Choose One Project

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I’m just like you — just like every entrepreneur I know. I have a million ideas and I want to do them ALL right away!

Here’s how that’s killing your business.

I learned an important and enlightening lesson last year that I’d like to share with you. By focusing all my attention, energy, time and resources on One Big Project, I increased my income — and more importantly, I was happier and more relaxed.

I was shocked!

Even though experts had been telling me for years to focus on just one thing, I didn’t want to give up my freedom and creativity. I liked having multiple projects to work on. It made me feel vibrant and alive.

But it also made me feel unproductive, cranky, overwhelmed, and a nervous wreck. And guilty because I was having a hard time completing just one of those projects to my satisfaction. Hmmmm.

Imagine you are driving down a busy highway at rush hour. Now imagine that there are three other people in the car with you, all trying to have a conversation with you. Now your cell phone rings. In between all this talking, ideas pop into your head so you pull out your mobile device to type in some text notes.

Crazy, right? You’ll have a car accident any minute now.

Yet that’s exactly what you’re doing to your business when you try to focus on multiple projects or multiple goals simultaneously.

Multi-tasking Myth

In the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield said, “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once — but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time.”

Doing more than one thing at once doesn’t get more done and doesn’t make you more efficient. Recent studies by several research teams prove this point.

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, when you toggle between multiple tasks or multiple projects, you are using what’s known as the “executive control” process. This mental CEO has to choose priorities and allocate thinking/creativity resources. The more you switch between tasks, the longer it takes to re-focus attention and resources.

David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan said in a recent New York Times article, “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes.” When it comes to your business, mistakes will cost you. Can you afford to lose time or money?

On a practical level, working on multiple projects simultaneously made me feel scattered, out-of-control, and diffused my intellectual and creative abilities. When I slowed down and focused on one major project for a full two months, four great things happened:

  • I felt more in control
  • I was much more relaxed
  • My confidence soared
  • I was able to get the project completed a full four weeks ahead of schedule.

It was as if I had been released from a multi-tasking prison of my own making.

Talk about freedom!

Choose One, Master It, Move On

In his book, “Getting Things Done,” David Allen suggests you create a list of “Areas of Focus.” Start by looking at the areas you manage in your business (you can create a separate list for your personal life). In business you may have these areas: marketing, sales, finances, customer contact, product/service development, operations/administration, long-range planning/strategy, etc.

Next, list all your possible projects in each of these areas. Once you have your full projects list, look them over and ask yourself:

  • Which project will most likely lead me towards my large business goals?
  • Which project will lead me in the direction I want to take for my business?
  • Which project am I ready to tackle now?
  • Which project inspires me?
  • Which project scares me?

Then choose one project that will have the biggest impact on the success of your business.

If the project scares you, ask yourself why. Figure out where you’ll need some help, education or resources in order to complete that project.

In speaking with some of my mastermind group members about this subject last week, they reminded me that you don’t have to focus on one thing for an entire year. Try it for three months or six months, and see what results you are getting, both financial and emotional.

Once you complete a project or master a new skill, then you can move on to the next one on your list. In this way, you can have both things in your life: a successful business and getting multiple things done in one year.

First, choose one project. Finish it. Then move on to the next.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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Increase Your Productivity: Institute Quiet Time

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Are you getting everything done on your To Do list?

No?

Join the crowd.

More and more self-employed entrepreneurs are complaining that email, phone calls, social media, and their beeping-buzzing smart phones are constantly causing interruptions, increasing stress and reducing productivity.

These constant interruptions are costing you productivity — and ultimately income.

In my blog post Choose One Project, I talk about the myth of multitasking. Talking on the phone and answering emails at the same time decreases your overall productivity. So does popping into social media sites while you’re trying to focus on an important project or task. It causes twice the number of errors when you multitask or allow interruptions to your task.

By allowing all these interruptions, you are losing TWO hours a day of productive time. Ouch!

The Solution

Many large corporations like Intel, IBM, and Deloitte & Touche are instituting something called Quiet Time: a block of time in which you cannot send or read emails, and may not make or receive phone calls (unless they are related to the specific project you’re working on).

Small business owners can do this, too!

I started to do this last year:

  • Core Productivity times are 9AM – 2:30 PM. All private client calls, group mentoring calls, classes, and project work are done during these hours.
  • Every Friday was “class design and book writing day.” No client or prospect appointments, no emails from 9:00 – 2:30, no phone calls at all.
  • Emails are handled twice a day – at 8:00 and 2:30.
  • Each day, return phone calls are handled after 2:30 PM (which is great because of the time zone differences between East and West coast).
  • When I really, really needed to work on a project in a deeply focused way, I’d bring my laptop to the lake, park or library, taking my work to a quiet environment without possible distractions. (I particularly like the lake because there’s no Wi-Fi there! :))

The Results of My Quiet Time Test

In a 12-month period, I designed and launched three new classes (including a 9-week class which was a whopper to design), wrote one new ebook, designed two new websites, and overall had a much happier and more satisfied lifestyle and work environment. Awesome!

Lest you think that you will be less productive in getting through your emails and phone calls if you institute Quiet Time in your business, think again. Having fixed times each day for email and phone calls increases your productivity, actually reducing the amount of time you spend on emails and phone calls. (I found I could get through 30-40 emails in a solid, planned hour, which would have taken me two hours if I had answered them in a scattered fashion throughout the day.)

