It’s a familiar scenario: Solo business owner is swamped just wading through emails, keeping up with social media, serving customers. No time to create new products or work on that marketing campaign.
Is this you? If so, I have four proven ways that successful solo entrepreneurs use to wrestle back control of their business, get the daily job done and still have time to grow their businesses.
1. Tame Your Inbox
Email is probably the number one task that sucks up our time. Answering customer questions, reading newsletters, responding to joint venture requests, communicating with your support team — it can add up to dozens of emails seemingly needing your instant attention. And even if you clear your inbox in the morning, new emails come in hourly that can distract you from tasks that require concentrated attention.
Ways to take control of your inbox:
• Unsubscribe from half of the newsletters you are currently getting. Starting with the ones that you haven’t had a chance to read in the last few months. If they were important to your business efforts now, you’d be reading them. You can always sign up again later.
• Deal immediately with items you can delegate, respond to in less than two minutes, or file away.
• Set up filters to put certain emails into different folders. Gmail makes this easy. Client emails in one folder, newsletters in another, to-dos in a third. Keep your inbox focused on items you need to deal with this week.
• Check your inbox twice a day, and turn it off the rest of the time. This allows you to focus on other work without the distraction of incoming emails. [Disclosure: It’s great advice although I find it hard to follow myself!]
2. Use Social Media Tools to Schedule Your Tweets and Facebook Posts
One of the keys to successful use of social media is to post updates at the times your audience is most likely to see them. But this doesn’t mean you have to be on Twitter and Facebook every hour. There are many tools that allow you to pre-schedule both tweets and status updates, minimizing your actual time attending to your social media efforts. My favorite tools are Hootsuite and Pluggio. My virtual assistant uses Hootsuite once a week to pre-schedule posts that I put out regularly and I also use it to automatically tweet new blog posts, YouTube videos and more (via the RSS Feed functionality.) I use Pluggio to pre-schedule tweets on a daily basis — I can sit down and in one session schedule retweets, answer questions and thank those who have mentioned me, without flooding the tweet stream with a dozen posts in a short amount of time. And Facebook now lets you schedule status updates to publish at a later time/day.
3. Go With The Flow
Some days, you just don’t feel like working on the items on your to-do list. Other times, you may find yourself up in the wee hours of the morning, on a roll. GO WITH IT. If you find yourself stuck (and there is nothing you really have to do right now(change to then??), go for a walk, take a nap, play hooky and go shopping. Too many times we set artificial deadlines for ourselves and then stick with those deadlines, pushing through when we are struggling to concentrate – making the task take far longer than necessary, and sometimes resulting in less than our best work. Be flexible with yourself and your deadlines (isn’t that why we are solo business owners?) I guarantee that when you are truly ready to tackle that task, it will go more smoothly.
4. Mistakes Are OK
One of my favorite sayings is: “ If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t moving fast enough.” It doesn’t have to be perfect, whether it is an email, a newsletter, a product, or a marketing campaign. Business owners tend to have exceptionally high standards for themselves, but are very understanding and forgiving when others make mistakes. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Get it done, get it out there; you can always fix any missteps later.© Copyright 2013 Terri Zwierzynski