Posts Tagged ‘Time Blocking’

Are You Managing Your Time or Is It Managing You?

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

It seems every year many people make a resolution to manage their time better. How about you? Funny thing is that we all have the same 24 hours in the day. Some of us just do a better job of managing ourselves. Here are five tips to help you do that this year:

1. Know what your time is worth. Your goal as a business owner is to turn your time into money, so I think you should know what your time is worth. Here’s an easy way to figure it out. What do you want to make this year from your creative arts business? For our example and easy math for me, let’s say $50,000. Let’s also say you take two weeks vacation, so that leaves 50 weeks a year that you work. Divide the $50,000 by 50 weeks and you get $1,000 a week. Divide that by five days in the week that you plan to work and that gives you $200 a day. Divide that by 5 hours a day that is productive and you get $40 an hour. Let’s double that to cover overhead. Now we have $80 an hour. You can do this with your own goal number. Next step is to ask yourself if the task at hand is worth $80 an hour. A good exercise is to track your activities and look at them in this fashion. Is driving to the post office worth $80 an hour? Is grocery shopping worth $80 an hour? Is cleaning your house worth $80 an hour? Is packing your own patterns worth $80 an hour? You may decide you need to continue doing these tasks, and that’s OK. You just need to know the value of the task.
2. Track your tasks. For the next three to five days, record your business activities. At the end of the day, go back and note whether the activity was A (administrative/technical), M (managerial) or E (entrepreneurial). Then go back and decide whether these tasks could have been deleted, delegated, systematized or automated. Remember your goal is to replace those activities that aren’t valued at your hourly rate, so that you can work on activities that are worth your hourly rate.
3. Try time blocking. This is the idea of pre-assigning blocks of your time for specific activities, and it is one concept that I suggest early on with my clients. It lets your days be more productive because you’ve shifted to an “appointment” mindset with all your activities, not just outside appointments. It also lets you control your time because you decide when activities take place. Here are just a few activities to consider time blocking: quilt intake for longarmers to one afternoon and evening a week; creative time to design your next pattern or quilt; time for bookkeeping; business development (marketing time); and time to write that book that you keep putting off.
4. Plan your day the night before and use a list. At the end of each day, review what worked and didn’t with the day and plan what you need to accomplish the next day. By doing this the night before you’ll start the next day fresh and not spend time trying to figure out what to put on your to-do list. I’ve also heard that you’ll spend less time worrying about the next day at night because it’s preplanned. And, I’ve heard that often your mind will work on those activities and you’ll come up with ideas you wouldn’t otherwise have.
5. Learn to say no. This is a biggie, as it’s so easy to say yes to every opportunity. When you are asked to do something, consider whether it will move you closer to your goals. If so, then it might be appropriate to say yes. If not, can you find other compelling reasons to say yes? If not, then don’t hesitate to say no.

Here are some time management quotes I really like:

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”                             H. Jackson Brown
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”                          Michael Altshuler
“Never let yesterday use up today.”
                                 Richard H. Nelson

Please share your thoughts on how you get control of your time below.

Happy Valentine’s to You and Your Business

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Traditionally Valentine’s Day is about relationship love, and I think our most important relationship is with ourselves. When we love and take care of ourselves, it shows up in a positive way in both our lives and our work. Here are some easy ways to incorporate some self-care into your week.

Start by using time-blocking and set aside 30 minutes each day for personal retreat time. You can use this time to read a non-business book, take a talk outside, have a cup of tea, look through a collection of old photos, do a yoga routine, get a massage, listen to some favorite music. Just select an activity that takes you away from your business and focuses on something you want to do. Yesterday I used my personal retreat time to enjoy a cup of tea and a mystery novel. I returned to my work refreshed. (Though I’ll admit, I always have a hard time putting down a good mystery!)

Once you have the daily personal retreat working, consider adding a day-long retreat when you completed that big project or are feeling overwhelmed from all the work you’ve had on your plate. You’ll feel refreshed and will face your work with a renewed focus. And, it doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Your retreat can be as simple as packing a picnic lunch and setting off for a walk in the woods with a good book and your sketch pad.

