Yesterday I felt completely snowed under with work. This is how my day started off.
- Logged into my laptop to find 58 new emails and 22 tasks flagged up by my CRM to be completed.
- My brain went into overdrive! Stress levels started to rise. Brain fog descended with so much to do.
- Looked at emails. Looked at CRM tasks. Glanced at my notepad at a new idea. Started on new idea. Aimed to just map out a few basic points to come back to.
- Got completely sidetracked! Suddenly realised I had missed a client call!!!!!! How did I miss it? When I checked my phone reminder was on silent.
- Stress levels rose dramatically.
- Called the client and apologised profusely. Looked to rebook asap and my diary was chaotic. It didn’t look like I had time to breathe let alone book another appointment.
- Spent an hour moving things around in my diary.
- Started working through emails. Each email seemed to lead to another half dozen things to do. Three new requests for one-to-one coaching. Two enquiries about The Small Business Kit.
- Head now in a complete spin. I felt completely and utterly snowed under and simply didn’t know how I was going to fit everything in.
And then I stopped. And I thought about what I would advise my one-to-one clients. And I started to put it all into practice myself.
What to do when you’re snowed under with work
Just look around you. Do you have a clean, welcoming, organised workspace? Or are you surrounded by half-drunk mugs of coffee, half a dozen notepads, sticky notes and scraps of paper, a scattering of business cards and various pens? Clear your workspace and clear your mind. Honestly, it works. Having only what you need in front of you helps you to retain focus and work in a more organised manner.
Create a to-do list
The next thing is to write down absolutely everything on your to-do list. Yes, everything. List down all those things swirling around in your frazzled brain, scribbled down on notepads, post-it notes and emails. Get everything out of your head and onto paper.
Now you have your to-do list you need to sort it out in order of priority. I use an online spreadsheet called Airtable. I list everything in there and then give each item a ranking as follows:
- Needs doing as a priority
- Needs doing this week
- Needs doing this month
- Would like to do it asap
- Would like to do it if I ever get the time
You may find you have more than one to-do list. If you do, it can help to put everything into one list. You can add a column to state what the item relates to if you have more than one business or business sector. When you are going through your list delete anything that has been on there for what seems like years and realistically is never going to get done. Also, delete anything that now doesn’t seem like such a good idea or is outdated. I had quite a few of those! Now simply sort them in priority order.
Plan your diary
Open your diary or online calendar and block out times for 5-star priority items. Set 90-minute blocks of time. This time allows you to get laser focused to get stuck into the task without distractions. It’s long enough to get good quality work done but not too long that your brain starts to get frazzled. After each 90-minute block, set yourself 10 mins to check any incoming emails. Send a holding response if necessary so as not to let them take you off track unless urgent and they cannot wait. Then go stretch your legs and get some fresh air for 20 minutes. I promise you the change of scenery and fresh air will allow you to be far more productive than sitting at your desk for hours at a time. This way you will get 3x 90 minutes of focused work done each day on your priority tasks. If you complete all your priority tasks, move on to your 4-star ones. Below is a very simplistic example of what your diary could look like. This will of course depend upon your business. Your 5-star priority may be a client meeting which may take longer than 90 minutes so adapt accordingly.
Set up your workspace for the next day
At the end of each day, plan for the next. Re-prioritise your list moving 4-star items to 5-star if all the 5-star have been completed. Set out your workspace with just the items you need to complete your work for the next day, so you are all set and ready to go when you come back in the morning. It’s very therapeutic coming to a clean, tidy desk with everything set up rather than having to search through the clutter for what you need first thing.
Now you have set yourself up for the next day’s work, knowing exactly what you are going to be working on and with everything ready to go, switch off. Yes, easier said than done I know but it’s so important to shut off from work to give your brain a break. It’s the same as if you are training for something such as running a marathon. If you push your body by running long distances every single day, eventually your muscles will give up, and you will become injured and won’t be able to run at all. Your muscles need a break to recover. Your brain is the same. Do whatever you enjoy to relax. Now, if you have a young, demanding family this may be a difficult thing to do. But take at least 30 minutes each day just for you. If you love reading, go to bed half an hour earlier and read. It’s important to have time for yourself so you don’t start to resent work and life in general.
Are you still snowed under with work?
But hey. What if the above is not enough? What if you never manage to clear your 5-star priority items and more work is coming in? What if you really can’t keep your head above water?
Review your prices
Firstly, look at your pricing. If you have more clients than you can handle, put your prices up! This way you can work smarter, not harder. You will be able to earn the same, if not more, money for the same number of hours. Now when I speak to my own clients about this, they tend to hate putting prices up. They don’t want to hack off existing clients. But business is all about supply and demand. And if you continue to run at a hundred miles an hour every day and continue to be snowed under one of two things will happen:
- You will start to make mistakes (like me!) And I can promise you if you continue to make mistakes that will certainly hack off your clients and you will lose business.
- You will get so stressed you become ill and won’t be able to work which will be a huge detriment to both you and your clients.
Write to your clients and explain that subject to a business review the decision has been made to increase prices. Don’t be afraid of losing a few. As mentioned, if you get your pricing structure correct, you will be able to make the same amount of money with fewer clients.
Let go of ‘less than perfect’ clients
This could be the perfect opportunity to go through your client list and let go of any who are no longer ideal for you. How about that over-demanding client who no matter what you do, is never good enough. How about the one who wants you at their beck and call 24/7 and has no respect for your private life. Which ones make your heart sink when you see their number pop up on your phone or their email arrive in your inbox? Go through your list and select any that aren’t right for your business anymore and write that email or letter to cancel your contract. Make it polite and professional but let them know after a review of your business, you do not have the capacity to work with them anymore. If possible, recommend someone else for them to work with.
Review your workload
What jobs are you simply not getting done or which do you hate doing and take up far too much of your time and contribute the most to your feeling snowed under? Make a list of them. Once you have the list, you can determine if there are ways of streamlining them. If there are jobs you really do hate and take up too much time, consider outsourcing to someone who could complete the work in a fraction of the time and possibly better than you. This could apply to your bookkeeping, marketing or blog writing. Now, look at the time you spend with prospects and clients.
- If you get a lot of phone calls or email enquiries when people visit your website, set up an enquiry form to collect as much information as possible before you need to speak to them. This can save a huge amount of time.
- How do you book appointments? Do you go back and forth via email? Set up an online booking system that does everything for you including taking any payments required.
- Do you spend a lot of time answering the same questions? Set up a FAQ page on your website and direct people to that.
Download my Client Touchpoint checklist to help you get thinking about how you deal with clients and the time it takes. The Client Touchpoint checklist helps you identify the touchpoints you have with prospects and clients and think about ways to simplify and streamline the process of how you deal with them. The first sheet just gives a few examples. The second sheet is for you to print and complete. By following the steps above you should feel more in control and able to take an objective view of how your business is running and what you need to do to stop feeling snowed under with work. If you’d like a chat to review your business and identify areas for improvement, take a look at my one-to-one services or get in touch if you have any questions.