As a corporate trainer, you are a special breed. You have a specific training niche – programs you have developed and now market to companies. You have short-term and/or sporadic relationships with your clients, taking their employees through your program, perhaps providing some follow-up at a future time, and then you move on to the next scheduled commitment. You are an enterprise of one – just you – and you are responsible for every aspect of running your business. That’s a hefty load.
Such a load requires some serious time management. After all, you have all of the following responsibilities:
- Marketing Yourself
- Scheduling Your Gigs
- Keeping Up with Trends in Your Niche through Research and Study
- Reviewing and Improving/Revising Your Presentations/Programs
- Designing New Programs to Scale Your Business
- Possibly all of the Accounting Functions
Time management for you is not just a “good-to-do” activity. It is an essential part of your ability to function at all. If you find yourself jumping among tasks, putting out fires, and feeling pretty stressed, these 6 tips may help you get yourself organized. And when that happens, you might find that you actually have some time for yourself too.
Find Out How You Are Spending Your Time
You can’t begin to work on time management until you get a full picture of how you are spending your time right now. Pick your next week without a gig, and go about “business as usual,” except that this week, you are going to make note of what you do every hour of those days. Once the week is over, go back and have a look. If you are jumping from task to task without a logical orderly process, then you are already wasting time. Nothing seems to get completed, and this is frustrating. You probably don’t have ADD, but your schedule might say otherwise.
This is a common challenge for entrepreneurs. But now that you see what you are actually doing, you can fix it with a plan and the right tools.
Divide Your Tasks into Categories
Your categories might be close to those that are mentioned above, plus some additional daily tasks of answering emails and phone calls. Some of your categories will be daily; some can be weekly. For example, that accounting task. It can be a weekly or even bi-weekly activity. Now you are ready to develop your plan.
Identify those categories that are required daily – emails, phone calls, scheduling gigs, follow-up with current and potential clients, etc. Set out blocks of time for each category dependent upon how much time you spent on them during the week that you recorded everything.
Identify those categories that are weekly – perhaps marketing, accounting, creation of proposals, study and research. Schedule in blocks of time for those. Perhaps you will spend a chunk of time on Monday for marketing, Tuesday to bring your accounting up to date, Thursday for study and research, and so on. Do not do these things on other days. The only exception, of course, is if you get a “nibble” from a potential client on a day that is not designated for marketing. You will want to suspend your regular schedule to respond and make yourself available for more conversation or to prepare a proposal if that lead needs one quickly. For this reason, every day should have “down time” figured in to handle these unforeseen elements.
Use the Tools that Technology Has given You
Here are some functions that can be eased with the proper tools:
Business Accounting Software: Depending on the size of your business and the specific functions that you have to complete, find a small business accounting software tool that will automatically generate invoices, keep track of account receivable and generate tax information and perform other specific functions that you need. Using such software will also help to ensure that you get paid on time.
Calendar your bookings. Choose a simple WordPress booking system or another calendaring tool that will show you at least a month at a glance. You can then plan in advance for the times that you will be unavailable for those daily and weekly categorical functions you usually perform.
Are you easily distracted during your workday? Get a tool that will block you out of those sites you tend to access that have nothing to do with your work at hand. You can set times for this and the tool will comply.
Get a master calendaring tool. You do have a business and a personal life. If you can see all of your obligations and scheduled activities in one place, you will avoid over-booking yourself and avoid conflicts. Many free calendaring tools are available.
Work Around Your Most Productive Times
Everyone has a different biology clock. You know yourself better than anyone. Identify your most productive times of the day. There really are “early birds” and “night owls.” Which are you? Plan your daily schedule so that the critical daily tasks fall within your most productive time. Obviously, 2:00 a.m. is not the time for a phone call to a prospect; however, there are tasks that you can complete late at night if that is your best time – maybe your study and research; maybe your proposal writing; maybe responding to emails. Use you less productive time for the more mundane tasks – billing, paperwork, or other “grunt” tasks.
Always Build in Extra Time
It is impossible to predict what might come up during your day. A potential client has questions and needs more information; an existing client wants to schedule a follow-up session; you receive a number of responses to your latest marketing campaign that must be answered. You need to make sure that you have built in some extra time for these things. And on a day where nothing pops up, be grateful – you can use the time for personal needs or to study.
Building in Break Time
No human being can be “at it” all the time. You will wear yourself down and do nothing well. Break times during the day are important; you may work part of a weekend, but allow down time too; you may need to schedule an entire week or two of vacation to keep your sanity. This is a necessary part of having your own business. If you don’t plan for breaks you will “crash and burn.”
Time Management = More Time
When you get yourself organized, you will find that you actually have more free time than in the past. You will “work smarter not harder,” actually finish tasks, and find that your stress levels will subside. Being in control of your work life is far better than letting it control you.
Independant inbound marketing consultant with 5+ years in the industry, including coaching and developing e-learning courses. Bylines at the Huffington Post, Tech Cocktail, Hackerspace by Lifehacker among others.