Do you sometimes feel like you’re on a treadmill in your business? Here you are, coasting along comfortably at a setting of 5—and the speed just bumped up to 10. While you may be able to keep up for a while, you feel exhausted just trying to maintain. You constantly fear being thrown off and having everything come crashing down.
This is the way many entrepreneurs feel in their businesses. Many of us are our own marketing team, head of operations, fulfillment center and even janitorial service. In a small business, fewer people are asked to do more, which can lead to frustration and stress.
While you may not be able to control what’s being thrown at you or asked of you, there are ways to effectively manage your multitasking day. The first step is to acknowledge and accept three truths:
1. You will never get it all done—and that’s okay.
Many feel there is not enough time in the day to get everything done, but this is an illusion: we each have the same amount of hours that everyone else has and has always had. It’s not a supply problem but a demand problem. Even if you work 24/7, there will still be unfinished business: phone calls to make, people to see, meetings to prepare, emails to send and publications to read.
2. Your day will not always go the way it was planned—and that’s okay.
Your success at the end of the day should not be based upon whether or not you followed the schedule you set, but on how productively you worked toward your end goals. Just as a satellite navigation system recalculates as its ship goes off course, you have to continually reprioritize to adjust to changing situations.
3. Everything takes longer than you think it will—and that’s okay.
The high-quality output you demand of yourself takes a little longer to produce. If it’s on your schedule, it’s important that you do the absolute best job you can—even if it means you can’t get to everything else on your plate.
At the end of a long day, do you look at everything you accomplished or focus on your incomplete to-do list? Focusing on the former gives you a feeling of completeness and self-gratification for a day well spent. Focusing on the latter makes you feel inadequate, as if there’s not enough of you to go around.
Here are some tips to manage your multitasking day effectively:
1. Manage Your Goals
Before deciding on what to work on, you need to know what you’re working for. If you have not established your goals, you can’t celebrate when you achieve one. The first step is to take a baseline snapshot of where you spend your hours in a typical day and whether it is leading you to reach your goals.
2. Manage Your Focus
Filter the noise, which includes anything that distracts you from your task. Schedule time for interruptions and manage that time. If someone asks, “Do you have a minute?” you could respond, “Yes—after two o’clock this afternoon.” Turn up your personal and business spam filters to block out anything that steals your time and attention. If something is not immediately going to make you more knowledgeable, make you more money, save you time, or provide a worthwhile benefit, ignore it.
3. Manage Expectations
Much stress in business can be reduced by effectively managing expectations. When asked to do something, say yes slowly. While no one task we agree to do may take all that long, it’s when we agree to multiple projects over and over that the feeling of overwhelm sets in. If you’ve taken on more than you can possibly get done within the time committed, determine the most important priorities to complete and reset the deadlines with others.
4. Manage Technology
With all the new technologies designed to save us time, many of us feel more stressed than ever because we are accessible 24/7. Also, we live in a “drive-through society” where everybody wants what they want, when they want it. Expectations in communication response time have been raised; as a result of email and text-messaging, people have come to expect nearly immediate replies. A quick response such as “got it,” “no problem” or “will call this afternoon to discuss” lets the sender know you received the message and allows you to handle the situation in your own time.
5. Manage Organization
Being disorganized can lead to feeling more stressed and busier than you actually are. Organization is a process, not an event, and it should be scheduled in as a part of your day. Some people are naturally organized, while others have to work hard to stay ahead of the clutter. Some people are filers and others pilers; whatever your style, your goal should be not to touch each piece of paper more than one time.
6. Manage Your Emotions
Most people do not mind working hard, but they resent worrying hard. When you find your mind and emotions wandering to the dark side, stop and observe your thoughts and feelings. Instead of giving in to negative thoughts, go back to the source of the worry and write it down. Reset your priorities, make a plan and take action to fix the conflict in your mind.
Life is not a race to the finish line. Winners are not the ones who get it all done. Winners are those who get the most out of everything they do and make the biggest difference. While few people will go to their graves saying, “I wish I would have worked more hours,” they may well say, “I wish I would have gotten more out of the hours I worked.” It’s not all about making a good living … it’s about having a good life. Wherever you invest your time, your focus and your energy is where you will get the greatest results.
MICHAEL GULD is an author, speaker, entrepreneur and radio
commentator whose business development expertise lies in
increasing productivity, sales performance, marketing exposure,
customer delight. He is the president of The Guld Resource Group
and creator of “Talking Business with Michael Guld,”
airing on Central Virginia’s Public Radio.