that are a waste of time and productivity, and create a streamlined approach that runs almost on auto-pilot. This not only benefits your own team, but efficient workflows create a good experience for your customers and clients.

Effective workflows set standards for your business that are always upheld and can be relied upon by yourself, your team and your clients. It eliminates unnecessary work, reduces errors, saves time and boosts productivity. Not only that, but when jobs are broken down into smaller tasks, it lessens that sense of overwhelm that contributes to work-stress.

It’s amazing how many positive effects come from efficient workflows, not only for a business but also for the team behind it. When everyone is working ‘from the same page’ it increases communication, team spirit and even brand image. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, from business owners and staff to customers or clients.

Ready to start?

When you are caught up in the daily grind of running of your business, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to stop what you are doing to map workflows, or review existing ones. As an online business manager (OBM) I can help you improve the way you work, creating a more efficient and productive environment from which you can drive the growth of your business. If that sounds good, get in touch to see how we could work together!

10 Best Tools Every Small Business Should Use

10 Best Tools Every Small Business Should Use

Tools help us to organise and manage work effectively and efficiently, and as many small businesses and entrepreneurs use them, there are an increasing amount available. From CRM systems and project management, to email marketing and workflow automation, there are hundreds of tools to choose from. So, how do we know which is best for the job? Here’s a quick guide to ten of the best tools every small business should use.

Project Management

  1. Asana – a tool that allows multiple teams to work on multiple projects. Tasks can be viewed as lists or scheduled into a calendar, and messages or updates to do with tasks are clear to see. Asana can email your team each day to remind them of their daily goals. Its intuitive interface makes it one of the most popular management tools in use.
  2. ClickUp – an effective tool for teams to collaborate on multiple projects. There are some cool features that make it different from Asana, such as being able to turn comments in to tasks to assign to others, plus its Forever Free plan means you can use it for unlimited projects and unlimited users.

Email Marketing

  1. MailChimp – with MailChimp, you can manage your email subscribers, set up auto-responders, send lead magnets, and split-test campaigns to see what works well. You can also create templates to save you time writing emails, plus it provides excellent real-time tracking of how people respond to your emails, such as who opens them, what links are clicked, who unsubscribes and what email addresses bounce. This popular email marketing platform has a free plan to get started with.
  2. InfusionSoft – this tool is great if you want everything that MailChimp does, but combined with some awesome customer relationship management (CRM) features. Use InfusionSoft to help convert leads into sales, segment your subscribers to send specific emails to different groups, and use the built-in ecommerce platform to sell to them directly.

Social Media

  1. Hootsuite – a useful tool that manages all your social media platforms in one place. You can pre-write and schedule your tweets and posts in advance, respond to new comments, see your feeds and new followers all within Hootsuite. This saves you hours of time going between social media platforms and makes it easy to engage with followers.

Files and Documents

  1. Google Drive – Google Drive makes it easy and convenient to share and store files. This cloud-storage platform means that anyone can view a file provided they have internet access and an invite. For business owners, you can allow team access so people can work in collaboration on documents and spreadsheets, and they are synced in real-time. That means that anytime someone views a file, it is always up-to-date. In addition to file sharing, it is also easy to connect with your team through chats and video using Google Meet.

Scheduling

  1. Calendly – an absolute time-saver when it comes to arranging meetings and calls, Calendly allows you to communicate your availability through a link, and customers or clients can book a call when it is convenient for them. This simple scheduling program syncs with your calendar, so you always know who is booked in and when. It also integrates with Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The free version is ideal for one user, and the price is low for other plans with more features.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

  1. HubSpot –a marketing and sales platform that is full of features to help attract customers, sell to them, and turn them into repeat buyers. It has the tools ready to create a fantastic customer experience as they journey through the sales process and learn more about your brand. It includes features such as email marketing, advert software, website tools and a service hub where you can collaborate with your team. HubSpot is an all-in-one solution to scaling up a business.
  2. Zoho – this CRM platform is similar to HubSpot, however it is more streamlined in terms of features. For example, it does not have the team collaboration ability that HubSpot does, but not all business owners want an all-in-one solution. Although the CRM part of HubSpot is free, Zoho offers cheaper pricing plans overall.

Workflows

  1. Zapier – this platform allows for easy sharing of information between apps, helping to automate workflows. Connect two or more apps to create a ‘zap’, which then triggers more actions that you set, automating those repetitive tasks and saving you time. With over 3000 apps to choose from, there is not much that Zapier can’t connect!

Using the right tools for business is a must, as working efficiently saves you time and money. When you are not chasing to keep up, you can put your energy into developing and scaling your business further. If you are looking for advice on setting up systems to help you work smarter, or would like help to implement the right tools for your business, feel free to get in touch!