Entrepreneurial Money Management

Marci talks about the financial issues & concerns business owners’ face when running their own company.

Time Management - It Can be Done

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There are days when I come into the office with a fairly clean schedule, and come home exhausted and stressed wondering, "How can this possibly be? Today was supposed to be easy." 

I suppose there is no such thing as an easy day for an entrepreneur, but lately I've noticed three major time wasters that I need to manage more effectively.

I thought I'd share these three with you to see if you have any strategies for how to deal with them.

 

Email.  I've contacted professional organizers about this one because email management eludes me. I see 150 (or so) emails per day from clients/prospects/partners plus a whole bunch of email newsletters, and now my social media efforts also generate emails such as, "You have a new comment on your blog. Please moderate." Unmanaged, I can easily spend 8 hours per day on email alone.  I'm drowning. Here is some advice I heard from the organizers.

  • Schedule one hour at noon, and one hour at the end of the day to read email and don't open it any other time. Most problems solve themselves or add up to one phone call that you'll need to make to address them.
  • Do one project all the way to completion in the morning before opening email. If you start with email, you'll be sidetracked immediately.
  • Learn to delegate. You should address only one of five emails (or fewer). Forward as many emails as you can to staff to help manage the workload. 

Scheduling.  How many times do you do this in a day: A client or employee wants to schedule a meeting, so you email a set of meeting times? They respond that none of those times work, and then email a different set of times. You schedule a meeting, and then at the last minute, the meeting needs to be rescheduled and you're back to more emails. Here's a new flash about scheduling: Go to all of your meetings. Don't reschedule even if you think you are too busy on that one particular day. By rescheduling, you're simply borrowing hours from your future schedule, which isn't likely to be any less busy. Bite the bullet and go. Conversely, don't accept meeting requests if you think the meeting will be a waste of time. Also, make sure you use shared calendars in your office so you can all see each others' schedules and make one meeting time work for everyone. If your office doesn't have a shared calendar right now, check out Google Apps for a free, and very robust shared calendar function.  

Post-Project Support.  This is actually a business process issue that affects time management. After projects launch, the flood of emails start coming in with little questions that are easy to answer and take just a couple minutes. After 35 of these, you start to realize that you've given away 10 hours of billable time.  Now, we all know we need to provide support if we want continuing work from our clients, but support can get ridiculous. The place to start is in your proposal process, where you note how many hours you will provide support as part of the contract, and what you will charge for support above and beyond. These clauses give you the basis for charging for support if the situation warrants it.  I use my hours clause as a fallback only when clients are asking for support that is out of scope with the project. It's a difficult conversation to have with clients, so I don't exercise it every time, but sometimes I need an escape hatch.

I hope these strategies are as useful for you as they have been for me. Let me know how they work out by commenting below. Also if you have tips for more effective  time management, please add them to help us all be more efficient. 

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