When you are required to stay at home under the self-isolation order, a human response is to lose your energy and stay in bed. Wise entrepreneurs know that the national shutdown actually represents an opportunity and create reasons in their own minds to get out of bed and take action!
Here are some suggestions to help you be productive during this period and to build winning habits to continue when it’s over.
My favorite personal management book is Dan Kennedy’s No BS Time Management For Entrepreneurs. I recommend that if you have a copy and haven’t read it for some time, read it again now. If you haven’t read the book, get a copy now and read it. It’s available in a Kindle edition that you can get instantly at Amazon.com.
The theme of Dan Kennedy’s book is to avoid distraction while you are working. Dan does this by isolating himself in his home office, turning off or ignoring the telephone, and tightly scripting in advance how he plans to spend his day. He stays with his script seriously. If he doesn’t finish a project in progress during its allotted time, he puts it aside and moves on to the next one. He has about a five minute “potty break” scheduled between items. Think of the times you are scheduling for your projects as “an appointment with yourself.”
(Master copywriter Eugene Schwartz, author of Breakthrough Advertising, used a timer that would beep after 33.33 minutes during which he would work on an advertisement. Then he would take a break and then reset the timer for another 33.33 minutes.)
Telephone calls are “bunched” and only made by appointment in advance.
Dan refuses to use a smart phone or email. He prefers to be present-minded with whoever he is with or whatever he is doing. He believes it would be crazy to talk with clients when he’s involved in another activity and others can hear him.
His script (in the past – he is focusing on his health right now) includes relaxation time at the race track with his horses, which is his hobby.
I haven’t adopted all of Dan’s habits, but I usually keep my cell phone turned off. Other people in my family find this irritating. They can get through to me by calling my wife. (She finds that irritating, too!) My wife and family always have their noses in the smart phones. I find that irritating, don’t you?
If you have employees who come to you with a problem or “emergency”, you can make an appointment to meet with them later. Most of the time they will solve the problem or “emergency” themselves, especially if you give them a discretionary budget for money to do it.
Instead of taking telephone calls as they come in, you can have a receptionist or your voice mail set telephone appointments during a “bunched” session or tell the customer that calls will be returned within 24 hours. Some people are using online scheduling software for customers to set appointments with times available blocks specified.
You can also schedule times when you will look at mail, emails and text messages. If you can, avoid doing this first thing in the morning because it is a big distraction. (This is one of the hardest things to do – training yourself to ignore the telephone ringing, mail arriving, and email and text messages until a later scheduled time and not to hover over incoming distractions.)
Won’t your customers be offended when you aren’t easily available to them? Isn’t that poor service? The best way to diffuse this issue is by managing the customer’s expectations and discussing it up front.
“We need to have an understanding about how I work. (This is how we do it here.) I can’t produce a high volume of good work if I am constantly interrupted. You are a very important customer to me and my other customers feel they are very important too. The only way I can deliver the best work for you and them is to work on each in their own turn. When you call or send an email or text, I can’t put whatever I’m working on aside to respond. It’s only fair to the customer that I’m working on that I respond to telephone calls, emails and texts at designated times. In most cases I will respond within 24 hours. If I am out of town or have a personal emergency, it might not be possible, but I’ll try to get a message to you if that’s the case. Is that OK with you?”
Another way to do more is to join the Six O’Clock Club.
What’s the Six O’Clock Club?
You can accomplish more by getting out of bed by six o’clock in the morning. When you get out of bed late, there’s not enough day to accomplish very much. Frank Bettger, a great salesperson, describes the Six O’Clock Club in his classic books, How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success In Selling and How I Multiplied My Income And Success In Selling.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
If you have made an appointment with yourself to accomplish things that you are excited about or believe are important, you shouldn’t find it difficult to be out of bed by six o’clock in the morning.
Parts of your day should be regular routines. In addition to your work schedule, here are some items you might do regularly (in your own order):
- Shave, wash, etc.
- Preparing and eating meals
- 1 hour – exercise
- 1 hour – prayer and meditation
- 1 hour – reading and study
- 1 hour – writing
- Relationships – time with family and friends
- Hobbies and personal interests
You should also schedule time to work on self-organization and business planning. In his books, Frank Bettger described how he was able to focus his client work to four days a week, have a “self-organization day” on Friday mornings, and then knock off for the rest of the week.
A key time management skill is setting your personal priorities and using those priorities to decide the order of tasks to do. You must distinguish between what is urgent and what is important.
If a task is important, it is moving you towards achieving your goals or to something that you highly value, such as good relationships with your family.
A task is urgent if its screaming for attention right now!
Rank tasks A, B, C, D based on their importance. Rank tasks +, urgent, or -, not urgent. An A+ must be done now. Procrastinate Cs, whether they are urgent or not. Maybe they can be delegated. Forget Ds, even if they are urgent.
I didn’t say this is easy, but it’s a skill you will find to be invaluable.
Another useful reference when thinking through what is important is Seven Habits Of Hightly Effective People by Steven Covey. Here is a link to a summary that I wrote of the book. http://www.profitadvisors.com/7habitlist.shtml
The most valuable time management shortcut is to learn to say “No.”
Other people will learn that you are a person who gets things done, so they will come to you with their problem or project.
If you accept their request, you create a distraction from your own project or priorities.
So, in most cases, just say “No.”
When you adopt one or more these suggestions as personal habits, you’ll be stunned at how much you’ll be able to accomplish during this personal isolation shutdown and after it’s over.