My company is very small. We have about 10 people. We have no offices – everyone’s virtual and either working from home or with clients. This means that I’m pretty much on my own every day. My job is to look for new work and to keep our existing work on track. (There are about 10-20 projects going on at any given time.) I write. I speak. I travel. I visit clients and prospective clients.
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Every business owner is like this – we have busy schedules and lots of balls in the air. And everyone’s got their way of leading their company and getting things done. How do I get things done? I’ve learned how to manage myself:
I have a plan for each day (even the weekend). I live by lists. I create them for every day, with the things that I want to accomplish that day. I’m writing this now, early in the morning, because yesterday I made a list of what I wanted to accomplish today and this article was on that list. On Fridays, I do the same for the weekend (but I write a much shorter list!). I keep my list in a 1 subject wide-ruled notebook I bought at Staples. I have other lists for the calls and emails I need to make in my customer relationship management system (CRM) too. I try to be very realistic and not over-do it because unexpected things come up. And when I finish something, I cross it off from the physical list because well … it feels good to do that.
I block time. I want the satisfaction of crossing tasks off my list. In order to get that, I clock off time. For example, if one of my tasks is to “complete CRM activities (calls/emails),” I block off 2 hours to do that and nothing else. If one of my tasks is to write an article like this, or a client proposal, or review a project plan or read a contract, I block off an hour to stay focused on that task. No distractions. No checking emails. My phone is muted. That way, I’m able to stay on target and get my work done.
I know when I’m smart and when I’m dumb. I wake up at 5AM each day during the week. I write first thing because writing requires thinking. You see, I’m smarter in the mornings and dumber in the afternoons. So, if I have something to do that requires thought (like writing this article), then I do it in the morning. The end of the day is left for making lists and doing tasks that don’t require that much thought because by 4PM, I’m pretty stupid – more so than usual. Sometimes, particularly in the early afternoon after lunch when I’m particularly stupid (and drowsy), I may put my head down on my desk for a 30 minute nap (which is really helpful). Reagan did that and he was the President, so it must be OK.
I know what I’m good at and what I’m lousy at. I’m a Certified Public Accountant, but not a very a good one – I learned early on that I’m not so good at details. Talk to me about the economy, your balance sheet, your income statement and your business. But don’t have me prepare your tax return. I’ll forget something. I also stink at diplomacy. When a client isn’t doing what I think is right, I lose patience and then I say the wrong thing. I also have a short attention span. I can’t work on things, or have a meeting or a phone call for more than an hour or two or I’ll just lose it. On the other hand, I have a lot of energy and I do what I say I’m going to do. I’m creative and good at communication to my team. So I delegate. I rely on others to do the stuff I’m bad at (anything requiring attention to detail, project management, etc.) and I focus on my strengths.
Finally, I have a plan. All leaders, whether just a sole proprietorship or a military general, have a plan. I set goals for me and my company on a quarterly and annual basis and I take the remarkable step of actually checking on those goals in the middle and at the end of each period to make sure I’m on track. For the end of this year, I have a goal for cash in the bank, number of new clients, revenues, and profitability. I also have goals for my weight, my squash game and helping my kids. We all have to have goals. That’s what leaders do.
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