If you are frustrated because you’re not accomplishing your projects and tasks, you need to schedule Quiet Time into each day. You will be happier and feel more fulfilled by your work if you do.

How About You?

Do you regularly block out time to get projects done? What are you doing to increase your productivity without getting burned out? I’d love to hear your stories and ideas!

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Think Small and Accomplish Great Things

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Mary came to me to create big, new changes for her business. How exciting, having a big dream! She had a million ideas and a solid, well thought-out task lists to back up the big plan. Except there was one small problem – Mary’s dream was dying on the vine. By thinking big she was overwhelming herself. She was paralyzed.

Mary asked me, “How do you accomplish all the things you do? Do you have some mysterious time management system that I need to know about?”

Nope. No time management system. No crystal ball. No magic wand. Just one mantra: Think Big and Think Small.

Thinking Big is about dreaming and strategic design; it answers the questions, “What do I want?” and “Why do I want it now?”

Thinking Small is about tactical planning; it answers the question, “How do I accomplish it?”

Great things are accomplished through thinking in small steps.

Anyone who has tried to stop smoking or lose weight knows you do it one day (one hour, one moment) at a time. Anyone who has attempted to do a 30-mile hike knows it’s simply a case of one foot in front of the other.

People with big business dreams often forget these well-known truths about how to tackle big things.

Mary became frustrated because things weren’t moving fast enough. She was ready to give up her dream because there was too much to do and she didn’t know which task to do first. When she did start a task, she abandoned it if it took longer — or was more complicated — than she thought it should be.

We live in a world of instant gratification.

It numbs us to what’s really important: to live the big, juicy, vibrant life you desire. We’re afraid that thinking small and taking small steps forward because we equate it with being small and having a small life. Nothing could be further from the truth.

No matter how much you try, you can only really do one thing at a time.

You may think that multitasking makes you more productive, but studies show that multi-tasking actually reduces your ability to accomplish tasks. So instead of trying to do five tasks simultaneously I’m advocating this approach: put exquisite, conscious effort into one task at a time, complete it, and move on to the next.

How do you know what small step to take first?

You have been gifted with four pillars of life the day you were born: your intellect, your emotions, your intuition, and other human beings. Start by asking yourself, “What one small thing can I do, right now, that will move me towards my big goal?” Don’t give up if the answer doesn’t come to you immediately; have patience and allow the answer to bubble up to the surface.

If the answer still doesn’t come to you, ask other people for help.

Talk to supportive people who fully understand your big dream and can help you to look at the small tasks you must do to accomplish the goal. Write down the tasks or draw them on a piece of paper and ask yourself, “Does this feel right?” Write in pencil so that you can re-arrange it until it truly feels right to you. Then do one small task at a time.

I’m encouraging you to do both: Dream Big, Think Small, and you will succeed.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Why I Always Read Email First Thing Each Morning

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Time-management pundits are always harping on how we waste time reading emails first thing in the morning. I think they’re full of manure.

First of all, a 2013 Marketo study found that 58% of people read email first thing in the morning, many reading email before they even eat breakfast. Is it just addiction — or is there a good reason for it?

As a small business owner, I have a HUGE reason for reading email first thing in the morning: my customers matter to me more than anything. Most of my clients, students and mentoring group members communicate with me via email, so taking care of their needs first thing in the morning is simply good customer service.

Why do the time management folks act like email is evil? Because we don’t segregate “important” email from “read this when you get a chance” email.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with reading email first, just like there’s nothing wrong with writing your blog post first each morning or doing yoga first thing or working on a major project first thing. You have to pick your priorities and you have to focus on the task at hand. It’s all about goal setting and self-discipline.

  • For instance, I do not use my personal email address when signing up for ezines and email newsletters. That way, my personal Inbox doesn’t get crowded with non-essentials and stops a lot of spam from ever reaching me. If something is in my personal Inbox, it’s because it’s important, like an email from a client, student or my business partner. (A colleague told me that she has 2,500 new emails each morning. My question to her is: WHY do you allow so many emails get into your personal Inbox? They can’t possibly all be of the same importance level.)
  • Another reason I read email first is that it’s the only real quiet time I have during my working hours. Typically the phone doesn’t start ringing until 9AM and using the pre-phone time to read email allows me to focus.
  • I’ve delegated much of my email reading to my business partner who handles any routine customer service questions from people who have bought my ebooks or audio programs, or students who have lost their login ID.
  • I quickly scan my new emails and only answer those ones that are most urgent. I leave the rest of them for later in the day, after I’ve done my other daily prep work.
  • Finally, I read email first because it’s when I’m the freshest and smartest. Do you really want to be writing emails when your brain is fuzzy?

If email is an important part of communicating with your customers then go ahead and read it first thing. Just pay strict attention to whether you’re keeping focused on the Communicating With Customers task or veering off to read articles, news, jokes, quotations, or watching YouTube videos of Surprised Kitty instead of doing your work. Set a time limit, say 30 minutes, and get through the most important emails first.

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Controlling the Time Monster

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Jackie asks, “How can I control the time monster? I have so much to do in my business, I never seem to have enough time to get it all done.”

Watch this video on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjhn-0q-oYQ

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Category: Ask Karyn Anything Videos, Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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Manage Your Time, Projects and Tasks

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In this episode of Ask Karyn Anything, Andrea asks “How do you get so much done? How do you manage your To Do list?”

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uGRA7lBpjo

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Category: Ask Karyn Anything Videos, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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