How To Be Productive With Your Limited Time

One of the things that all agency owners, freelancers, and indeed any kind of business owner is short of is time. But how do we separate being a busy fool from using our time productively?

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast,  I want to share with you five (5) ideas and strategies that will help you become more productive. Now, these are ideas that I use in my own business, and I also teach my clients so I know that they will work, and I know where they will work for you.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:57] 

How to be successful in running a business

[3:01] 

The importance of having a plan for your business

[3:56] 

5 tips to becoming more productive

[3:59] 

#1 Create a daily schedule

[6:13] 

#2 Delegate, delegate, and delegate!

[9:38] 

#3 Limit your email checking – ideally twice or 3 times a day

[12:42] 

#4 Use technology to aid your productivity

[15:46] 

#5 Create space for  ‘thinking time'

Quotations

“..remember, if you want to make a difference to how efficient you are, you've got to do something different.” - Rob Da Costa

“The golden rule is to make sure at the end of the day you have ticked off every item in your to-do list rather than just creating a longer list which feels very dispiriting and is a really typical scenario.” - Rob Da Costa

“..my favourite expression which is, ‘Slow down to speed up.’” - Rob Da Costa

“At the start, you really need to think about how you can make these ideas work for you rather than sitting there thinking why they won't work for you. You also need to be disciplined in implementing these ideas because, after all, it takes 21 days to change a behaviour. So, be determined to stick with your new strategies, and find a way of holding yourself to a count.”- Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

One of the things that all agency owners, freelancers, and indeed any kind of business owner is short of is time. But how do we separate being a busy fall from using our time productively? That's why I want to tackle in this episode of The Agency Accelerator. I want to share with you five (5) ideas and strategies that you can start using that will help you become more productive. Now, these are ideas that I use in my own business, and I also teach my clients so I know that they will work, and I know where they will work for you.

So to get the most out of this episode, listen with an open mind and figure out how you can make these ideas work for you rather than thinking you're the exception and they won't work. So let's get on with today's show. Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host agency owner and coach, Rob DaCosta. Today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast is sponsored by Cloudways. Loved by agencies around the world, Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that takes care of all the web hosting related complexities, leaving users free to focus on growing their businesses and clients.

The platform offers unmatched performance, reliability choice, and 24/7, 365 support. The act is an extension to your own team, making Cloudways the ultimate choice for growing agencies. Now, at present, Cloud Ways is offering an exclusive discount for The Agency Accelerator listeners. So visit cloudways.com and use the promo code AA20, that's AA20 to get a discount of 20% off your first three months on the hosting platform of your choice. OK on with today's show. I've always said that to be successful in running any kind of business, you need to be a great juggler, and you need to be a great juggler of three (3) key tasks.

Firstly, delivering great work for your clients. Secondly, running your business. That means staying on top of your finance, your ad men getting your invoices out on time and then thirdly, focusing on the future of your agency to ensure that you've got a consistent pipeline of new clients waiting in the wings to work with you. So that you never lurch from that awful feast to famine cycle that I've spoken about many times before. Now, whilst I appreciate many of the ideas I'm going to share with you or not groundbreaking original, I think it's always good to be reminded of what we know.

And we forgot  and all, perhaps, what we didn't know, and also to be held to account to implementing some of these ideas. And remember, if you want to make a difference to how efficient you are, you've got to do something different. You can't just hope things will change. So that's what we're covering this episode with the five (5) tips that I'm outlining. Now, let's start off by talking about the importance of having a plan, and whilst this episode isn't about planning for your agency, we've talked about that before.

You do want to make sure that the way you spend your time is driving your agency forward to delivering that plan, rather than just being a busy fall and going around in circles. So you're going to want to make sure that your daily schedule is taking steps towards delivering your monthly objectives, and they take steps to living your quarterly annual yearly plan. You need to ensure that you're getting the balance right of client delivery, business development, and planning for the future, and running your agency. That's those three (3) balls that I talked about in the introduction.

