To focus, you simply cannot be distracted by the dozens of little tasks that consume an entrepreneur’s typical day.
Invoicing. Research. Follow-up. Admin. Thank-you notes. Phone calls. Scheduling appointments. Email. More email. Vendor management. Subcontractor management. The list goes on and on.
Here is the problem as I see it: to run a business, you have to perform a series of daily, mundane tasks. Difficult to get around them. But they do distract you from the important work. Some people use these tasks as excuses for why they procrastinate. The biggest problem isn’t that these pesky tasks exist – it is that we allow them to distract us. We let these tasks get in our own way. They clutter our mind.
But just how in the heck do you free your mind – and free up time – from these tasks, enabling you to focus on the important work of marketing your business?
1. You can hire staff to handle them. If you can afford that.
2. You can outsource them to a virtual assistant. When I tried this, I spent as much time managing the VA as I did performing the tasks myself.
3. You can read from thousands of articles full of tips on how to do better time management, efficiency improvements, etc.
4. You can download/purchase from hundreds of applications and software that promise to help you better manage your administrative chores.
All good solutions. If they actually work for you.
But at the end of the day, most of these are just band-aids, or a different coat of paint on the same problem. And you still have to focus time and energy on them, even if you are using the most innovative and hip software solution!
Honestly, the first step is to acknowledge the problem, recognize that it is happening. This is a big step. Then, I really think it comes down to an attitude change, a commitment to re-channel your focus, a devotion to a new way of doing things when it comes to these tasks. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
1. Don’t fall behind. Get a system and process in place, and keep up with it. Falling behind and then having to spend hours to catch up is not a good way to do it. So, devote a few minutes EACH DAY to keep on top of things. Don’t let them pile up.
1.5. Or, devote two hours a week, at a fixed point in time, and do ALL of your admin work in one fell swoop. This way, you are free to spend most of the week focused only on creative work that matters.
2. Determine your creative time, and NEVER do admin work in that creative space. When are you most creative? In the morning hours before lunch? Evenings? Just know this, and never let ADMIN work intrude on that time and space.
3. List all of the things you feel you need to do on a daily basis. Review them carefully. What tasks can be eliminated? Refined? Outsourced? And ask yourself seriously, how much of this is stuff I do to procrastinate and avoid the hard creative work, or to avoid that difficult customer?
4. Move to the cloud. To be honest, what has helped me the most is moving the management and storage of all of my administrative data to internet-based sources. This way, I can do the tasks from anywhere, whenever I want to. This frees up large chunks of my time to focus on my real work.
5. Gary Vaynerchuk says that to be successful, stop wasting valuable time building your dream business by watching Lost. He says it in virtually every speech I have seen. And he’s right. However, we all love to break away for a little mind blow and watch TV or listen to some music. I find this to be a very good time to bang out the mindless administrative work I have to do (when you see me tweeting about music, I am usually sending invoices and doing other admin tasks).
6. Don’t put admin tasks on your daily To Dos. Your real work is being creative. So don’t let that focus drift by stacking your To Dos with meaningless admin work. Decide that admin tasks are NOT work, your real work anyway.
7. A lot of experts recommend closing your current day by investing a few minutes planning out the coming day. I think this is great advice. What I recommend is coupling your admin work with this daily planning process. Set aside a few minutes – at the end of the day – or right after lunch when the food is digesting – and quickly bang out these tasks. You need to carve out large chunks of uninterrupted time to focus on the real work that matters.
8. There is a growing acceptance of the notion of checking your email just a few times a day, so as to not let email distract you from work. Another idea is to couple checking your email with your admin tasks, and group these functions as one thing so again, not to distract you from the real work.
Let’s be honest, some of this work is completely necessary to our core business function. All I am really saying here is think through your admin process, manage it much better, and then maintain. I don’t think you should systematize your creative process, but I sure think you can do this with your daily admin tasks.
It is worth it to dedicate time in the short-term to get this right. Having a simple routine will free up time to focus on the meaningful creative work, or just to free up time to do whatever you want… Most of the time, we let these tasks get in our own way. Stop doing that. And create!
What do you think? Any better/other ideas?