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Posts Tagged ‘time management’

Exercise Your “Done” Muscle

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

A lot of us have problems getting things finished. Several reasons come to mind: procrastination, the need to be perfect, distractions by other things, failure to prioritize. Here are eight tips for exercising what I call your “done” muscle.

1. Get clear about what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Once you have clarity around your goals and/or a particular project, it’s much easier to move forward. As you work, keep your eye on the prize. This will help you progress.

2. Break your project down into manageable tasks. When you look at a goal or a specific project, it can seem overwhelming. If you can break it down into bite-size pieces, it’s always easier to see how you can accomplish it.

3. Look for where you need help. Just because you have a big project, doesn’t mean that you need to do it all yourself. Remember, it’s not necessary to know how to do everything, just what needs to be done.

4. Prioritize what needs to be done. This can apply to a specific project or your daily “to do” list. It’s easy to look for the quick and uncomplicated things to do each day so you can check them off the list. The problem is you aren’t really accomplishing what you need to accomplish. What you should be doing is tackling those projects that move you towards completing your goal.

5. Consider the ROI. That’s Return on Investment. You can look at your tasks and see if time spent doing these tasks is worth your time. Maybe you should delegate the tasks or not even do them at all.

6. Finish what you start. Make that your goal. Really look around at how many people actually finish what they set out to do. Many people say they are going to do something and don’t ever complete it.

7. Remember good enough is often good enough. Sometimes we spend so much time aiming for perfection that we don’t accomplish our goals.

8. Don’t over-think everything. As the Nike ad says, “Just do it.”

If you have a tip for exercising your “done” muscle, please share it on the blog.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business.  Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Try Time Blocking to Increase Your Productivity

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Did you know that February is National Time Management Month? One way I like to get control of my time use is by time blocking on my calendar. What is time blocking? It’s a method of allocating or pre-assigning time for specific activities throughout your day. It helps me keep my day and life more balanced. I accomplish more because I have structure to my day, I can focus on a specific task with a high value, and I’m able to manage interruptions. I’m the one in charge of my day. Here’s how to do this:

1. Review your daily and weekly activities.

  • Can you determine how much time you spend on specific tasks? It might be helpful to track your time for a few days so you can see how much time you do spend on those activities. For example, do you check your e-mail every couple of hours and find that you spend at least 15 minutes each time answering them?
  • Do you have like tasks that are spread through out the week, e.g., teaching every day or taking in new quilts to longarm? Can these tasks be handled on one or two days, so your energy focuses on one activity?
  • Do you have tasks that need attention that don’t seem to get any? For example, dedicated marketing time is key for any business. Artists want to spend their time creating and often have trouble reconciling the need to spend so much time marketing. This task is often relegated to the leftover time when it needs to move to the front burner.
  • Do you have uninterrupted time for creative work? Even though we run creative-based businesses, the time should still be dedicated to the task.

2. Consider your short- and long-term goals.

  • Do you have a big project that needs to be completed? Start with a list of the tasks involved to complete it and estimate how much time is involved for each.

3. Consider your own personal work habits. When are you most effective? I’m a morning person, and I know I am more productive in the morning. For me this translates into activities that require brain-power earlier in the day.

4. Armed with answers to those questions, get out your calendar and begin to block off time for your activities. What most of us do is set appointments with others and that’s what is on our calendar. We then fill our time with items on our goals or to-do list. This system lets you set an appointment with yourself for your work. Once you’ve shifted to an “appointment” mindset, it’s often easier to accomplish tasks on your list. With your goals in mind, put the important tasks first so you’ll accomplish them. If I don’t block time for the key tasks, I can easily spend lots of time on simple tasks, like folding fabric and putting it away or reading the latest quilt magazine or checking Facebook. These items don’t move my business forward in a significant way. Here are some things you might like to time-block:

  • quilt intake time on one or two afternoons or evenings a week, rather than at odd times.
  • time dedicated to longarm work
  • creative time to design patterns
  • marketing time
  • bookkeeping, if you don’t have outside help
  • order fulfillment, if you don’t have outside help
  • learning time
  • time to work on blog posts and your communications with clients
  • writing time if you are working on a book
  • time to complete samples
  • time to read and respond to emails (I know you will have times when you need to check for something particular. When that happens, just handle that one item and save the rest for the blocked time.)
  • time to develop new classes
  • breaks in your day (This can be crucial if you are standing or sitting at a machine most of your day.)

