Ten Time Management Tips That Work for Me

Having trouble getting everything done each day without getting sidetracked?  Going off into a million directions and never finishing anything?  You’re not alone.

I am one of the worst people in the world to tell you how to manage time.  I’m a procrastinator.  I like doing what I like to do and tend to neglect the other stuff.  But, you can’t manage a business that way.  So I’ve created a system that works for me.

Hey, try it!  It might work for you.

1.  The Spirit of Work

Call it spirit.  Call it mindset.  Call it an established routine.  Call it whatever you like but basically it’s just making up your mind that if you won’t to succeed, you have to work.

Here is how I do it.

Since many of my orders come in overnight, I’ve created the habit of turning on the laptop while making coffee the first thing each morning.  Before even getting dressed (and this is just the opposite of those who say you have to get dressed for business in order to do business), I check and print out the orders, take care of any that have to be emailed to dropshippers before 9am, and put the others in the orders folder to be filled later that day.  Then I quickly scan through the emails, answering any important ones.  It’s hard but I avoid opening any that aren’t important until later in the day.

By now, I’m in the mood to work.  But first, I take time for breakfast and get dressed for the day.  You may think this breaks the mood.  But, for me, it just gets me moving faster. 

2.  Running To Do List

I’ve read in time management books that you should sit down each evening and create a To Do list for the next day.  Heck, by evening, that’s the last thing I want to do.  I have to have lists to remember things but I’m not a heavy-duty list maker. 

What works best for me is a “running to do list.”  As I think of something that needs to be done (including personal chores and networking meetings), I add it to the list and cross it off when completed.  I look over what’s left on the list each morning, and do the more important things first.  By the time, they are done, I move on to the more boring ones, knowing that the faster I get those things out of the way, the sooner my work day is over.  Crossing each task off when finished makes me breathe easier when the list is long.

3.  Handling Distractions and Personal Chores

This is probably easier for those of you who have an away-from-home office or retail location.  For those of us who are homebased, it is much harder. 

I try to take advantage of the benefits of working from home such as less travel time and the ability to multi-task personal with business chores (but I’ll talk about the downfall of that later). 

I can let the washing machine work its magic while I accomplish business chores and can vacuum when I need to take a break from a long work session that requires a lot of sitting.  My retired husband is probably the biggest distraction as I have to consider his schedule (or lack of one) as well.  But since he’s been retired since he was 50, we have worked out that pretty well.  But it was h#%& the first year he was home all the time.

Email is a big distraction.  I check it regularly throughout the day.  It only takes a few minutes and I don’t read the ads and other stuff that can wait.  The important bits are orders and emails from customers and my GiftBasketNetwork members.  Those are top priority.

The big advantage of working from home is that I can take time out of the middle of the day to do other things knowing that I can finish up needed chores in the evening if necessary.

As most of you know, I operate a number of website businesses.  I’ve been asked how do you fit the computer work into your day.  The answer is “I don’t”.  Ever since I was growing up in the 50’s when we had the TV on in the living room while doing homework, I’ve learned to listen to TV while working–and I do it quite well.  I have a desk with my laptop and needed files in the family room where my husband watches TV in the evening and I work on my website stuff.  If there is a program that I want to devote my full attention to (like Mystery and Masterpiece Theatre on PBS), I simply take a break and watch it.

4. Take notes and put them aside

What?  If you don’t do it now, it doesn’t get done?

Of course, you have to act on your ideas and notes but the timing is crucial.  If you act on every idea or every note you make that very minute, you’ll find yourself going off into a thousand different directions.  The end result is nothing gets done.  This is when multi-tasking is not good and just creates more problems.

So think while you work, make notes, and then act on them when you finish what you are currently working on or add them to the running to do list.

6.  Learn to Say NO!

If you agree to do everything that is asked of you, you’ll never get any work done.  People who work in offices tend to think that because you work at home, you don’t have a “real” job and can take on those chores that they don’t have time to do.

I’ve learned that if the request is not something I want to do, does not benefit me, or I don’t have time for, I politely decline.  When I explain that I have “blank number of orders that I have to get ready to ship out before the UPS man arrives”,  it helps put my “homebased business” in perspective for them.
7.  Learn to delegate and automate as much as possible.
I’m one of those folks who believe that no one can do something as well as I can.  Well, that’s a belief that I’ve had to get over.  As a result, I’ve discovered that there are people who can actually do certain things better than I could ever do.

