"You must master your time rather than becoming a slave to the constant flow of events and demands on your time. And you must organize your life to achieve balance, harmony, and inner peace."
Looking back through the SCU archives I found this post from several years ago and the topic this time of year is so relevant! Just because it's the "slow season" doesn't mean there's nothing to do. This is the perfect time to look at everything you do in support of your business.
For so many years imaging workflow has been a hot topic, but what about your business flow? I'm referring to the day in day out process of making decisions, answering correspondence, talking with customers and managing everything that comes across your desk or computer.
So, here a few quick tips:
1) The best advice I was ever given was "handle each piece of paper only once!" Put that in contemporary terms and it means read the email, make a decision on whatever needs to be done and get on with your life. Dump it or archive it, but do NOT delay dealing with the question, request or issue in the email. Do not save it on your desktop to address later unless there really is some research needed before you answer.
I worked for somebody once who just couldn't make decisions. His philosophy was, why decide today, when it can wait until tomorrow? Sure, there are times when you have to give a decision ample time to review all the options, but this was on everything. He'd put everything off, ponder the meaning of life and as a result we often missed some great opportunities.
Today's market waits for nobody. We're an instant fulfillment society and often not answering somebody mimics the "Can you hear me now" attitude of a Verizon commercial. Silence is not a strategy and delaying an answer is often perceived as negative. "No news is good news" just doesn't hold water today.
2) Prioritize your daily activities. I'm not sure where life turned around on me, but I used to wake up, have some breakfast and then go to the computer. These days I love to hit Facebook and Twitter right while I'm fresh, and then when I've done the things I need to do in social media Sheila and I have breakfast together. Look at the things you need to do every day and get yourself into a pattern. Once my thoughts for the day are more organized I go to the blog and then to my email. If everything on the site is working right, I can then start on whatever projects I have in the pipeline.
3) Call people back! If somebody made an effort to call you and you weren't available, get back to them ASAP. The same goes for email. Make everything in your business that's related to communication a priority. If you schedule clients during the day then do the same with your outgoing phone calls.
4) Make marketing a priority! Part of your workflow needs to include time for developing your marketing plan along with new projects to keep your creative juices flowing. But, it needs to be something you do for a little time EVERY day. Start by building a list of ideas on things to build a stronger brand. It doesn't matter how random an idea might be. Keep building on the list each day and at other times work on ways to expand some of the concepts in more detail.
5) Be a lunch slut! I've often referred to myself as the biggest lunch slut in the photo industry! Here's what I love about lunch - unless you're flat out on a project that won't let you take a break, you're going to need to eat. So, why not do it with a friend or an associate? Why not use the conversation time over lunch to not only catch up, but bounce a few ideas off of new ears? You listen to yourself all day long, but you don't get the same response as the expression on somebody's face listening to a good or bad idea when they're sitting across from you. So, add lunch once a week with somebody out of the office to your priority list and workflow.
6) Archive it - File it - Get rid of it! Being a pack rat is fine, but when you've completed something get it off your desk and away. It will accomplish nothing to have stacks of papers or tons of handled emails staring at you all the time. You need to clear space on your hard drive in your computer and in your head.
7) Keep a journal or diary...I'm not talking about the diary everyone's sister had in fifth grade, but a simple notebook of things you work on during the day, notes from phone calls etc. I've found it really helpful to keep a spiral notebook on my desk and when it's full I start another one. I can already see those of you who are iphone addicts rolling your eyes, but for me it still works better to write out the information long hand rather than load it into my computer. I remember it better if I've written it down instead of typing it.
While there are lots of impressive programs like Evernote, I'm still not quite there. For those of you who are a whole lot more progressive in this stuff than I am, it's definitely worth checking out. I love to hand-write everything, including a giant whiteboard over my desk.
8) Last but not least, recess and nap times were terrific when we were little kids, but how come we forgot about them when we got older? You need a break now and then, so take it! You don't have to have a little rug to sleep on like you did in kindergarten, but pulling your brain out of the daily routine for a few minutes and going to "recess" will definitely help you get organized. Seriously, haven't we learned anything from our kids? Recess should be an adult concept, not just for elementary school. I want a bell to ring around 10:00 every morning and it should be mandatory that I walk outside and play with the other "kids" for at least fifteen minutes! (I think I might be on to something!)
The bottom line is stop procrastinating. This is the perfect time to be working on building a stronger foundation for your business in the year ahead. And, if you want to grab lunch let me know!