A friend call me today to tell me she wants to do more networking to further her career. She has come up with a great idea for workshops she wants to offer, and now she wants to go out and meet the right people to hire her.
I could certainly relate to her ambition. However, my friend has four children under the age of 10, which limits her free time and challenges her work life balance.
The first thing I told her is that she needs to figure out how much time each week she can devote to networking and she must get a clear idea of who she considers her ideal business target. Figuring that out takes some honest contemplation, a marketing plan, and a hard look at her weekly schedule. I told her she likely will need to take some existing tasks off her schedule if she wants to make time for networking.
"What? Take something off my schedule?" she asked me, surprised at my suggestion. She confessed she didn't know where to begin. My friend's scenario is common. It's easy to say we want to do more of something - spend more time networking, hanging out with family, prospecting new customers - but taking tasks off our schedule to make it happen gets tricky. My conversation with my friend inspired me to create a guide for how to take tasks off your schedule. So, here are my five tips for how to do it.
- Take a really hard look at where you spend your time.
Often, we waste hours on tasks like browsing Facebook or checking email. It's easy to fill up time when you don't have a plan. Those wasted hours are the ones you want to take off your schedule. You then can use that time for your high priority tasks.
2. Know where you have flexibility and where you don't.
Be honest with yourself about what tasks you choose to do and which you must to do to keep your work life balance and your sanity. Know where you have flexibility in your schedule, and where you don't. A friend insisted she be the one to pick her child up from daycare at 5 p.m. It led to numerous confrontations with her boss. When she finally agreed to let her mother pick up her child, taking that one task off her scheduled alleviated her stress level and improved her workplace relationships.
3. Figure out what you need to accomplish, and what you can outsource.
Can you get someone else to do the driving to and from your children's soccer games? Can you ask an assistant in your office to take over making copies? Can your spouse drive your child to school so you can go to morning networking breakfasts? Many successful networkers have the time to devote to it because they are awesome outsourcers.
4. Decide which tasks no longer have the meaning they once did.
My friend is on the board of her local library. She has decided there are other, less time consuming ways to be involved with the library. She has decided not to continue after her term is up. That will free up time for her to network in new ways and new places.
5. Get creative.
Technology creates the ability to do things differently, from paying bills to managing our calendars to sending certain email directly into folders. By automating some of the things we do, we can take them off our schedules.
The key to better time management is being honest with ourselves about how we spend our time, and being willing to make trade offs. Fall is one of the busiest times of the year. As you consider taking more on, it may be the ideal time to take stuff off your schedule, too.