To give you an idea of how I time block my week, I have our member calls and coaching calls on Tuesdays rather than spaced throughout the week. I allot one block of several hours during the week on one day to work on my blog and ezine articles. Because I’m working on a new program, I block time during each day to work on that. It’s a goal with many smaller tasks that need to be completed. I also block out time twice a day for e-mail, so I’m not checking constantly. I have an hour each day blocked out for reading or learning something new I can apply to the business. I block out Thursday afternoons for errands. Because I know that’s the day for errands, I try to schedule doctor appointments during that time, and I’ve already scheduled my hair appointments through October. I also block out time for family and self-care, so they don’t get lost.

I’m not rigid with the time blocking, and, of course, I have other appointments to put in. This week I have my local guild meeting and a professional quilt guild meeting.

In the end the reason I think this works is because when you pre-assign the time for a specific activity, you are more focused on getting it done. In a sense, you created a deadline for yourself. And by batching like tasks together in the same block (like the quilt intake sessions), you work more efficiently.

Let me know how time blocking works for you.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. This article was excerpted from The Professional Quilter, the IAPQ membership journal. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Getting Through the Holidays in One Piece

Monday, November 30th, 2009

In the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter, Longarm Forum columnist Mindy Caspersen lamented about the year she was quilting for customers right up until Christmas Eve. For her that year was not as joyful as it should have been. She missed time with her kids, and says she let herself be cheated out of her holidays. Vowing never to let it happen again, she took four steps to insure that her future holidays were full of joy. Here’s an excerpt from her column:

Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do is to schedule properly. You must take into account the number of quilts you can reasonably do without overworking yourself. A lot of us just put the quilts on the list as they come in the door or as the customers call, but this method will really put you in a bind as the holidays get closer.

If this is your first year in business, it’s very difficult to estimate how many quilts you can do in a specific amount of time, and it will take you a couple of years to figure out how many quilts you can comfortably do in that specified time period. Just try not to overestimate. It’s better to underestimate than to book too many right now. Do not try to schedule more than you can handle. Most of us don’t work well under pressure; we become frustrated, and then we begin to resent the whole process and our customers. You must set limits for yourself and stick to them! Understandably, you want to be as productive as possible and take advantage of this extra earning time, but overworking yourself only produces poor quality work, which will cost you customers in the long run. If this is your first time for a new customer, it may be the last time if you return poor quality work. Returning customers may be more understanding, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy. It may end up costing you more than you bargained for by having to refund money or do the next job at a big discount.

You also need to allow time for yourself. If you have family that will be visiting for the holidays or kids that are out of school for a couple of weeks, you need to be able to spend time with them and enjoy that time without constantly feeling guilty or feeling the need to get back to your pile of customer quilts. If you don’t allow yourself this time to enjoy your family and friends, you’ll resent your customers, and it will show in your work and your attitude toward them.

Also remember to allow time for the unexpected. Never had to set the timing on your machine? You’ll have to do it in the middle of the rush season! Never run out of needles before? It’ll happen now. It’s the nature of the beast, one of those Murphy’s Law things – whatever can go wrong will go wrong at the most inopportune time! Maybe you don’t have that perfect color of thread and you’re waiting for your order to come in the mail. And guess what? The mail gets overloaded at this time of year and slows down too! Or family or friends unexpectedly decide to come visit, or the furnace dies or the dog needs surgery. A million and one things can suddenly come up and take you away from your work. You can’t deal with those things if you’ve overbooked yourself with customers and are already frustrated.

To read more of Mindy’s tips in her Longarm Forum column in Issue 109 of The Professional Quilter, your subscription or membership in the The International Association of Professional Quilters must be current. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership here.

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