I’m still working on this and don’t know if I will ever completely handle delegation as well as I should. . . but I’m working on it.  If you have the same problem, begin with those little tasks, like hiring a teenager to handle addressing and mailing those marketing letters or postcards.

There are times when it takes a lot of valuable time to learn how to do something that could be better spent doing those things you are good at.  Computer programs and marketing are good examples.  I learned Frontpage and Search Engine Optimization back when my business was slower and I’m glad I did as I save a lot of money by doing these things myself.  But if you don’t have the time to learn, it is a much wiser use of time and money to pay someone else to do them for you.

When I started the new website GiftRetailersNetwork.com, I knew that I wanted it to be an “authorized access only” website since it was being provided free to those in the gift and gift basket industry and I didn’t want the search engines to access the forum or other parts of it.  I could have spent days learning how to do this myself.  Instead I hired Laura at Firelight Web Studio to build it as a joomla site instead of an html site.  She was reasonable, taught me how to handle all the data entry myself, and saved me a lot of valuable time and frustration.

8.  Take Periodic Breaks

I try to break my work schedules into two-hour segments.  That’s about as long as you can concentrate effectively on one chore.  I work for roughly two hours, then get up and walk around, have something to drink, play with Delilah (my mini dachshund), or make personal phone calls.  Sometimes, I’ll take Delilah up to Buffalo Park for a walk or go do something with Ron (the wind beneath my wings).  Then, when I’m ready to get back to work, I’m refreshed and can do a better job.

9.  Create Balance

I admit it.  I’m a workaholic.  I enjoy what I do and it has a major priority in my life.  The older I get, the more I want to share all that I’ve learned about business in general, computers, and the gift basket business specifically with those who are looking for knowledge.  Most weeks, I work all seven days and you may find me on the computer at 6:00 some mornings and at 10:00 some evenings.

BUT, I do have a life and try to keep a good balance between business, family, and my own personal needs.  I’m not the typical “cookie baking” grandma but I do take time for my daughters and grandchildren.  Last Saturday, I took the whole day off and went to my grandson’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor.  Yesterday, I took the afternoon off and babysat one of my daughter’s children and foster children while one child had foot surgery.  When Ron comes home, I take the time to stop and visit with him and I usually have lunch with him each day. 

Balance is the one thing that can make the most difference in your busy life and will make the difference in how you are remembered long after you’re gone.  I really don’t care if I’m remembered by how many gift baskets I made and delivered or how many websites I created (although these things are important to me right now).  But what is more important is how my husband, daughters, and those grandkids remember the celebrations we shared, the fun we had, and the fact that I was there when they needed me.

10:  Create Your Own Time Management Techniques

When I was a young mother, I read just about every time management book and article I could find.  Some of the ideas worked for me while others used more time to manage the technique than just getting the job done.

The above are some of the ways that I organize my day, and as you can see, it’s far from organized.  It’s more about managing my time than organizing it.  This works for me.  It may not work for you.  It all depends on where you are in your life (and that changes), what your needs and responsbilities are, and what time you have left to manage.  If you’re working a full-time job outside the home, those hours are already managed for you.  All you have left to control is the time you have outside the job situation. 

If you’ve created some time management techniques/skills that work for you, I and my readers would love to hear about them.  If you’re reading this via email, you will need to go to the blog itself and post your ideas.

Extended Warranties on Your Computer — Pros and Cons

A few years ago, I bought what turned out to be the “Computer From Hell”. It was an HP 9000 Laptop. When I bought it, the store convinced me that I needed the store’s extended warranty on the machine which meant that I had two instead of one year’s warranty coverage.

Since I’ve referred to it as the “Computer from Hell”, you’re probably thinking, “It’s a good thing she bought that extended warranty.” Not so. And here is why.

During the two years that the warranties would have been active, I was still dealing with HP. Even though they make lousy computers, their warranty service was great. During that time, they repaired the computer three times and replaced it two times. Each time it was replaced, I was given a new 1-year warranty on the new machine. By the time, the HP warranties had expired, the extended warranty from Staples had expired long before. So I paid over $100 for a warranty that never really kicked in or had any value. And, yes, shortly after all the warranties expired, the last replacement died.

Extended warranties are very profitable for the companies that sell them and provide good commissions for the sales people that push them. And, of course, they are only as good as the company that sells you the warranty. If that company goes out of business, the warranty is gone as well.

