If your business is anything like ours,
every day brings new items for your to-do list.
But every day does not bring extra hours or even minutes to your day.
How is it possible to get more done, as more needs to be done, whilst every day has only so many minutes in it?
The answer, and I strongly believe the ONLY answer, is focus. Singleminded Focus.
Here’s an example:
As part of the work we do for our clients, we do a 48 Hour Launch (Used to be the company name too).
What we do in these 48 Hours generally includes the following:
- Create a new website
- Set up an agreed AdWords Strategy including all campaigns and ads
- Set up am agreed Facebook marketing strategy including all campaigns and ads
- Integrate everything into Infusionsoft
- Create follow-up and lead capture within Infusionsoft
- Write the required copy for all of the above
- Test all integration and functionality
- Set campaigns live
We are only able to do this amount of work in 48 Hours, because for those 48 Hours, we don’t do anything else. We don’t answer a single phone call, we don’t read emails and certainly don’t reply to any. For those 48 Hours, we are completely focussed on this one project, and it increases our productivity by an order of magnitude!
Now, I know what you are thinking: “That’s all good and well Pieter, but I have several clients and several projects, add to that the fact that I am trying to first learn how to, and then do the marketing for my business, I could not possibly dedicate 48 Hours to a single project or to my business’ own marketing.”
I don’t agree with you, but I’ll let you off… a little.
You see, you can focus for 60 minutes, or 90 minutes. You can schedule your day into chunks. All these chunks can be uninterrupted by anything else, with specific times to switch from one task/project to the next.
I know from personal experience that this is not easy, but let’s face it, when you were learning to walk it was not easy either, and sometimes it even hurt a little. That was no reason not to work at it and it is the same with focussed effort.
You can’t multi-task. You really can’t!
In the first instance, if you are multi-tasking, you are not completely focussed on any one of the tasks in front of you, and they all suffer as a result. (Driving whilst on the phone?) Your attention is not completely on any one of the things you are trying to do, and this is how mistakes creep in and you add to the overall level of stress or frustration.
The more serious effect of trying to multi-task is what is called “Loss to context switching”. This is the time you waste by having to switch from one project to the next, back and forth.
On the face of it, this does not seem like much of an issue, but as Cal Newport points out in his book, Deep Work, if you are interrupted, even just for 5 minutes when someone comes in to ask you a question, the interruption has a massive impact beyond the 5 minutes.
It takes on average 23 minutes to get back to your previous level of concentration. Can you see how interruption wastes your time and allows more errors in your work to come in?
In Quality Software Management by Gerald Weinberg, there is a chart (reproduced below) showing their MEASURED “Loss to context switching” when developing software and running software projects.
Our assumption would be that if I have one project, I have 100% of my time available for that project. If I have two, it stands to reason that I should have 50% of time for each.
Unfortunately, you can see from the chart that this is simply not true. By the time you get to 5 Projects, you are losing 75% of your time and effort to context switching. That means that 3 quarters of your day leads to no progress at all, completely wasted.
I understand that as a business owner, you have multiple clients and by default feel like you have to work on several projects at once. However, in that case, think of your different functions in the business as different projects, and schedule time for them.
Marketing, Estimating, Invoicing, Operations etc… All of these needs focussed time and effort from you, without interruption.
How on earth do you do this then?
There are many theories around project management and time management, and I won’t claim to be an expert on it, but I will tell you what works really well for us: Scheduling and Focus.
Everything is scheduled
When in the day I check emails is scheduled. All our phone calls are scheduled, I simply don’t answer the phone. Every task for every project we work on is tracked, we know where we are with everything at all times.
We also use a combination of tools that allows us to work as a team, without needing to follow-up constantly and ask “how are you getting on with this?” I can look at my screen and know where Jean or David is up to on a task or project.
I urge you to look at this subject in more detail. It can transform the way you work and how much you get done, giving you more time to learn new skills and market your business better. You shouldn’t feel like you don’t have enough time. If you do, I’d put up a hefty wager that you are wasting a lot of your time.
Author: Pieter K de Villiers
Pieter K de Villiers is slightly obsessed with systems. The systems and process automation he builds for small businesses are transformative, to say the least. Pieter is a Co-Founder of Barefoot Digital and the Amazon best-selling author of “Barefoot Business: 3 key systems to attract more leads, win more sales and delight more customers without your business killing you”.