Feeling overwhelmed with things to do? Know that you could / should get some help, but you don’t have the time to hire staff or learn about your options?
This quick guide gives you a roadmap to follow:
Step 1: Eliminate
When you look at your calendar, the first step always, always, always, is to figure out what you can eliminate altogether.
If that regular Wednesday meeting isn’t really doing anything for you, get rid of it. There’s no use hiring someone else to cover you (or do your work) during that time period, if you can just eliminate the meeting altogether.
The most common things that are flat-out time wasters are:
- in-person meetings (including all that driving to-and-fro!)
- phone meetings
- (all forms of meetings)
- interruptions – including people stopping by your office
- doing tasks too often, instead of letting them pile up and doing them all in one batch (e.g. opening mail)
- sending and answering email
Think about what you can eliminate before going any further. I expect you’ll free up at least a few hours each week just by doing this.
If you’re struggling to find anything you can eliminate, crank up the heat on your analysis. What if you suddenly had a sick family member that required 20 hours per week of your time, and thus you absolutely had to (not negotiable!) cut out 20 hours of work from your typical week. What would be the first to go?
Step 2: Automate
In what ways can you use technology to take over some of your workload?
For example, if you get leads from your website (people see your site and input their name and email address), you probably don’t need to personally write them, at least not on the first point of contact. Instead, use Aweber or Infusionsoft (or MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc) to generate an auto-reply that just makes it *look* like a personal reply.
Another example: you do *not* need to hire an assistant to book meeting appointments for you or your team. Just use an online tool like http://www.Tungle.me, where you create a meeting invitation, input your availability, invite others to input theirs too, and then Tungle analyzes everyone’s availability to find the earliest, common opening for everyone. Once that common opening is found, Tungle emails everyone with the winning time slot, and can even automatically input the new meeting time into your Google Calendar, iCal, or Outlook.
Another example: you do *not* need to hire an assistant to do basic billing for you, *especially* if you have recurring billing for certain clients (where you’re billing them a consistent amount month after month). Instead, us a program like Infusionsoft to generate automatic PDFs of all your invoices. You simply choose WHO owes you money from inside your database of contacts in Infusionsoft, then create an invoice for HOW MUCH they owe you, then hit SEND. Infusionsoft will automatically create the invoice using your company’s logo, will automatically included the cusomter’s contact info at the top alongside yours, etc, etc, so that you have a pro PDF invoice in moments.
After elimination, it’s all about automate, automate, automate. Make computers and technology do your heavy lifting.
Define Tasks and Outsource
Do not hire in-house. Do whatever you can to hire an outsourced person or people. You won’t have to pay government taxes and pensions. You won’t have to pay for their workspace, their computer, or rent a building for them to come work in. All big savings.
Outsourced workers often are even more happy because they typically get to work from home so they’ve got more flexibility to have a better lifestyle, which generally makes them more pleasant. Furthermore, if you manage them well, you’ll ask for a daily report (or in some cirumcstances weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly). This forces them to be accountable for what they got done each day.
Suddenly the focus shifts from paying someone just to show up and sit in a chair for 8 hours, to actually getting something done.
Personally I work with outsourced workers on 2-3 continents at any given time.
One tricky thing can be phone answering. If necessary, use a call centre.
In all of these outsourced situations, you are only paying for what you use. A famous expression: “Overhead walks on two feet.” It’s true – people are ridiculously expensive to hire on an on-going, full-time basis. So minimize that by having task-specific, outsourced staff.
My favourite service / website right now to find outsourced workers is http://www.HireMyMom.com. Absolutely awesome. I’ve used them multiple times with good success. Better than most of my experiences with outsourcing (although other sites can be great depending on the situation).
Yes You Can Work Smarter, *on* Your Business
Follow these steps and you’ll find that a LOT of your work, especially admin-type stuff, and nearly all web-based, and phone-based work can be eliminated, automated, or outsourced. Leaving YOU to focus on bigger-picture items for your business.
Onwards and Upwards,
P.S. Thanks to Tim Ferriss and his awesome book The 4-Hour Workweek for inspiring this way of thinking, and for offering some of the specific tips mentioned above.