A question I get all the time from clients or those who know me well is, “How do you do it all?” The first thought that always comes to mind is, “I have no idea!” But then I drill down to give a serious answer and the keys start pouring out.
With so many FABULOUS entrepreneurs that I get to interact with in our Conscious Divas community, I would love to use this opportunity to not only share what I do, but inspire you to share your keys below for others to implement!
In a nutshell, let me try and explain why I think I *might* be qualified to write this article. As of this moment, today, I work regularly with 4 companies as their project manager, coach or online business development specialist (offering websites, coaching, social media branding and other services to authors, speakers and entrepreneurs around the world). This is in addition to the time and energy I spend developing my own company, NGNG Enterprises (standing for No Guts No Glory) offering the same types of services above. Within these, let’s say 5 companies, I am currently communicating with over 100 clients on more than 50 projects all with different timelines, details and progress updates happening close to daily. Just like any other entrepreneur I have multiple client calls throughout the day, my to-do list is long and somewhere in there I need to take short breaks. I work on average 8-9 hours a day and never work nights or weekends unless I absolutely have to.
But you know what? It’s fun and I love it.
I wasn’t born with some amazing ability to multi-task or be crazy efficient. It’s something I worked really hard at. Now, sure, it comes very easily which is why my first reaction to questions about how I pull it all off is, “I have no idea!” It’s a habit now and I want to share some keys with you of how I came to be super efficient, which allowed me to take on more client projects, which resulted in my company growing more than I ever expected.
Key #1: I get in the right frame of mind.
On Sunday nights I have that slight pouty face because the next day is Monday and I know my day will feel out of control as Mondays always do. I also know that exercise gets the blood pumping, makes me more alert and gives me a LOT more energy. So every single Monday without fail I wake up earlier than I want to and I force myself to workout hard. Once I’m done, showered, dressed and coffee in hand… I know that “Super Amber” has come out to play. You wouldn’t believe the energy and efficiency that comes out of me. Any time I need another boost during the week, I do the same process. Works like a charm! I suppose I should note too that I eat well and I sleep well – I think an overall healthy lifestyle does contribute to my work success.
Key #2: I survive by my to-do list.
I created a super simple to-do sheet in Microsoft Word one day because I couldn’t find a system I liked. It had a bunch of lines going down the page and a box to the right for meeting times and notes about what I need to accomplish during the week, but not necessarily “today.” I printed out 90 sheets and had the book spiral bound. I use one page every day and order a new book when needed.
In my mind I have a laser focus on where each project is at in its timeline so I know what has to be done and by when. For every project I have a “would-be-nice-to-get-it-done-by date” and a “hard-deadline-no-matter-what date.” If I’m absolutely slammed one week, I may need to push a project to the hard deadline (which is almost always earlier than the client’s hard date) – if I have a light week, I get it done early which makes my clients happy. Either way my clients are happy because I’m moving the project forward at a good speed. I always give myself a little padding.
So, knowing where the project is in its timeline is key to the to-do list. On my list I never write huge projects or things that aren’t due for 2 more weeks. Those are for separate “bigger picture” lists I keep off to the side. I want to see MAJOR progress every day so that I am energized to keep accomplishing big things. The goal is to cross everything off my list each day, or come dang close. For anything that I don’t accomplish, I have to write it out on tomorrow’s list. For little tasks, I get so sick of writing them down over and over that I just get it done so I can save myself the agony. (I’m human, wink.) I’m proud of my to-do list and I enjoy looking at it because of all I accomplish. It’s NOT something I dread or fear or dislike. It’s all in our attitude – even about the little things.
Key #3: I make rules and I follow them.
Rule 1, write my to-do list every day even if I don’t want to. Rule 2, get in my office everyday no later than 8:30am (I work from home; I hit this goal every day). Rule 3, leave my office everyday no later than 5:30pm (ok, I usually hit this, not always, but I scold myself every minute I’m working too late – balance is key, time to rest is key, time to have fun is key – p.s. when I’m not in my busy season I’ll end my day around 4-4:30pm). Rule 4, before I finish my work day I always clean off my desk completely so I have a fresh space to look forward to in the morning (your environment is SO important!!!), and this is when I write out my next day’s to-do list. I let the weight of the tasks fall on the paper, close my office door and leave it all behind me. I have more rules, but you get the gist. It’s essential for my success, especially working from my home office.
Key #4: I play tennis.
Metaphorically speaking, I play tennis every day. I am constantly batting the ball in someone else’s court. For example, when an email comes in with a client asking me to do something, I try to immediately do it or ask them for something I need in order to do the work. Most times, within 5-10 minutes of getting an email, I reply. Unless it is a long email with lots of questions, I send a reply right back to get it off my plate. You wouldn’t believe how happy this makes people! I do it for that reason, yes, but also for my sanity! I get well over 100 emails a day of people sending me tasks, asking for education or tips on topics – LOTS of my time is spent in communication (which I actually think is a lot of fun because I know I’m adding serious value to my clients businesses). I would quickly go insane if I let it build up so I reply to email all day long and I do my work tasks when email slows down in patches throughout the day.
I need to add that my business is probably MUCH different than yours, so I’m not suggesting all of these tips will work well for you, but I do want to get you thinking about how you can improve efficiency in your business. You deserve breathing room, fun and less stress!
Key #5: I work smarter, not harder.
I am always thinking of how to systematize something. I only need to do a task once before I’ve figure out the faster way to do it. If I do the task two or three times, I keep improving my time by finding shortcuts. NOT shortcuts that reduce the quality of my work – I’m way too much of a stickler for a quality job to let things slip through the cracks frequently.
This philosophy comes out in small ways and big ways. An example of a big way – I noticed that a lot of people in my industry spend soo much time finding clients, writing proposals, proving themselves – all trying to get a single new client project. I realized that if I connected with a few companies that already had a client base, I could offer my services under their umbrella (or under mine, it depends) and save a lot of time in creating new work. I learned early on to have a strong focus in partnerships with companies that I believed in, who believed in me, and we could create more of a long-lasting relationship. Another example, when I find that my clients start asking the same types of questions I work smarter not harder by creating a video tutorial to give out anytime someone asks me about that topic in the future. Another example, if I keep writing the same email over and over, I save a copy and use that the next time and just change what’s needed. I’m always thinking of how to save time because those minutes sure add up in a day!
Like many of you, I really want people to have a good impression of me, see my hard work, recognize my values and want to work with me on a project (big or small). When I tell a client I will do something for them, I set a date earlier than what they would have expected usually, and I use that as a way to hold myself accountable. I don’t want to give the impression that I am a flake, unreliable and not to be trusted. Just the opposite! So I tell people my deadlines or goals, and allow that to be the accountability I need to get things done.
Since I tend to set fast turnaround times for projects, I have to be efficient with my time to get everything done in time. I am definitely a person that would rather be busy than bored. So I keep myself just busy enough before I get into an unhealthy situation of stress (been there). This is also a reason I set rules – to protect myself from burnout. I use the keys above to stay efficient and get things done so I can go play. I was raised with the mentality “Work hard, play hard” and life sure is a lotta fun when you have that focus.
So there you have it, 5 keys from an efficiency queen. I don’t want this journey to end here though. See the Facebook comments box just below this article? I’d love for you to make a comment in that box and tag @AmberLudwig and @ConsciousDivas, telling us what you thought of this article – what was helpful – what your keys to success are – and any questions I can answer. Also, if you felt these tips were helpful, please help me share it with others through our social media share buttons below.
Thank you all for your time!