Ask Dale is a way I can give back and help others. So the other day I decided to answer your questions. This is a tool I will use to create valuable tips for YOU based on YOUR NEEDS, not mine. Feel free to Ask Dale anything related to business and I will answer you personally or get an expert in that area to provide an answer for your question.
Okay Dale, I'm great at what I do, but not great at getting the word out. Managing all my projects is a real challenge so there is little time for marketing and social media and writing and just finding time to have coffee with colleagues. How do I "project manage" myself?
Tina, congratulations on working your tail off, creating part of the fabric of business, and living the American Dream! Small businesses fuel America, but how can we ever be a part of this fueling if we find it difficult to Manage Time or Manage Ourselves as Solopreneurs.
So let me address a few things I noticed from your question…
You mentioned "you are great at what you do". This is awesome and certainly the first piece of the pie. Keep up the great work! Without a quality product or service we can never be successful and reach our dreams. In this same sentence you mention "but not being great at getting the word out". Yes, this can be a challenge, but "getting the word out" is very important. Without continual cash flow a business is dead. Trust me, I know this all too well from several rough years.
You then jump into talk about "operations" (managing your projects), "marketing" (social media, and writing), and "socializing" or "networking" or "sales" (having a coffee with colleagues). So I am not sure what you meant in this statement, but I'll try to answer you based on what I am reading. Feel free to correct me in the comments if I head down a wrong path.
First Operations is HUGE! You obviously have to service customers or you will not get paid. I would recommend setting up a time for Operations and commit some 50% of your time to customer "delivery work". I may even try to schedule it when it's easy for you. I would then try to schedule another time slot for sales & marketing (25% of your time). I am a morning person and most productive at that time, so for me, I would recommend mornings to get the hard work done. You obviously need to find the time where you can be most productive at things. The other 25% of your time I would recommend working ON the business.
I would challenge you too, to evaluate what it takes to "get the word out". Marketing is a long-term investment and takes a longer time to get results. If you are looking for quick wins then sales is where your best efforts lay. Depending upon how long your sales cycle is, you should be able to land new business in 30, 60, 90 days after kicking off a formal sales program. Here is an article that might be helpful:
As for being able to "Project Manage Yourself"… this is tough, but can be done. I tried to help by creating a healthy mix of allotted time for your days/weeks - 50% of your time servicing customers, 25% of your time used for sales & marketing, and 25% of your time used towards building your business (working on the business). Adjust these times as needed, but this might be a good place to start.
Start by creating a list of all the things that need to get done (only the most important things). Then create an excel or Google sheets document with your list of items on the left and your days across the top. Then give each item on the list a numerical value (1 for regular items and 5 for highly weighted or important items). Break all these items out and start scheduling out your week/days. Then create a total number you need to hit each day.
So for example I use a tool like this to manage my sales activity. Writing a blog article is 1 point, each LinkedIn activity is 1 point, scheduling a meeting with a prospect might be 5 points because this is more important. So my daily activity is 50 points and I try to hit this goal each day. That means I need to self-manage myself to hit these goals and either do 50 single things or try to do more important things like 6 scheduled sales calls (30 points) and 20 other single point items.
Basically this creates my daily dashboard and makes it easier to Self-Manage my sales activities. Over time you also start to flush out what are the most important activities to be doing daily/weekly. This Dashboard with a numerical daily value might help you understand when you are off or missing your goals. It also helps you know when you are getting sidetracked and need to refocus. here is an example of a weekly dashboard.
Here is an old article I wrote on a more simplified approach to the same thing. Again this is based on sales, but you can customize to to fit your needs:
Self-Management can be tough. For my sales efforts I am best when I have someone helping me manage myself/activities. For my business I needed someone that was able to help in areas where I was weak. I talked to a local business coach that I thought would want to help or share some thoughts on this topic, but he seemed too busy. He may not be the right guy for you, but there are a ton of business coaches out there in all areas, depending upon where you need the most help. If tip #1 is too hard then you MUST find an Accountability Partner or Business Coach to help you out. I know this is an added expense and that in a small business money is always tight, however this is money well spent.
At my most successful times in business, I had an accountability partner with me even when I was the only employee. I would try doing a search on Google, a search on LinkedIn, and asking people you trust to recommend a good person for you. This can be a big deal. Think of professional athletes, they have… a team coach, but often have special coaches for each area too (batting coaches in baseball, swinging coaches in golf, defensive coaches in football, etc.). My point is this… these sports stars become great by getting a coach that helps them do what they are GREAT at, even better! The right coach will do the same for you. Here are some links for more info:
Sometimes we struggle because we are not good business people or do not understand business. Again, I have been there, done that, and got the T-Shirt. In my case my business was out of control because I had no way to manage anything. I recommend reading Get A Grip and Traction. These two books changed my business life forever and gave me ways to simplify, document and manage everything I need to run my business. Not to mention getting highly-focused on only the most important things that are needed to run my business.
This is not an overnight solution that fixes things instantly, but if you implement the EOS process these two books talk about, you will create extreme focus and powerful management tools that may free up more time so you can schedule your coffee with colleagues.
Do you have a question you haven't been able to get an answer to? Would you like professional advice, but scared to ask because you do not want to fight off a sales person? Well then try to ASK DALE, I'll do my best to get you a professional answer by myself or one of my connections that is an expert in that area of business that your question is discussing.
Tina Johnson is a Psychotherapist and Master Career Counselor specializing in career development, mental health, educational consulting, stress management, and work/life integration. Her primary focus is working with adolescents and young adults in helping them find direction, in life and career. Too many of our young people are not prepared for college and beyond. Preparing early will save energy, time, and MONEY.