The relentless pursuit of productivity. As a businessperson, It's really what I think about constantly. It's really what drives me.
We're a client services company, which means we're a productivity company.
Which means, as the owner of the company, I have to set the bar for productivity and time management.
As such, I'm documenting the top MACRO concepts / tips for Small Business Owners to achieve productivity. Also, I'm going to add my new approach after more than 10 years of a somewhat similar approach that has "gotten me this far."
I don't require my teammates (a word I prefer to use instead of "employees") at Data Driven Design to follow any of this by the way, but I want to document it in case anyone wants to try something similar - or just read about it for professional development purposes.
But before I drop my MACRO dimes, I need to set the stage for how things have gone in my professional career up until this point.
From the time my real career started in 2001, up through 2018, I'd describe my time management approach as "fluid re-prioritization and constant immediate action."
We can call it FRACIA for short.
To be clear (and not trying to be conceded or cocky, because I certainly haven't been perfect), I'm pretty fucking happy with how far FRACIA has gotten me, and I'd actually highly recommend it to any young professional who can pull it off.
It basically means that you prioritize every single task or thing that comes your way equally, and you work your ass off to get each and every task completed at the highest possible level while over-communicating your status on each task to it's constituent(s) along the way.
Transitioning from an internship, to an entry level position to a mid-management position, the FRACIA method can certainly gain you a lot of allies and supporters, and even life-long references, but more than anything, it gets you SKILLS.
Practicing FRACIA means that you can basically do anything.
If you haven't done it, you've already made up your mind that you're going to do it. No problem.
I've met many, many, many successful professionals who openly discourage the best practices of the FRACIA approach.
Shit, let's just call "FRACIA" what it sounds like as you're trying to pronounce the acronym - "FREAK-Ah."
It's the freak-ah approach. Because you kind of have to have a freaky work ethic and not really love or care about much other than work and family to pull it off. Seriously.
So now that we've established I'm a freak-ah, I can openly say that this method has helped me build a successful client services company with 8 full-time employees by the age of 37.
Yes, but in the middle of my 38th year, I've decided I need to be less of a freak-ah, and more calculated with my time management.
I've mentioned before in several blogs that I'm obsessed with my calendar. It's on my phone and computer, synced via Google/Apple at all times. Here's a look at the calendar of a freak-ah:
If you look closely, it's basically a running task list.
The difference is, I've got it on a calendar with alerts and shit, to MAKE SURE I have time to do it, and that it gets done by the time I said it would get done.
A FRACIA (freak-ah) DOESN'T LET THINGS SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS.
So, if it's gotten me this far, and it's worked so well, why do I feel the need to change?
For me, it's now broken.
I'm now a true small business owner with 8 teammates. Together, the 9 of us are responsible for about 100+ other businesses.
Time Management Best Practices For Small Business Owners
I can't continue to manage my life based on random tasks that all are given the same priority level. My teammates can, but I can't.
I know this because the last few months have been harder on me than before. I've become more stressed, and I need to make changes. So, the number one thing for small business owners to improve their time management is simple:
1. Understand WHY You're Making The Changes.
Don't change just because you read an article or a book or listened to a podcast or a colleague talk about time management. Change ONLY if you believe it's what you need to do. You're the owner, your why can be as simple as "because I want to" or as complicated as you want. As long as YOU KNOW WHY, that's all that matters.
So, I'm going to try something new moving forward. I've thought about it a lot, and have concluded the following is how I will execute things.
2. Truly map out what you WANT to do with your time.
This one is super important. You own your own business, right? So at some level, you've made a choice to do this with your life.
Not only that, but each day, you're waking up continuing to make the same choice to do this with your life. Sure, it would be hard to unwind things and pivot to do something completely different with your life, but you could do it in about 6-9 months worst case scenario.
So, now that you realize this is your choice, you need to map out exactly what you WANT to do with your time.
Your life for however long you've been a small business owner has been all about what you NEED to do.
Think about what you WANT to do, then write those things down.
Here are the things I WANT to do with my time moving forward:
- Create a lot of content for YouTube, Podcasts, Alexa Flash Briefings, Blogs (I LOVE TO WRITE), Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Build a community of people that find my content helpful, practical, entertaining, valuable to their professional careers or businesses in some way.
- Make a lot more sales for my business. Of course, I want to monetize our skills and talents as a client services company.
- Enjoy my team. Help my team, learn from my team, be there for my team and I want to continue to have my team actually enjoy working at Data Driven Design.
- Learn. I love learning. There are so many new things happening in Digital Marketing and Web Design, and I always want to be at the forefront of knowledge. It excites me, fulfills me and drives me.
3. Analyze What's Ahead.
Look at your calendar. What's on it? Something? Nothing? Everything? If you're a FRACIA (freak-ah), you'll have EVERYTHING on it. If you're like most professionals, you'll only have calendar invites for upcoming meetings and MAYBE out of office dates.
So, as I looked to make my adjustment from being a freak-ah to a more of an effective small business owner / team leader, here's what I had coming up over my first week.
Notice I'm just looking week to week, not trying to be unrealistic about biting off more than I can chew.
But you can see it's basically still a task list, with more room on it, just waiting to be filled up unless I make a change.
So in order to not fall into the same trap as before, I understand my WHY, I have written down what I WANT TO DO WITH MY TIME, and I've Audited/Analyzed what's ahead on my calendar.
Now, it's time to communicate and implement.
4. Communicate and Implement.
I could have gotten fancy with this list and said "Top Five Things...Blah Blah Blah," but really, Communicate and Implement are one-in-the-same to me, since I'm using my calendar, like a FRACIA (freak-ah).
So, I've communicated the following to my team and clients:
1. I will only be available for phone calls/meetings from x time to y time on A, B and C days.
2. I will be blocking off my calendar to work on the following things on a daily basis each week.
See how each day of the week aligns with one or more of "WHAT I WANT TO WORK ON" from #1?
Oh, and don't let the time of day thing fool you. I live in and work from Spain, so my calendar is in Central Time, where my Nashville-based teammates and clients are. I'm working normal local business hours.
That's also why I have "not available for calls - only emergencies" during my local time non-business hours, so I can spend time with my family before they go to bed.
7 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. CT (three and a half legit ET working hours) are dedicated to being available for phone calls/video conferences and communications with my team and clients.
This may seem overly simple to some of you, but for a freak-ah like me, it's a HUGE deal, and when I execute this, I should reap the rewards in the form of increased fulfillment, momentum, relationships, revenue and ultimately, opportunities.
As a small business owner who loves the grind and the process and wants to work forever and build something special, this is a plan that should also give me increased physical and mental health, and longevity in the game - something I also wish for all of you!
Thanks for reading, watching and listening, and have a great day!
Paul Hickey, Founder / CEO / Lead Strategist at Data Driven Design, LLC has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 10 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing and Email Marketing. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.