Five Ways to Be Effective

Call time! Give yourself a deadline for each task and once the timer goes off, switch over to the next job.

  • Plan your day, or whatever time you have, for the important tasks

  • Give each task a time slot

  • Include time slots for social media, emails, finances, telephone conversations and other essentials depending on the requirements of your business. I tend to check in with emails every 2-3 hours.

Needless to say, turn off phones/email/social media notifications during this productive period.  This will give you absolute focus and you’ll have lots ticked off your to-do list. Promise!

To give you an example, here’s one of my laptop based mornings:5 ways to get productive

Urgent tasks will always get done so try this method for important projects, all those items on your to do list that you know will help grow your business in the long-term that get pushed to the bottom. Bring them to the top and watch your business grow!

If you finish early, try to move right on to the next one without distraction. Place any unfinished tasks into the next ‘productive period’.

Mix it up

Blend what you love with the vitals.

We love what we do but there are always joyless tasks to do. For me it’s anything to do with finances!

So how about mixing up the tasks? After you’ve completed a less enjoyable task, follow with something you relish. It will sure make you complete that first task faster too!

Work out what’s best for you; some people like to get all the tough assignments  completed on one day, others like to just handle one a day and spread them out, but do alternate them with those you love.

Share the load

I’m a big fan of beg, borrow or barter. Is there a fellow business owner you can team up with and swap tasks? Perhaps one person loves excel spreadsheets (where are they?!) and another prefers the joy of designing posters or the creative work on websites?

The result is two happy people who have the fun of doing the tasks they love and helping another business grow! A beautiful friendship is formed!

Reward yourself

Whether it’s a coffee after a tough morning on WordPress or a new tablet to celebrate a major new client – presents are good!

More often it’s the simple pleasures of a good biscuit with your coffee or a hot lunch. Whatever keeps you going, have that as your own personal enticement to get those tasks completed.

Free marketing

Social media is in the main, free to use so it’s obvious we are all going to use this as part of our marketing strategy. Planning the times you set up your messages and engage with your potential customers is key.

The big tip here is to use a social media platform such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. These allow you to schedule messages and have multiple accounts on one platform so you can see and manage at a glance.

Of course, as I always advise, use scheduled messages with caution as people like to see that you are available to engage with after you’ve published an update.

Do you already use any of these? Do share your thoughts by adding your comments below!

By Rickie, who has been working with small businesses since 2004. Contact via @RickieWrites or @CraftySkills1

More 4-Hour Workweek - Are You Productive or Active?

4-hour-work-week-book In this post looking at the 4-hour workweek theory, we look at the many tips for being productive.

One of my often used words is ‘focus’ and Ferriss is big on making every minute count and not creating tasks for yourself.

If [due to a heart attack] you could only work 2 hours per day, what would you do?

If you had to [with a gun to your head] stop doing 4/5 things, what would they be? Emails, phone calls, advertising, paperwork or my personal favourite, meetings. You can add Facebook to that although I eliminated that almost immediately after I started on it.

Do not multi-task is a hard instruction to stomach for the serial multi tasker but I do get it. Eat first, the do internet research – both become more effective. Similarly, only aim for one or two critical tasks per day and do them completely in one sitting, from start to finish, without moving on to anything else

I love the tips given to offer solutions rather than asking questions:

“Can I make a suggestion?”

“I propose…”

“I’d like to propose…”

“I suggest that..What do you think?”

“Let’s try….and then something else if that doesn’t work.”

These are probably phrases you use any way so it’s a matter of trying them at crucial moments when you want to take control of a situation.

Cut down on reading (ironic as I’m sitting here reading his book.

No newspapers scan headlines as he goes past newsstand. I’m with that one – I feel if I need to know something someone will tell me on Twitter. I do actually like reading and consuming information so most Sundays I will buy the newspaper (which takes me a week to read)

Only read how to books when it’s autobiographical. From now on that’s how I’m going to write my how to articles like that now – ‘how I did it.’

Elimination also means No news – I’ve subscribed to this for most of my working life but if you don’t – he says to go cold turkey for five days

Live on need to know basis – my mind is cluttered enough without filling it with info I have no need for.

Practice the art of non-finishing – a new one on me. I have picked up a few books that I’ve not bonded with, some I have finished and very few have I given up on and that’s mainly if the book goes into a subject matter I’m not comfortable with.

Batching. Doing jobs in batches i.e. emails, paying bills, laundry, shopping,

Virtual Assistants. Have multiple and try to use those organisations that have more than one person so you’re not stuck if they are not available. Give precise instructions (what is it for) and short deadlines. Make sure they can do phone calls (even if you think they are not necessary right now)

Niche market. Creating a demand is hard. Filling in demand is easier. Don’t create a product then find someone to sell it too. Find a market – define our customers, then find or develop a product for them.

So this is another way of saying my main customer theory – ask the customer what they want and give it to them.

Mr F suggests one way to find a niche is to look at magazines with audience of at least 15000 and advertising for under say £3000 and brainstorm what you could sell that audience.

An expert, in the context of selling to a customer, just means knowing more than the customer.

