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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time Management

This is something I'm thinking so much about: Time Management. I'm working just as hard at my stay-at-home job than I did at my former "real job". I lived by my Outlook calendar at my former job, and I'm realizing that its just as necessary now, even though I'm working for myself.

This is a great post I found via MommyTheMarketer (http://www.facebook.com/mommythemarketer), and its so relevant to my life right now! Here's the partial article, you can find the entire post at http://etsymomentum.com/2010/06/16/time-management-101-for-creatives-amber-jordan/:

First off, congrats for being brave enough to open up this post. This signals that you do know the importance of time management and how it directly relates to your small business. I thought I would cover a couple of strategies and time savers that I do to keep my world in check. If you follow me regularly you know a little about my history and my previous “corporate life.” Not surprisingly, a lot of those skills cross over into the creative world and can help you out as well. So hang on..let’s go!

You could say I am a true cross between left/right brain. I’ve always landed straight down the middle on any test of this kind. I can dabble in technology and order or swing the other way into pure creative bliss. I’m a rare creative that can also manage a well tended desk. Yes, it can exist. However, being organized comes down to more than having a clean desk it starts with your approach, goals and tools.


1. Calendar. There are plenty of options when it comes to keeping a calendar, you can have an online one such as google, microsoft office or ical. You could also go old school with a day-planner or white board. Personally, I keep (1) very simple weekly/monthly planner on my desk and take it with me everywhere I go. Having too many calendars..in too many places tends to lead to disaster. If I am sitting at my daughter’s school in a meeting, my white board isn’t exactly handy. Given our track record on flushing phones, I’m not going to be signing up for a blackberry plan anytime soon. I am in panic mode at the moment because I realized last week that my planner ends in Sept. I think the publishing companies are plotting against us and forcing us to buy the next year’s calendar 4 months earlier. Anyway, besides this little blip I would be lost without this coffee stained and well scribbled on time saver. I plan everything. I even write in reminder notes to email follow-up questions to past clients and to check in on them. Today’s note: buy new calendar that still believes in Oct-Dec.

Now, just owning a calendar doesn’t quite classify you as being organized (yet). The key to the calendar is to really work it. You only have so many hours a day, week and month. How do you want to spend your time? How do you need to spend your time for your business to survive and grow? I start by writing out what I need to get done that week. I put notes next to each task for an estimate on how long each task will take. Example: New Blog Post Etsy Momentum-3 hours.

2.Schedules. Once my “list” is complete I open up the weekly section and see what day/times are open for each task. Sometimes, I have to break up tasks between days. My rule is to schedule no more than (2) business related tasks a day. Now, that may seem like a very small number but keep in mind that I know approximately how long each of those tasks will take me. If I planned accordingly, I will get them completed on time and on schedule. If I get them done sooner..then bonus! I have free time to start on the next day’s goals. For example, I know that on Wed. Evenings we have choir practice..I will have zero computer time after 5pm that day. So on Tuesdays I plan in “Extra” time to get caught up on emails or to schedule more articles to go out for the week. You have to know your work load and how to balance it. Your customers are relying on you for timely delivery and top-notch customer service. If you have “made to order” items..know exactly how long that process takes. Your shipping page lists 24-48 hours before your product ships. Is that truly accurate? Is that 24 hours of scrambling like a crazy person to create said product and running into the post office in a full sweat to catch the last shipment of the day?

One of the hardest things for a small business owner to establish is accurate lead-times. If you are already swamped, please, please, put your shop on vacation mode and get caught up on your work. If your lead-times are not coming through as originally promised, contact that customer right away and notify them of the delay. No one likes to wait in line. Customers rarely like to hear that they are the last in line for a 3 week wait. Don’t put that kind of stress on yourself, and don’t put your customer in that position. Turning away orders may sound crazy, but by referring clients to someone else..they might even respect you more. If they are willing to wait, then fantastic but be sure to email them often and update them on your progress. Never assume that they are ok with only one email telling them you got the order.

3. Reflect. Once you get into the habit of using your calendar and schedules daily..go back through at week’s end and reflect on what you planned. Did it work? Were your time estimates accurate? Did you remember to add in Commute time? Family Time? Me Time? Workout Time? Now, I can read your mind. Most of you super creatives are glaring at me through your computer screen. “You CAN’T schedule creativity.” Well, my answer for you..is YES you can. Maybe perfectly boxed out 2-4 hours spots is just not your thing. Fine, then only schedule all your “non-business” tasks. Dinner with the family-6pm-7:3o pot roast/green beans, Lunch date with Mom-11:30-12:45 La Madeline, Order Birthday Card for Aunt Sue 10am. Leave open space and write in FREE. So there you go, you have freedom to roam, freedom to scribble outside the lines and freedom to create. Point is, you know where that time is going. If you know you need 6 hours of studio space then plan it. Our brains can only process so much information. If you are relying on sticky notes and your memory to get through the week..I’m sorry, but at some point that glue starts to un-stick and you will be left with lots of colored little squares flying around your office. Details will get missed and you may find yourself burned out, overwhelmed and simply out of steam. That calendar doesn’t sound so bad now does it?

Again, the entire article can be found here: http://etsymomentum.com/2010/06/16/time-management-101-for-creatives-amber-jordan/.

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