How to Manage Your Time Better in Your Small Business

small biz chat with melinda emersonEvery week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Christine Giri @thetimetamer. She founded Time Tamer Consulting with the belief that time spent effectively is not about Daytimers and Blackberries, but is about combining focus with innovative systems. Christine works with high-performing entrepreneurs. Christine is the author of Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn: A Quick-Start Guide for Entrepreneurs and host of Time Tamer Talk aired every Tuesday morning at 9:00 am PST on BlogTalkRadio. Christine says by taming their time, her clients have taken back control of their businesses and their lives.

Smallbizlady: Is time taming even possible?

Christine Giri: Yes, because we are not taming time, but really taming ourselves, by creating new habits and honing in on what we want.

Smallbizlady:  I will admit it, I hoard email and I know I’m not alone.  Can you provide some tips on how to manage your email?

Christine Giri:

  1. Turn off email alerts when emails arrive in your inbox. The noise immediately detracts from the task at hand, and consumes more time to refocus again.
  2. Change the settings on your social networking sites that automatically notify you of new activity.  You don’t need to know every time someone has added you as a friend on Facebook or has invited you to join an online group. Check your sites only at specified times, preferably no more than once or twice a day.
  3. If you know that you will never answer an email, delete it right away.
  4. Create email folders same as you would for paper files, (ie) reference, project name, and go back to those during the time you have scheduled for those tasks.
  5. When you look at your inbox, immediately find the emails that can be handled in less than 2 minutes.    Your inbox is not a storage folder.  Emails should not remain in your inbox. If you leave them there, each time you open your email you are rereading them, and thinking about them.  Time and focus are wasted.

Smallbizlady: Many small business owners are blogging now, in addition to the 10-13 other jobs they do in their business.  How can they develop a system for developing content that does eat too much time?

Christine Giri: As a blogger you can be looking for content all of the time, jot down ideas on your phone or a notepad that you always have with you, then schedule a time during the week to write, creating a few blogs at a time.  If your goal is to post 3 times a week, then write them all the previous week and post them for that week.  If you write articles, break them down into bite size blogs and post them.  You don’t want to have the stress of having to get a blog out that day.  Prepare ahead of time and when things come up, as they always do, you’ll know that your blog is taken care of.


Smallbizlady: The telephone can be a big distraction.  Sometimes we find ourselves on the phone with a bit of a chatty Cathy. How can you move the call along and end the conversation without sounding harsh?

Christine Giri: First we don’t have to answer every call.  If this is a call that is not important, return it later.  Second, you can leave a voicemail that says that your return phone calls between 3:00-4:00 (or whatever you prefer) every day.  Then, the caller will not keep calling back.  Third, when you have a chatty Cathy, and you have come to the end of the call, reiterate what you have discussed, the agreements you have made. This signals that it is the end of the call.

Smallbizlady: How can we get more done on that endless to-do list?

Christine Giri: If you really want to finish the to-do list by the end of the day, make sure you know how productive you can be. Sometimes we are not being realistic with ourselves about how long things take.  Be brutally honest about what is important and the time it takes.  Hone in on what you want to accomplish for that day – those tasks should be moving toward your greater goals.

What kinds of time management tasks can and should be outsourced to a virtual assistant?

Christine Giri: There are many tasks that can be outsourced to a Virtual Assistant, but the key is to match the right virtual assistant with the right job.  For example, a VA can take your articles and break them into blog posts and set them up on your blog.  I have a VA that posts all of my social media updates up to 4 months in advance.  VA’s can do research for you, say as a marketing strategy, you want to be interviewed on radio shows, they can find the shows that fit your business and do the inquiries for you.  If you speak for your business, a VA can research associations and conferences that would be a good fit and send your speaker information out.  The key here is to match your VA to the task, and realize that you can have more than one VA working with you.

Smallbizlady: We are always looking for ways to find more time to get things done within our business. But, sometimes we struggle to find time for ourselves. What are some tips that you can provide for making time for oneself?

Christine Giri: Schedule your time for yourself.  I always suggest a block schedule which includes your business and your life.  If you have blocked out exercise from 6-7 am, you will not schedule a phone call at that time. You cannot bring your full self and brilliance to your business unless you have given yourself time to be refreshed and healthy.


Smallbizlady: How does creating processes in my business give me more time?

Christine Giri: It prevents you from having to reinvent the wheel each time.  There are things that should be on automatic in your business and when you determine what they are, create a process for them.

Smallbizlady: What are some of the key processes every small business owner should have to be successful in business?

Christine Giri: The most important processes are sales and marketing.  Without them, there is no business.

What do you do after networking events or meeting a potential client – place them in your contact management system, schedule a telephone call, send them a card. Whatever it is, you want to touch them consistently, and you can’t do that if you don’t remember what you already did.  Marketing, is the other important area — how do you market your business, are you writing articles, blogging on a consistent basis, engaging in Social Networking, updating your website, networking.  These are all tasks that should be in a process so that you are consistent.

You can also create a new client process that allows you to gather all pertinent information, and also to communicate how things will work with this client who has never done business with you before.   You want them to feel comfortable and not wonder what will happen next.

Smallbizlady: Many start-up entrepreneurs worry that things won’t be done correctly, so they try to do it all themselves.  How can we stop the craziness?

Christine Giri: If you are doing everything yourself, then you are not doing the part of your business that is your passion.  Putting processes in place will make delegation easier.  Hand off a procedure, and while there will still be questions, there will not be as many.

Smallbizlady:  What other benefits are there to creating systems in my business?

Christine Giri: Systems give your customers the same experience every time.  Think Starbucks – you know that no matter which one you walk into across our country, you will order the same way, the drink will taste the same and you will have a consistent experience.  That is why you go back there.  If we give our customers the same positive experience, they will come back.

Smallbizlady: What is the one piece of advice you would give to small business owners about time management?

Christine Giri: Every month, on the first day of the month, choose the 3 most important things that you want to accomplish, write them each on a separate sheet of paper and post them on the wall in front of you. 80%of what you do for that month should relate directly to those 3 things.  You will accomplish them – it is all about focus.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s
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Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)

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