#4: hard working woman

I’m a small business owner and I work hard. But some days it feels like I’m hardly working – like two steps forward and three steps back. So today’s challenge is something I want to look at closely, how can I simplify my work tasks?

4. Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest.

I love the blog post that ZenHabits shares about eliminating everything but the most essential of tasks. In one of Larry Winget’s books (perhaps it was in “It’s Called Work for a Reason”?), he has you change your “to do” list title to a “things that must get done” list. This has been remarkably helpful for me as a to-do list sounds like it could be optional. If I feel like doing this list of tasks, or if I really want to do these things I could, or not. A things that must get done list on the other hand implies this list is important and if you don’t do it you’ll probably be sorry. 🙂

Here’s my general list of things that must get done at the office:

  • Emails – return client inquires, junk the spam, sort through the rest.
  • Calls – listen to voicemails, return important calls, junk the spam calls.
  • Paperwork – keeping client files up to date, data entry, filing, etc…
  • Clean – this is something I need to tackle every day for at least 10-15 minutes. If I do it first thing when I come into the office it doesn’t weigh on me for the rest of the day or fall to the wayside. I’d like to create a little list to help remind me of the cleaning tasks I should accomplish over the course of the week: dust, vacuum, toilet, sinks, dishes, windows, desk. These have different priorities, like the toilet and sinks are daily, while the windows would be a once-a-week project.
  • Marketing – to stay on top of my needs in this area I need to tackle one marketing task a day, such as: preparing an event flyer or sending “thanks for your referral” cards. Once a week I need to carve out a larger block of time to tackle bigger marketing tasks like: drawing up a course outline for a workshop I will be teaching, or revamping the brochures, or polishing up this month’s email newsletter.

And somewhere in between all of that stuff I am actually a service provider that spends at a minimum of one hour with each client I see throughout my work day. I don’t have a typical desk job that gets interrupted by conference calls or board meetings – I have a non-desk job that gets peppered with a couple of hours of desk-job-like-tasks between clients. Five minutes here to return calls, 15 minutes there to check emails, an hour and a half to work in QuickBooks. Which makes this challenge even more important because I cannot possibly accomplish anything if I don’t have a clearly defined list to guide me when I switch gears quickly between appointments.

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