And if you get this right, then you're going to avoid feast and famine, and you're gonna have a consistent pipeline of new business whilst also do a great job your current clients, and that is going to give you an awful lot less stress, and you're going to have a clear sense of direction. So, the first tip I want to talk about is about creating a daily schedule, and my advice to you is that you plan your next day and you get a really good habit of this of planning your next day at the end of the previous day.

And then in the morning after you've reviewed your emails, you will visit your schedule for the day. And if any email actions need to be scheduled, you can put them into your plan. Now, a couple of tips here. Firstly, overestimate how long each task is going to take, because you need to be able to cope with the unexpected. All those things that you didn't know when you planned out your day, but undoubtedly will happen. So overestimate how long things will take so that give you some space to cope with the unexpected and, secondly, use a tool for scheduling.

Now I use a tool called Marvin as my daily scheduler. I find it really easy to use and it sinks with my phone, and with my diary, and I find it really, really useful now. I've got no affiliate to that, so you can use your own solution if you know one. But I'll put a link in the show notes to this toolr. And as I said, there's no affiliation. I just actually like the tall and it works really well for me, and it has timers like that sinks my diary and my phone, So it's easy to use.

You know, we all have random ideas when we're in the shower or walking the dog, and you want to be able to capture them so it all like this will enable you to do that. Now, of course, some people prefer pen and paper, and that's absolutely fine. But the golden rule about planning all days to make sure the end of the day, you have ticked off every item in your to-do list rather than having a to-do list that was even longer then it was at the start of the day, which is often what happens when people just write a long list of things to do.

They take things off and get them done. But they keep adding more and that is not a good way of keeping you motivated. And it feels really dispiriting to see list that actually ends the day longer, whereas if you do this properly and you get really disciplined about it, then you will get to the end of your day and you will see every single item ticked off on your list. You will then allocate time to plan the next day, and you just feel like you are in control. Now, on the point of having too many actions in your to-do list.

My second tip is to delegate, delegate, and delegate. So, we need to focus on our superpower. That's the thing that you are really great at doing, and most importantly, only you can do because, of course, we think we're great at doing everything. But what the things that only you can do, and they usually look like being the figurehead for your agency, creating that plan and doing business development, and we want to get someone to support it with a lot of those other tasks, so a lot of your admin task can be outsourced.

If you're just starting out or you're one person agency, then get yourself a virtual assistant. Obviously, if you've got a team, you can start delegating more. But one thing I would say about delegation is we need to break those stories that we tell ourselves that stop us delegating. You know, I haven't got time to show, but someone it's quicker to do it myself. They won't do it as well as me. Those air holes, just stories that stop us delegating it and you're asking yourself the wrong question because it should never be while they do it as well as me, because the answer will always be ‘No,’ of course it should be, will they do it well enough to do a good job? And the answer will become ‘Yes,’ if you think that way, but just challenge yourself when you're thinking. It's fine talking about delegation, but it takes me so long to show someone how to do something than it does to do it myself. Well, sure it does in the first couple of times, but after that they'll be able to take that piece of work off your plate. So this is a really good example of my favourite expression, which is “Slow down to speed up.”

Just delegate, if it effectively to somebody, make sure you're really clear. Make sure they understand what's expected of them. Make sure they understand the deadline. Make sure they understand what the output is. And if you slow down to articulate that really carefully, then they'll do a good job. Whereas if you delegate poorly, which is what a lot of people do because you kind of know what you want them to do in your head. But you don't communicate that very well. Then, of course they're gonna fail, and then you're gonna perpetuate their stories, which was all well, I knew they wouldn't be able to do what I might do it myself.

And I've suffered from that myself in the past, and I really challenge myself on that. And now I have a really good set up of project managers, and content writers, and social media schedulers, and podcast EPT editors and video editors that are supporting the running of my business. Now doesn't mean I have a huge team. It just means that I use a virtual assistant who uses some other people to get all these things done. So I'm liaising with, like the project manager in the neck, getting other specialists to do that work now.

