I’m a Productivity Guru, I Swear.
“I’m an efficiency expert!”
I proclaim that statement boastfully in a braggadocios manner, and I do so often. Truthfully though, I’m really not an expert; I’m just someone with limited time and a giant workload — so I’m forced to get shit done as efficiently as humanly possible. I consider my time management skills to be crucial to my success.
“Decline. Delegate. Defer.”
I’ve been practicing this subconsciously for years before I heard the quote from an industry leader Matt Radicelli, owner of RTH Group — one of the largest DJ & Event Production companies in the United States. Obviously there are some things that you yourself need to do. There’s no avoiding tasks that are either too important to delegate, or too minute to explain to someone else how to do them.
Some of what I do is helped by apps and automation, a lot of it isn’t. I’m a HUGE believer in that if something can be automated without taking away too much of a human touch, it should be. If you’re regularly sending out similar emails to clients X amount of days prior to their event — find a way to automate it. If you can set up an automated sales funnel that doesn’t sound too robotic or unauthentic, do it. In my mind, automated emails are 10,000 times better than being too busy to send an email, thus missing important event details or client notes. Most CRM systems have this feature built in. If yours does, take advantage of it!
You Need A Routine
If you’re a solopreneuer, you can call it a routine. If you’re leading a corporation or team, you can call them systems or processes. While I do manage a team of 15+ employees, I’m going to focus on my personal routine — some of which are tied to our companies systems and processes.
Wake up earlier.
This can be tough. If you’ve got a family, chances are kids will wear you out. It can be a giant challenge to not smash the snooze button on your phone or alarm clock. In my case, when I actually set an alarm my neighbors can hear my wallowing cries of “Alexa, stop!”. But waking up earlier than you do right now gives you personal time to focus, especially if you have a family. Imagine having an hour, or even a half hour to yourself every morning. Now imagine using this time to map out your day, and set up a plan to achieve your goals and tasks for that day. It’s pretty damn awesome, and coupled with a fresh Chemex of hand dripped coffee, I feel energized for the day. As crazy as this may sound, I DESPISE alarm clocks and rarely set one unless it’s absolutely necessary. Typically I’ll wake up on my own in between 5:30AM and 6:00AM (and sometimes I randomly will wake up at 8:30AM). I guess you can call this one of the benefits of being your own boss.
As mentioned in the paragraph above, when you wake up earlier — do something for you. You can do anything that helps clear your mind for the day ahead. Personally, I like to do three things;
1. Focused breathing. Don’t call it meditation. I like to wake up, lay in bed for three minutes and just breathe in and out. I focus on things I’m grateful for, successes of the prior day. People I want to send good vibes to. Let your mind wander, but be aware of your surroundings. Don’t knock it until you try it.
2. Cleaning up. Once I’m officially out of bed, I take 15–20 minutes to tidy up around the house. It might be doing some laundry, it might be cleaning up the kitchen, but I typically focus on one area a day and this keeps my place from being an absolute disaster zone. In fact, typically cleaning up in the morning proactively keeps my place pretty neat overall and keeps me from spending an entire day once a weekend cleaning up.
3. Coffee & Reading. This is where I take a few minutes to zone out and allow myself to dive into social media & news. If I’m not in the mood to peruse Facebook or Instagram I’ll do some writing. Other times I create or add to my “to-do” list for the day. (I’ll dive more into when and how I create my to-do lists in a little bit)
My routine varies from day to day, but there is a rhyme and reason. I personally like to tackle all of the minutia on Monday. Unless absolutely necessary I do not take meetings on Mondays. I load my Mondays with office work, financial stuff, social media planning, marketing, emails; you name it. The name of the game is to set up the rest of the week for sales, meetings, business development and last but not least — music! (I am a DJ after all)
There are secrets.
The apps I use are app-solutely essential to my productivity, time management and sanity. Here are a handful of my absolute musts.
- DJ Event Planner
This app is the core of my businesses operation. Without it, we would not be able to exist at the scale we do. It’s features include everything from CRM, Calendar Management, Digital Signatures, Employee Logins, Client Logins, Automated Emails, Inventory Management. Is it perfect? No. But is it damn close? Yes.
To simply say what a time saver this app is would be a giant understatement. Our company hands over pre-event client meetings to the lead DJ. This allows clients and their DJ to build rapport and get to know one another prior to the event. Prior to Calendly we would spend a painstaking amount of time bouncing meeting times back and forth. We now have a company portal setup through Calendly that allows my team to pre-set their meeting availability times. Clients can then visit our portal, select their DJ and a time to meet. It then goes on both the client and DJs calendar and the meeting is set and confirmed. Automation is great!
Timepage is more or less a beautifully designed calendar app for iOS. It’s simple, it’s sexy, it includes the weather and if you’ve got to travel to whatever is on your calendar it alerts you based on that time — this includes both street travel and airport travel.
Email is a straight up chore. The second you clear your inbox, the replies start flowing back in. I shouldn’t complain. A busy inbox typically means a full calendar which in turn means revenue. But sitting down and answering emails — or ticking away at your phone’s keyboard can seem like a never ending task. If you’re like me, emails that sit in your inbox give you extreme anxiety. (Let’s not talk about the people that have a red bubble with 999,999 unread messages) I like Airmail for it’s ability to defer emails that aren’t urgent. If you get an email that can be answered tomorrow, you can reschedule it. If you have an email that includes a to-do you can reschedule it to the date it needs to be done. Another bonus is that it syncs across devices, which is super handy since I’m constantly flipping from my iPhone to my iPad to my iMac.
The honest truth? I don’t use Asana personally. I do require my assistant to use it to manage tasks. I’m a huge Basecamp fan, and I miss the hell out of it. But I refuse to use Basecamp until they add recurring to-dos. It infuriates me that they don’t. Asana includes this feature which is why I chose it to replace Basecamp (at least for the time being)
Born out of Google Labs, Dialpad is our office and virtual phone system. It’s an amazing product. Dialpad offers traditional desk phones which we use, and it also works virtually via it’s app to turn your smartphone into an office line. It includes texting and a whole host of super smart features and call rules. I’m a huge fan.
It’s not cheap, but HeyOrca is hands down the EASIEST and most INTUITIVE way to develop and collaborate on a social media plan. As an added bonus it also schedules posts. Why is it so amazing? For starters, they offer a calendar view of your upcoming posts. Also, they show an actual graphical mockup of what the post will look like. There’s also some really cool collaboration tools that are exclusive to their platform. If you handle social media for your business on a large scale, or if you’re doing agency work I cannot recommend this software highly enough.
To-do lists. I actually use pen and paper to create my to-do lists — there’s just something gratifying to me about taking pen to paper and crossing off a a task. I usually create my to-do list for the next day at the end of my work day.
These apps, my routines and a ton of coffee help keep me on track and allow me to focus on creative work and personal time. This is no means a definitive list, and my process is constantly evolving. I’d love to see some comments from other from business owners on what they’re doing to stay sane in the realm of time management.