I have yet to meet a business owner who doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the continual disruptions on any given business day. I bring this up not to make you feel guilty or to make you feel like you’re the only one who gets snared into the trap of getting veered off course on a weekly basis.
No, I bring this up to let you realize you’re not alone. You’re not alone in the frustration…at all…and trust me, I empathize with you because I know first-hand what a frustration it can be. Even though there isn’t a way for us to eliminate all disruptions within a work day, we certainly can make a dent in minimizing them. The problem lies in breaking old habits though; so let me explain in hopes that my resolution can be of help to you.
Whether it’s time-blocking or making simple to-do lists, we all organize our days based on the way we process information or categorize workloads. The problem with organizing our work time in this way, however, is that we normally don’t “schedule” emergencies or interruptions.
Most small business owners are the “one and only”. They’re the CEO. The CFO. The head bottle washer and decision maker. Everything and anything gets put at our feet to make the decision on. It’s what we signed up for when we wanted to become an entrepreneur.
But, most of us became a small business owner because we love what we do…not because it came with a “how to do this” and “don’t ever do that” business manual. It’s part of the “learning by trial and error” cycle that most of us find ourselves in at some point during our business-owner role.
So, let’s talk about how changing my habits created a calmer atmosphere and provided more productive time. To be quite honest, this was difficult for me to do. I am very much a creature of habit when it comes to scheduling my work week. My days are scheduled by client and then by priority. I don’t jump from one client to another throughout the day because I personally find I get more accomplished when I’m client-focused and can stay within that same mindset throughout the day.
However, the distractions for me came into being an issue because I would allow clients to reach me throughout the day. If I’d reached out to a client about a project that I was working on for them, I appreciated the call back, text back or email back so that I could wrap up their current project and move onto the next one in line for priority.
Those interruptions were not the normal though. The interruptions that became continual disruptions came from other clients and even from family, plus several friends.
I didn’t see another option other than to break the habit I had created, which was allowing calls, emails and texts to interrupt my work flow. I hated making the calls to clients to discuss the problem because I was afraid they would get upset and decide to take their business elsewhere.
First, I created a new “schedule time with me” for clients that I was working on projects for. The new schedule allowed clients to schedule one-on-one time with me that wasn’t going to be an interruption within my day and would actually give us more time to nail down any specifics we needed to discuss.
Overall my clients understood the disruption I was feeling because they felt it themselves since they were small business owners. And, the new one-on-one time that’s focused on allowing us to talk without interruption has actually worked out better than I anticipated. I don’t schedule one-on-one time daily, but I do schedule them consistently twice a week. It has reduced continual disruptions and daily frustrations for me. It has also opened up more productivity which I didn’t anticipate, but am thrilled with.
Another new habit I started was beginning my work day an hour earlier. That extra hour in the morning gave me more focal time and my phone is shut-off so there isn’t an interruption with calls, texts or emails during that time.
On that same note, I end my day an hour later as well. The last hour of my work day allows me to prep for client projects for the following day. And my phone gets shut off during that time too.
Throughout each work day I work for 2 hours then allow a break for 30 minutes. Allowing that break into my schedule helps to allow interruptions or emergencies. I’m better prepared mentally for the interruptions because I’ve scheduled them into my day.
My working hours have also changed. My office hours use to show on my website as 9am to 4pm from Monday through Friday. Now they show 9am to 4pm from Monday through Thursday. Again, I begin my actual day at 8am and end at 5pm on Monday through Thursday.
Not only does my new schedule allow for emergencies, but I can schedule personal things on Friday and feel completely relaxed doing it because I know I’ve got my client projects complete. Scheduling a doctor appointment, grocery shopping, laundry or mowing grass certainly sounds like exciting stuff to schedule, doesn’t it? But, those were items I would spend weekends doing because it was when I felt I had the time to do them. Now, I can get them all accomplished; work tasks and personal tasks without feeling like I’m rushing.
Now, if a client has an emergency project that needs done, I’m much more mentally prepared to make that a priority and to get it accomplished quickly because I’ve already planned for emergencies, interruptions and distractions throughout my week. Even if that client’s emergency project needs to happen on Friday…….I’ve got it covered.
I hope sharing how I broke my old habits will help you think of creative ways you may be able to break your old habits also. Planning for the unexpected certainly has changed my mindset and opened up a much different way to plan my week.