One thing that I've done that works really well is I have documented my standing up standard operating procedures. So how to upload a podcast? How to edit a podcast, how to upload an email, just showing the people that I'm delegating to exactly how to do it. And I've also shot short videos, so that they could go back and watch these videos, and that just makes their learning much quicker. And it saves me having to repeat myself a number of times, and I use Loom, L-O-O-M, which is a fantastic tool and it's free, and I just shoot short video showing someone have to log on to a particular piece of software, or how to edit, or whatever it is.

So, that is definite example of slowing down to speed up. Document what you want someone to do. Delegate it carefully and they will do it. But just remember that my second tip is to delegate, and that you need to focus on your superpower. And let's move on to my third tip, which is a bit of a motive one, and that is to do with your emails. Now. I think we should all be limiting our email, checking ideally to twice, or maybe three times a day.

So first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and in the evening. Now I can hear your screaming as I say this and your thinking ‘Listen, I can't possibly do that. My clients expect a much quicker response,’ and sure they do. But you need to do two things here. You need to train your clients, so that they understand that if something's urgent, they will call you, or they will use some kind of other messaging like Whatsapp. And you need to explain to clients when they start working with you and other team members, how you check your email.

So, explain that you're only check your emails three times a day. And in between that, turn your out of office messaging on to explain: “I'm not at my desk at the moment. I check my email three times a day. I'll get back to you as soon as possible.”  So you're managing expectations. And, of course, with new clients you can tell them this at the beginning. We are, I think, completely addicted to emails. And I think this is why this tip is such an emotive one, because people like to feel needed.

They like seeing that little outlook dialogue box peeing up in the corner of the screen. But it is such a distraction. We’re like, you know, we're losing that battle against all these apps and tools that are fighting for our attention. We're losing the battle. So if you want to get focused, if you want to be efficient, then just check your email three times a day and otherwise turn your outlook off and sender, put you out of office on and explain to your client. And the other thing I would really recommend to do even if you won't do what I just said is to turn that dialogue box off, go into your settings, and where it says notifications, turn off the one that says ping up every time an email comes in because it's so distracting.

And if you're trying to focus on doing a complex piece of work, like writing a proposal or getting ready for a presentation or developing a new product, and you're seeing these boxes opinion in the corner, they're just a big distraction. And it will take you so much longer to get that deep thinking piece of work done than it would if you turned off those notifications and didn't get distracted. I think a really good aspiration that we should all strive toward is to get our inbox down to zero at the end of every day, and you even might wanna have your VA give her first pass of your email so that they can identify the important ones that you need to respond to.

And there are also lots of really great email management tools that will automatically filter your emails for you and put them into different folders. And one of those tools that I use is called SaneBox and again, no affiliation to this. I just like it. So I put a link in the show notes to that as well. And what that does is you set up some certain rules and it will filter your emails, so that you know the ones that you need to attend to today, and there might be once that kind of like information or emails that you might want to read in the future, and it will automatically follow them for you. That's a good way of managing this because we should all aspire to get our in boxes down to zero. Tip number four is an overarching tip, which is to use technology to aid your productivity. Such as SaneBox and Marvin I've already talked about. But what other tasks can you automate? While there are tools like Zero for accounting and bookkeeping, which has personally made my life so much easier, and the time that I now spend a bookkeeping which, to be honest, is not my favourite thing to do has probably been halved because it just works in a more intuitive way, connects it'll bank account he just makes that process easier.

So let's just think about some other tools that you could use as well. So from a communications perspective for project management perspective, I use Asana. But you can also use Trello or Monday, and these are just good tools for communicating with teams, especially when you are working remotely. Or you're using people in different countries or even just for yourself project managing, so that you stay on top of stuff and you can get alerted when you need to do things, you don't drop the ball, so that's project management and communication.

I use Grammarly for all of my email content, like it's like a first past spelling and grammar check, which is super useful. I use Google Drive for sharing content with my team. And from a social media perspective, I use Buffer, but you confuse things like Hootsuite so that you can schedule and send out posts on all the various different platforms you use without manually having to do that. I use LastPass for my password management, and I'm sure most of this is familiar to you.

