How To Manage Interruptions So You Can Work On Your Business

Got a quick and simple question. I’m trying to follow a schedule and time management system but I constantly fail. I’m always reacting. What can I do differently? This challenge with following a schedule, time management is one I describe as afflicting all business owners and especially those wired to be entrepreneurs and business owners, many are very distracted by nature. There’s good that comes from that but then there’s also the downside of easily being distracted and losing focus.

First and foremost I would say this is something that most people struggle with and therefore it does become really important to follow a system and create a routine in your life. I’m going to stay away from that and I’m going to focus just on the business piece of it for the moment. There are a lot of other videos I could do on time management, but let’s just talk about where you’re at in the business. Assuming that the business is younger, it’s not very big so you don’t have a big team around you because if you did have a big team around you they could take a lot of the things off your plate that is requiring you to be reactive. Let’s assume it’s a smaller business because you didn’t say.

The way to solve this is to find gaps in your day, periods of time, 30 to 45 minutes where you literally do not answer the phone, do not look at your text messages. Deal with zero interruptions. The negative of that is you might miss a phone call, you might miss something important. The odds of missing something important are pretty low during these time frames. What I’d encourage you to do to move the company forward is let’s start at the beginning of the year. January. During that time you’re thinking about everything that went wrong last year, everything that was a bottleneck, everything that was a challenge, everything that needs to be fixed so that this year can be a smoother running year. You’re also thinking about if I grow my business by a truck or two trucks what initial pain, challenge, frustration is that going to inflict on the business? When adding a truck what else in my business breaks? What goes wrong?

You’re thinking about that ahead of time so that during the January February March, whatever your off-season months are, whenever you’re slower, during that time period you can work on those things. To work on those things you’re going to have to get focused time. To get the focused time you’re going to have to ignore the phone, you’re going to have ignore issues, you’re going to have to ignore email, you’re going to have to ignore text messaging and you’re going to have to essentially hideout for small blocks of time, 30, 45 minutes. Maybe an hour. If you can at least get 45-minute blocks of time you can think through these challenges, you can work on them. Then after the 45-minute block of time when you answer your phone and return messages, you do email, you do whatever you need to do. Then you go back into another 45-minute block of time.

You do as many of those as you can during the day. That’s the only way you’re going to move the ball forward. You cannot accomplish anything by literally never having any time to think or focus. That’s going to be what January, February March, whatever your offseason looks like as you have made a plan, you’ve thought through your plan and you’ve found the focused time where you’re blocking out the world. You’re telling your team, hey guys gals whomever, I’m going to be gone or I’m not available for 45 minutes. I will follow up with you as soon as that time period is over. Basically you’re setting the tone, however, you want to do that, with your team.

Now I’d encourage you to use something like an answering service to still cover the phones because I feel it’s critical to answer the phone live. During this period of time, you can have an answering service answer the phone live, take a message. As soon as your block of time is over you can return those phone calls. Now I wouldn’t turn this into a scenario where you’re just never answering the phone anymore. I think that’s bad. But you’ve got to make some sacrifices and you’ve got to make some hard choices to move the ball forward. For that reason use an answering service to cover you during these times. Yes, it’s going to cost you a little bit of money but it’s not that expensive. You make some progress. When you’re done doing your 45-minute block you return the phone call.

Now as you move into your Spring selling season this is when I would not be so excited about the approach I just described. In my mind, during selling season you have to do everything you can possibly do to make the sales. You need to be answering the phone, you need to be responding fast to text, to email, to estimate requests. During this time period I would not encourage these 45-minute blocks of time except very early in the morning or at night, but during the selling season, you should focus solely on selling and growing the company, not improving the company. Once you get through that two, three month time of the big selling season then your mindset goes back to what I described earlier. Now we’re back to fixing the things that we broke because we just had a bunch of growth, we’re improving things that are falling apart. We’re improving whatever needs to be improved, fixed. We’re doing that after we focus on the most important thing, which is to take the company to the next level through growth.

Then we’re back to our periodic blocking out of 45 minutes of time throughout the day so that we can move as I keep saying, the ball forward. That’s how you’ve got to do it. Then eventually as it gets bigger and you have some money because you focus on selling then you hire people to respond and react for you. Initially, it’s an operations assistant, it’s a person working the telephone, it’s an operations manager, maybe eventually a salesperson. These individuals become the people that react. You’ll never eliminate the need to react from your business, rather what you do is you’ll hire people to react for you. You keep moving up, up and up the food chain in a sense working on bigger and bigger problems and the way you accomplish the bigger problems and move the company forward is you get more and more focused time to solve those problems by hiring other people to react for yo.u. that’s the game. It just takes time. The only way you’re going to get there is to find some blocks of time where you can think and focus. If you never create that you’ll stay stuck. That’s how you do it.

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