It’s the Little Things That Matter, But Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Business

Time and time again, we hear, “It’s the little things that matter.” And that’s a beautiful thing…well, usually anyway!To Do List

As a solopreneur, sometimes little things – minutiae and little non-urgent tasks set aside for later – threaten to distract from and inhibit productivity on the things that matter in a BIG way to your business. It’s those nagging, need-to-eventually-do-but-not-today thorns in the side that for some reason creep into mind when your focus should be on far more meaningful work.

Generally, one or two unattended little things (examples: thank you cards that need to be sent, logging business mileage, reviewing profiles of new Twitter followers, etc…) don’t create too much of a problem, but it’s when you’ve got three or four or five or more that start boggling your brain simultaneously that you’ll run into a foggy situation.

And working from an in-home office adds even more opportunity for derailment as personal obligations can sneakily find their way into the mix. Ahhh, the perks and pitfalls of a collocated home/work environment!

So how do you put the little things “out of sight, out of mind” and regain focus? The way I see it, you’ve got two options…

  • Take care of them immediately as they surface. Great in theory, but in practice it could fragment your days and constantly interrupt your real work.

or

  • Document, prioritize and plan to tackle them. This, in my opinion, is the way to go! Keep an ongoing and independent to do list (perhaps in Evernote) of all the non-urgent things that find their way into your day, every day. Give a “*” to any that you deem of higher priority than the others. Then set aside a chunk of time on your calendar each week specifically for knocking out the tasks (especially the * items) that you’ve collected on your list.

By writing the little things down and officially putting them on your schedule, you’ll liberate your mind from toiling to remember them – and you’ll be free to zero in on what’s most important to your business. So, appreciate the little things, but don’t sweat the small stuff!

Your turn! What’s worked best for you in managing all the little, non-urgent tasks on your plate? Do you ever find your mind wandering to those unattended items when you should be focused on other projects and more meaningful work?


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Not Enough Time? 5 Steps To Finding Out If You’re As Strapped As You Think You Are

Not too terribly long ago, I wrote a post about how to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the many responsibilities that come with being a small business owner

Time. Although I typically do really well at juggling all my obligations, I must confess to you that, at one point last week, I felt completely at capacity and stressed. It lasted for about a day and a half until I finally snapped out of my “poor me persona”. At that point, I decided to remove myself emotionally from the situation and enter into “the zone” (the analytical zone, that is) to find out if I was really as strapped for time as I thought I was. I’ll share the results in a bit, but first here’s the exercise, step-by-step, that I recommend you follow if you’re ever feeling backed up against the wall.

Step 1: Calculate how many hours are in a week. Heck, I’ll do it for you: There are 168. It’s the same for you, me and everyone else on the planet.

Step 2: List the major categories of responsibilities, commitments and tasks that are part of your world. Mine went like this:

  • My freelance work (billable and non-billable projects & tasks)
  • My volunteer work (SCORE Lancaster, Downtown Ephrata, Inc, Girl Scouts, church)
  • Family & friends (helping with homework, recreational activities, hanging out…)
  • Sleep
  • Tasks on the home front (cooking, cleaning…)
  • Working out

Step 3: Write down how many hours weekly you devote to each item on your list. In some cases – such as family and sleep – you might want to write down how many hours you want to spend rather than how many you’re currently carving out.

Step 4: Calculate your weekly total: Add up the hours you’re spending on all of the responsibilities you listed.

Step 5: Determine if you have enough time for it all. Subtract your weekly total in Step 4 from the 168 hours in Step 1. That’s how many hours you have remaining each week after you’ve taken care of all your obligations.

I’m venturing to guess that your final calculation left you with more hours than you thought you had. To my surprise, I found that I have about 15 hours of time that’s unspoken for each week. It sure doesn’t feel that way! Which leads me to question, “Why?” Although I haven’t completely figured that out yet, I’m sure it has something to do with room for efficiency in scheduling my work and staying focused on tasks at hand rather than succumbing to distractions that interrupt productivity.

I’ll be working on that, but for now, I’m feeling much more in control knowing that I do have time to do all the things I have my sights set on.

My hope is that doing the math will give you peace of mind, too!

How much time did find that you didn’t know you had? If you ended up in the negative, what will get shoved off your plate first?

The Biggest Myth in Time Management by Peter Bregman via Harvard Business Review

Four CEOs’ Tips On Managing Your Time via The Wall Street Journal

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Consider joining the Dialing 8 Project! A forum for learning, sharing & getting the most out of your social media efforts for your small business.

Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net