Operating under quarantine has forced us into changing our behaviors. For many, the first behavior was paralysis.
As our new situation becomes the new norm, many have returned to a base level of productivity. However, it has become more difficult than ever to differentiate between "effectiveness" and "staying busy."
This is evermore true for solo practitioners and consultants who have neither someone to keep them accountable, nor a team to manage. When we operate alone, we lack the cyclical motivation of a united force.
In this post, I will explore how those operating as independent consultants can use their time effectively, even without an accountability partner.
Principles of Time Management under Quarantine
There are four core principles to time management under quarantine. I have taught these principles before quarantine and will continue to after we get through the current pandemic. Nonetheless, they're no longer a recommendation. They're required if you want to find healthy success.
- Focus on effective time
- Understand that non-work time counts
- Limit how long you work
- Refocus your energy
Focus on Effective Time
To be effective, you must know what end result you are striving for. This is at the core of the definition of "effectiveness."
What is it that you are looking to accomplish with your business? You need clear goals to understand what you strive for. Identify these goals at multiple levels: your long-term vision that shows where you want to be years from now, your goals for the current year, and your quarterly objectives.
Having explicitly defined objectives allow you to use them as heuristics for decision-making in your day-to-day. Does this activity take me closer to one of my goals? If the answer is no, look to delegate or remove that activity.
Effective time is that which moves you closer to achieving an objective. Be ruthless in your decisions to cut out excess activities that don't feed your core business. Removing the unnecessary is how you become effective.
Understand that Non-Work Time Counts
Particularly when under stress and in uncertain conditions, we need to be mindful of our overall health. When effectiveness is our driving time management lever, we need to be as healthy as possible. Effectiveness requires a certain level of physical, intellectual and mental fitness.
You should have dedicated non-work time in your calendar. This is development time that makes you more effective in your professional life and an overall more complete, healthier person.
The three areas to focus on are your physical health, your intellectual health, and your mental health. Identifying how you will develop each area is a personal decision, but dedicated time each day to these areas is something I can confidently prescribe.
Limit How Long You Work
As entrepreneurs, we are used to working ourselves tirelessly. It can almost be shameful to not work excessive hours. Many of us hold ourselves to a high standard.
Nevertheless, I urge you: don't work too much.
If you focus on effectiveness, you should be able to get more quality work done in a day than you previously have in a week in times that you were negligent with your time and accepting of distractions.
I recommend four hours of intense work per day. I do this four days a week, with Fridays reserved as non-intensive work/personal days. (Mondays are also less intense and more "ramping-up" days.)
Refocus Your Energy
This is the perfect time to rethink your business. The world is changing as consumer behavior rapidly goes through digitization. Zoom calls are normal. Working with local vendors exclusively is archaic. Being under quarantine simply accelerated these changes, but we must adapt.
Look at your business model today: who your target market is, the services you provide, the value offered, how you communicate, how you service clients, how you earn revenues, and what your costs are. What can be reimagined?
The business models of yesterday can inform us but shouldn't bind us. Consider what your business would look like if you never could meet with a client again. Map out how the relationship would change and what you would need to do to maintain effectiveness.
Change should be welcomed, no matter how much uncertainty it introduces.
Calibrating Your Business for Today's Markets
To have a successful solo-consulting practice today requires you to adjust how you operate. As indicated in this article, if you want to recalibrate your business to be successful today, it starts with you and how you manage your time.
You are in an intellect-heavy business. Intellect development and use are dependent on how you invest your time. Be mindful of where your time and energy go, as it is your most valuable resource.
For more on managing your time, read my article on best practices for planning your days.