One of the biggest challenges I find with small business owners, entrepreneurs and Brand U experts is juggling their multiple roles and managing their time.
Many complain that they spend the majority of their time handling day-to-day tasks, putting out fires and just dealing with the administrivia of business, so much so that at the end of each day they have run out of their most precious resource – time.
I feel their pain – I’ve been there too and still dip my toe back into the land of chaos and confusion. The truth is, unless you decide how you want to be and what the most beneficial ways are for you to use your time, you’ll be constantly at the mercy of the clock. Which means little or no time is spent working on the meaty stuff that will grow the business.
Without a plan and visibility of your use of time, it’s near impossible to sort this out and order your thoughts. Which is why I believe in a simple two-step process:
1 – creating a focused, simple one-page plan.
2 – calendarise your time to achieve the plan.
Let me explain. First the plan – I call it the plan in a can – because you think, create and write it and get it in the can in one day. One day invested in this can save you oodles of time and give you back a day a week when executed and followed.
So where to begin? Get clear on your why – why you’re in business and the value you add.
Choose what business you want to be in – it’s the classic case that Weight Watchers are not in the health or weight loss business, they are in the business of memberships, so get clarity on your business model.
Also decide how you want to be. How do you want to live, breathe and be in the market. What makes you unique, how do you communicate and relate? Take a blank page, have the deep conversations with your people and get it on paper in one day.
Typically, I see in most owner founded businesses, start-ups or brand U businesses that the company has grown from top down, that is it has come from the owner, their work style, their preferences. Naturally they have structured the businesses around themselves without a real plan or strategic view in mind. Once the business begins to expand and they hire more people, things change and what once worked, may no longer. Everyone in the company now has their own views and styles and suddenly we have a chaotic mess.
Sadly growth is not a simple linear process of maturation. It has twists and turns, lump and bumps and peaks and troughs. So get a plan onto paper and then turn to how you execute.
Onto step two. Again you have to #startwithU. How do you best work? Where can you add the most value to the business? What are your strengths? What are your uncompromisables? What times of the day do you function best? What role do you fulfil with ease?
Start looking at the types of functions required in a business and considering how much time and energy you need to spend on each of them.
At UQ Power, we like to keep things simple and inspired by an early coach of mine that encouraged me to “chunk my time” and “batch like tasks”. I created a simple, colour-coded system for making my work work and controlling my bright shiny syndrome tendency. It is kind of like nailing your foot to the floor and building from there. It may feel constraining in the beginning, however in my experience it also provides incredible freedom.
Here’s how I chunk my time, calendarise and action it.
Naturally as our brand is red and black, we use red and black to group activities that drive our business and make it tick and then we use the Aussie green and gold to grow and nurture the business and ourselves:
Black = Basics – black chunks are the basics that every business needs. They are the boring, bland but necessary tasks (my emphasis) that help you get stuff done. They include admin, finance, systems, IT, HR and routine processes – all the detailed, behind the scenes stuff.
Red = Revenue – code red chunks are the awesome revenue generating functions such as thinking, selling, delivering, servicing and supporting the sale of your product or service to your clients and customers. These include sales conversations, delivery of your work, the following up, the thanking and the support.
Green = Growth – green means growth and in this chunk it’s all about nurturing the future growth of the business. This includes any roles, activities or functions related to business growth, such as visioning, developing and strengthening culture, leadership development, brand and market positioning, developing new offerings, market research, speaking and networking in order to foster relationships, partnerships, referrers and joint ventures.
Gold = Giving – gold is for giving and giving is good. Here it’s all about giving for the good of you, your people and the planet. Gold is valuable for so many reasons and it is the one area often missing from so many business owner’s calendars and schedules. Gold is giving yourself time out, it’s meditation or golf, it’s the annual leave when you need it, it’s the charity fun run you take as a team because it’s a good thing to do. Let there be some gold in your life and business too.
You can view it really as the black and red being the what of your business, the green is how you do things and the gold is the why you keep doing what you do.
In my experience, I see time and time again people getting sucked into the black hole of admin. If you get sucked into the black hole then you end up spinning your wheels getting stuck in the minutia, putting out fires, getting bogged down in emails and paperwork and never being able to grow the business effectively.
If you find yourself fixing the printer, buying a chair for a new employee and calling a late payer then you’re not doing your best strategic work. Of course, there will always be the need for you to do some black and probably more red, however the more you can focus on the green the better.
Of course, if you’re right in the start-up phase and you’re your only employee then you’re going to need to do a bit of it all, just make sure you’re getting some green and gold in there as well.
Once you’ve decided on the best mix for where you are at right now – transfer this to your calendar. For example, I do my green work on Monday afternoons and I do the little bit of black I have to do on Friday’s. The middle of my week is red and every morning I have my rituals or gold which are my non-negotiable practices and that set me up for a great day.
By systematically colour coding your weeks in advance, you get a real line of sight for what you need to work andfocus on to get where you want to go in your plan.
What colour codes do you use in your calendar and how do you manage your time?
A seven-times published Author, her latest book “It all Starts with UQ Power” aims to spread the message that people's unique personal strengths are the key to unlocking their potential. Her popular podcast, The Theatre of U has seen her dubbed Australia’sOprah as her interview skills and unique deck of question cards delve deep into what makes people tick, their passions and their purpose.
Heidi Alexandra believes in the goodness of people. She teaches body language and the power of human-to-human connection. She’s proven it is possible to transform companies, attract brilliant talent and create sustainable growth by building a great culture. Which is why she’s on a mission to eradicate the term ‘Human Resources’.
She is the Co-founder of Human Power, based on the UN sustainable development goals and Board Member of the Got Your Back Sista Charity. Outside of work she is an avid reader, property investor, motorcyclist, vegetarian and a lover of style, minimalism, tiny houses and walking in nature with her dogs. She believes the best measure of your success is how you use your unique human power to touch the lives of others.