But the last two really good tips from a productivity perspective on that is that I use voice to text for all of my writing. So I use on Mac. You just set up a key that when you press brings up the microphone, and I speak my content first of all, because that is much faster and it gets the content would be much quicker. But it also captures my tone of voice, and I take this approach of write fast, edits slow, so that is a really great way of writing quickly.

So that's what another tip and then the last tip, which I've already mentioned his use Loom to record videos. Now, I use Loom to do some training with my team so that they could get up to speed quickly and have a reference. But I often will use Loom when I'm replying to clients as well. So the client has said, ‘Hey, Rob, what do you think about this? Or can you look at this for me?’ I will usually do it in read real time, startling video and review their email, all the content they've sent over in real time and then just send them an email back. Now that's much quicker for me.

Andi also create a lot more engagement. Imagine if you've got a prospect who has reached out to you, and rather than just sending them a long email. The first thing you do is send them a video going. ‘Hey, Jane, it's really great to meet you. Thanks for your email, had a quick look at our website, and this is what I think.’ And if they receive a video like that, then it just is a great way of building that kind of connection that relationship quickly with your client.

So that's tip number four, which is all about using technology to aid your productivity. And my last tip, tip number five, is to give yourself some time and space to have some thinking time now. Thinking time is something that I teach myself running agency members. And it's one of the first things we cover when people join the programme and it just give you the time, and the space to plan, to think, and to take that high level view off your business so that when you launch back into the detail doing your stuff, you know that you're focused on the tasks that will move you forward.

Thinking time also gives you the opportunity to be creative, and to focus on the future. And that might include things like new products and services. And it certainly gives you the time and the space to think about how you could be more efficient in the things that you do. Now, we are so stuck on that client service Hamster Wheel of Doom, where we're running 100 miles an hour just to keep up, and we start a day with 100 emails. We've got too many things on our to-do list.

We got too many demands on us. And if we don't create space to do some thinking time, then we're just never going to break that cycle. Now the secret to thinking time is to do it every day, and to do it at the point in the day when you're most alert and your most creative. So scheduling some thinking time, for example straight after you've eaten a heavy lunch might not be the best idea. But if you're a morning person like me, then start off your day with half an hour thinking time to plan, to problem solve, and to create.

This is definitely a key strategy to avoiding being a busy fall, and to ensure that you're spending your limited time on the things that will genuinely drive your agency forward. Okay, so those are the five key strategies that I wanted to share with you today. I know that they're not groundbreaking, but hopefully they've reminded you of some things that you may have forgotten. Or maybe you've learned some new things, and I would definitely recommend that you implement these five (5) things into your agency. So number one was creating a daily schedule.

Number two was as soon as you can possibly do this, start delegating, even if that means hiring a VA for a couple of hours a week to start with. Number three was only look at your emails 2-3 times a day, and turn off your dialogue box, and put you out of office on the other times, and explain to your clients when you're available, and obviously tell them it's urgent. They can call you on work towards inbox zero. Number four was to use productivity tools to get you as efficient as possible, and to automate tasks and to improve communications. And then number five was to allow some daily thinking time to plan, and to problem solve, and to create.

Now, as I said at the start, you really need to think about how you can make these ideas work for you rather than sitting there thinking why they won't work for you. You also need to be disciplined in implementing these ideas because, after all, it takes 21 days to change a behaviour. So, be determined to stick with your new strategies, and find a way of holding yourself to a count. Of course, reward yourself when you do those things. Now, if you want to learn more about this then I have a suite of e-books and cheat sheets to help you with mindset, with productivity delegation, and time management.

And they are all part of my productivity pack, which is free, and I'll put a link in the show notes, so that you can grab them. But I hope you found today's episode useful, and I will be back with you next Thursday for our next guest interview on The Agency Accelerator Podcast. And if you haven't ordered it, please hit the subscribe button, and please consider leaving a review on Apple podcast because it helped me reach a wider audience like you. Other than that have a great week and I'll see you next week.

    Rob Da Costa

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