Or you can be perceived to be an expert (and of course become one overtime (4 weeks)

These days, having deliberately slimmed down to become a solopreneur, I want people to know it’s just me. However, when building a company, I think it’s good advice to have multiple email addresses (that are all forwarded to yours) and to have someone answer the phones (I had Miss Moneypenny who picked up the calls when we couldn’t)

Instead of asking permission, seek forgiveness.

Although irrelevant to me, his tips on (gradually) convincing your boss to let you know work from home are brilliant!

A brief version of a brilliant story; fisherman who fishes enough to sell & support family and give to friends then spends his days with his family, doing whatever he wants. Mr Harvard MBA sees this and gives him all the ideas to expand; fish more, buy boats, have employees, move to LA, possibly then to NY to run the now very large company. Some 20-25 years later he could sell up for millions. ‘Then what?’ the fisherman asks. ‘Then you can spend all your days with your family, doing whatever you want…..

And guess what, he’s advocates my beloved re-occurring mini retirement, something I have already done starting with a year out working a few hours per day including 6 months in New York for writing school. Then go and be somewhere else for 6-12 months then move on – something I very much want to do and my preference for it is in Vancouver.

Originally published July 2012

The 4-Hour Workweek - Timothy Ferris

4-hour-work-week-book Despite knowing about this book when it first came out, I thought I would dislike it and never got round to picking it up. It was lent to me and now that I’ve read it, not only did I enjoy it, in context, I realise I actually am doing or have done in the last four years what Mr F prescribes us to and I agree with it! Well I never.

Rather than having millions in the bank, the Four Hour Work Week is about being creative by earning more per hour so we can do the things we want to do with the rest of our time. With that premise, you don’t necessarily have to thoroughly immensely enjoy your working hours but you like what they bring you – more time.

I however, would prefer to mostly enjoy all my hours (to be minimum 7 on the happy scale but more often 9/10) but I do understand the 4 hour work week.

I should mention that researching Mr Ferris for a client in 2008 is how I joined Twitter in the first place. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know one of the policies he has is to be ‘unreachable’ and Twitter was the only contact I could find (He didn’t get back to me). Whilst I want to be the opposite of this, I see his reasons; he goes invisible and then people have to deal with the problems rather than asking him. By people, I mean those that he outsources to; he doesn’t have employees but rather Virtual Assistants and a huge amount of outsourcing.

Anyway, I’ve already had a massive change in my life and gone from 18 hours to 6 hour working days four years ago. I found, to my cost, I was not working for myself; I was working for the people I employed. Once I decided to give up company status, staff, offices and all the overheads that go with – only then am I working for myself.

I class as ‘work’ as those hours I get paid for and the rest of the hours I write or research the many new ideas that keep popping into my head, mostly uninvited. I don’t have to do any of this but I enjoy it.

Furthermore, these are some great tips that serve as a refresher for me:

  1. Emphasise strengths rather than fixing weaknesses (for me, the secret here is to delegate/outsource work that I’m not so good at)
  2. Most business people have to do everything; the book says outsource what you’re not good at (see point 1)
  3. It’s not about retiring, which is great as I plan never to retire but carry on doing as much as my health allows. Why give up something you love? Anyway. Mr F advocates mini retirements and taking time out. A little bit like my year out including 6 months in New York going to writing school (and now I write every day and have just finished writing my first book).
  4. Fear. Something that I think is imagined anyway but this book talks about understanding and imagining the very, worse that can happen if you take the plunge away from an unhappy but moneyed life; penniless, wearing rags, living on bread and water. The point being that even if this very worst case scenario were to happen, you are still alive. And really, how likely is this?
  5. What would you do if you lost your job today and had no choice but to change?

Life’s too short to be small – Ben Disraeli

The book is very much written towards people who are in the corporate world (Underjoyed, overworked) and I wonder perhaps they are the most unlikely to pick up this book?

Eliminate

As an employee, your goal is make yourself indispensable enough to convince them to let you work from home. That way, you can work more efficiently getting your tasks done more quickly and spend the rest of your hours doing fun things.

As an entrepreneur (for want of better word) simply decrease work = increase revenue and this is achieve mainly through automation his is complete common sense of course (I’ve already done it to some degree) but the whole not ‘checking’ emails thing is nonsensical to me. One, I don’t check emails, I read and delete/respond – that’s how I do business efficiently and two, I don’t see the sense (again) in keeping my clients (i.e. those that pay my wages) waiting. My competitor will respond faster.

Pareto’s 80/20 rule

Applied to many contexts, I think the best one is working out where your profits come from. Ferris looks at it thus:

1. Which 20& of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness

2. Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness

I did this a few years ago, working out most of my happiness came from writing so I should get on with it. Most of my problems came from having a company, employing (trying) staff, increasing business and having huge office overheads. I know write for up to half of each day and make most of my money from the other half plus some evenings and weekends. The difference is more of the work is fun and I only do about a third of actual work compared to where I was four years ago.

Similarly, Ferris realised that 95% of his business came from his top two customers – so why keep contacting the rest? Indeed.

He did find a few more customers that replicated his top two to top up the revenue, ending up with 8 rather than the 120 he had before. His income doubled in four weeks and his hours dropped from 80 to 15. He then applied the same principles to advertising costs and affiliates. It’s not just the money spent but the time wasted on administrating it all. It makes sense to me but as I say, I’ve been through it.

First published July 2012

More on 4 Hour Week: Are you active or productive?