I know, you are thinking you don’t have time for even the small retreat on a daily basis. Give it a try for a week and see if it makes a difference. Taking care of yourself really does reap big rewards.

Here’s a quote I love about taking care of yourself:

Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. Lucille Ball

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business.  Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Try Time Blocking to Increase Your Productivity

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Did you know that February is National Time Management Month? One way I like to get control of my time use is by time blocking on my calendar. What is time blocking? It’s a method of allocating or pre-assigning time for specific activities throughout your day. It helps me keep my day and life more balanced. I accomplish more because I have structure to my day, I can focus on a specific task with a high value, and I’m able to manage interruptions. I’m the one in charge of my day. Here’s how to do this:

1. Review your daily and weekly activities.

  • Can you determine how much time you spend on specific tasks? It might be helpful to track your time for a few days so you can see how much time you do spend on those activities. For example, do you check your e-mail every couple of hours and find that you spend at least 15 minutes each time answering them?
  • Do you have like tasks that are spread through out the week, e.g., teaching every day or taking in new quilts to longarm? Can these tasks be handled on one or two days, so your energy focuses on one activity?
  • Do you have tasks that need attention that don’t seem to get any? For example, dedicated marketing time is key for any business. Artists want to spend their time creating and often have trouble reconciling the need to spend so much time marketing. This task is often relegated to the leftover time when it needs to move to the front burner.
  • Do you have uninterrupted time for creative work? Even though we run creative-based businesses, the time should still be dedicated to the task.

2. Consider your short- and long-term goals.

  • Do you have a big project that needs to be completed? Start with a list of the tasks involved to complete it and estimate how much time is involved for each.

3. Consider your own personal work habits. When are you most effective? I’m a morning person, and I know I am more productive in the morning. For me this translates into activities that require brain-power earlier in the day.

4. Armed with answers to those questions, get out your calendar and begin to block off time for your activities. What most of us do is set appointments with others and that’s what is on our calendar. We then fill our time with items on our goals or to-do list. This system lets you set an appointment with yourself for your work. Once you’ve shifted to an “appointment” mindset, it’s often easier to accomplish tasks on your list. With your goals in mind, put the important tasks first so you’ll accomplish them. If I don’t block time for the key tasks, I can easily spend lots of time on simple tasks, like folding fabric and putting it away or reading the latest quilt magazine or checking Facebook. These items don’t move my business forward in a significant way. Here are some things you might like to time-block:

  • quilt intake time on one or two afternoons or evenings a week, rather than at odd times.
  • time dedicated to longarm work
  • creative time to design patterns
  • marketing time
  • bookkeeping, if you don’t have outside help
  • order fulfillment, if you don’t have outside help
  • learning time
  • time to work on blog posts and your communications with clients
  • writing time if you are working on a book
  • time to complete samples
  • time to read and respond to emails (I know you will have times when you need to check for something particular. When that happens, just handle that one item and save the rest for the blocked time.)
  • time to develop new classes
  • breaks in your day (This can be crucial if you are standing or sitting at a machine most of your day.)

To give you an idea of how I time block my week, I have our member calls and coaching calls on Tuesdays rather than spaced throughout the week. I allot one block of several hours during the week on one day to work on my blog and ezine articles. Because I’m working on a new program, I block time during each day to work on that. It’s a goal with many smaller tasks that need to be completed. I also block out time twice a day for e-mail, so I’m not checking constantly. I have an hour each day blocked out for reading or learning something new I can apply to the business. I block out Thursday afternoons for errands. Because I know that’s the day for errands, I try to schedule doctor appointments during that time, and I’ve already scheduled my hair appointments through October. I also block out time for family and self-care, so they don’t get lost.

I’m not rigid with the time blocking, and, of course, I have other appointments to put in. This week I have my local guild meeting and a professional quilt guild meeting.

In the end the reason I think this works is because when you pre-assign the time for a specific activity, you are more focused on getting it done. In a sense, you created a deadline for yourself. And by batching like tasks together in the same block (like the quilt intake sessions), you work more efficiently.

Let me know how time blocking works for you.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. This article was excerpted from The Professional Quilter, the IAPQ membership journal. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.