Anxious to make a commission, the sales person can tell you anything, true or not. They can tell you that anything that happens to the computer will be covered when in fact damage from pouring that cup or coffee on it or dropping it may not be covered. Verbal statements cannot be enforced and most times you don’t have the opportunity to read the fine print when buying that extended warranty.

Extended warranties on that computer that are sold by the store are usually not serviced by the manufacturer but by the store’s technicians. They may not be knowledgable about certain problems with the machine and may take longer to get replacement parts. And they are usually less likely to replace the machine itself. If you feel you need an extended warranty, you are better off buying it from the computer manufacturer than from the store that sells you the product.

Most problems with computers usually occur during the first year when the original warranty is in effect. And, as fast as computer technology changes, it may not be cost-effective to extend that warranty. It all depends on how long you keep your computer equipment before upgrading and how heavy you plan to use it.

Also, check what your credit cards will do for you. Some, including American Express, will double the warranty of a purchase at no extra cost to you. Not only will you save the $100+ for an extra year’s warranty but, with the right credit card, you may receive cash back or points for airline tickets.

And what did I do when I replaced the “Computer from Hell”? I bought a business-grade (not consumer grade) laptop computer direct from Dell. And, knowing how heavy I use my computer and the problems that I had with the HP, I did add an additional extended manufacturer’s warranty. But best of all, I’m in my second year of use and haven’t had to use either warranty once! To me, the peace of mind has been worth it.

Be Honest With Green Claims – FTC Cracks Down

Being “Green” is all the rage.  Companies all over the web are claiming to be green, to sell green products, etc.  But make sure your claims are true or you could be subject to both embarrassment and fines.

According to a news flash from ASICentral: “The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged four apparel manufacturers with deceptively marketing their products as eco-friendly when the companies’ production processes were, in fact, harmful to the environment. “With the tremendous expansion of green claims in today’s marketplace, it is particularly important for the FTC to address deceptive environmental claims,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The accused companies, which use the business names of Jonäno, Mad Mod, Pure Bamboo and Bamboosa, have claimed some of their clothing products are made from bamboo fiber. Instead, the FTC says those clothes are actually made of rayon, a man-made fiber created from the cellulose found in plants and trees and processed with a harsh chemical. With its latest action, the FTC is pledging to more tightly scrutinize greenwashing, a term used to describe unsubstantiated environmental claims about products. “When companies sell products woven from man-made fibers, such as rayon,” Vladeck says, “it is important that they accurately label and advertise those products.”

To support fair advertising among manufacturers, the FTC has produced a new publication designed to help businesses properly sell clothing and textile products that are made from bamboo. For more information and for FTC compliance rules, go to: www.ftc.gov.

A Sixty-Five Year Old Marketing Campaign

smokeyWhen I first saw Smokey Bear at the Washington National Zoo, he was already ten years old and well-known to kids everywhere as the symbol of the U.S. Forest Service’s Fire Prevention campaign.

The Forest Service had begun it’s campaign in 1944 but the bear was simply one drawn by an artist specifically for the campaign.

But in 1950, a real baby bear, rescued from destruction in a New Mexico forest fire, became the office “Smokey Bear.”  This little bear, frightened, badly burned and clinging to the top of a tree became one of the most recognizable symbols in the United States.  Since his paws and legs were burned, he was first called “Hotfoot” by the firefighters.  As the story spread in the national news, little “Hotfoot” became the official “Smokey Bear”.  After his death in 1976, he was returned to his New Mexico home and buried without fanfare.

But Smokey’s story and symbol for forest fire prevention lives on.  Communities throughout Smokey Bear country are celebrating his 65th birthday this year.

What does this have to do with your business?  It demonstrates the power of capturing your audience’s emotions and imagination.  Find a symbol or something unique that has emotional appeal and you have a powerful marketing message


Using Microsoft Word to create text for your web pages?

Are you creating text in Microsoft Word and then copying and pasting it into a web page?  If so, don’t.  And here is the reason why.

Microsoft Word creates all sorts of formatting clutter in the source code of your page.  And that is not good.  It’s easy enough to get around the problem.  Some html creating programs have a Word-cleaning tool built in that you can use.  But I’ve found it much easier to just create the text in wordpad and then copy that text onto the webpage.

You want as little formatting clutter as possible in your source code.  This is just one simple way to cut down on it.