Lessons learned from the bacon timer.
Timing and focus mean a lot in business. The time and attention you put into your business can determine its success or failure. While multi-tasking is often necessary, it’s not a badge of honor nor should it be your desired work trait. I find when I try to do too many things at once, the bacon burns. And while the tweet got tweeted, the homework got check and the email got sent, with my focus being spread thinly across many tasks, frequently small disasters ensue and I end up with a crispy, crusty mess.
Personal: Breakfast on Saturday mornings.
We have bacon from time to time as a treat. I’ll also make French toast for breakfast, grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas for lunch to go with other items while trying to get the house cleaned from the week of neglect, catching up with the family on the phone, and popping out to see a neighbor. My family crams as much into our Saturdays as we can from the shear excitement and relief that we don’t really have a schedule to follow. This is fine until the bacon timer goes off (ignored), the meal is ruined and the house stinks for hours. Had I set the timer on my phone that is always with me or the timer on the oven that would remind the children to either move the skillet or come get me, the mess could have been avoided. Dousing flames, flare-ups and melt-downs are not the way I want to spend a Saturday. Queso-brittle is not a favorite, neither is well-done bacon that crossed the line to black dust on the plate.
Back to Work:
I’ve learned that if I bounce around from client to client, task to task without ever really delving in and completing a thought or project, I never finish any of them efficiently nor thoroughly. Something is missed. When I really need to focus, I have saved time and frustration by turning off the ringer and closing my email. YOU HEARD ME – turn them off! The world will not crash and burn if you cannot be reached for a short while. Your clients will appreciate your focus. Put on an autoresponder if you want. “I’m focusing on a fantastic project right now and need to devote my full attention for a while. I’ll get back to you shortly…” Change your profile to “busy” in Skype, shut down Facebook, turn off your cell phone – turn off the interruptions.
If you have appointments or phone calls that you absolutely cannot miss, add them to your calendar with REMINDERS. Set the timer on your phone if you have to so you can switch gears and keep the appointment someone was nice enough to set aside time to spend with you. If you have a limited time you can spend on the call, tell them right when it starts so they know you value keeping your commitments. If you say you have to go in half an hour, around 27 minutes into the call, start wrapping it up. Summarize what you’ve spoken about and commit to another call if you’ll need to follow up.
I’ve even found it helpful to schedule time with my children – blocking it out on the calendar to show me as “busy.” They have access to view my calendar and know when it’s Mommy-time! I send them invites for their own calendars and they feel VERY valued, special and loved. I don’t cancel with them or ask them to shift the time we have scheduled. This is how I give them at least as much respect as I give my clients and strategic partners. I’m also preparing them to use technology in thoughtful ways that maximize their own time. When they make a date with their friends, I want them to honor that time and not shift it around just because they think their friends will understand or because something “better” has come up.
You can even use Outlook to maximize your time and decrease interruptions. Go to Tools, Send/Receive, Send/Receive Settings, Define Send/Receive Groups. From here you can manage how frequently you receive certain types of communications. You might want to receive emails to your business accounts frequently, say every 15 minutes. For personal email accounts, it might be beneficial to receive those every hour or even every two hours. In this way, you don’t have to shut down Outlook altogether to stay on task. You’ll still get your Martha Stewart newsletters and the funny forwards from friends; just not every 5 minutes.
Whether it’s bacon or business, the methodology is the same. If you’re making bacon, MAKE THE BACON. Pay attention to the bacon and make that bacon the best bacon it can be! When the meal is done and it’s back to business, be as attentive to the business at hand as you were to that bacon. Let your thoughts sizzle in their own juices for awhile, while the fragrance of fresh new ideas waft through your head like the scent of bacon carries through the air on a lazy Saturday morning. Before you know it you’ll be serving up a plateful of smoky, crispy, flavorful ideas your clients will appreciate that you took the time to fry up for them.
Okay, I may have gone long on the bacon thing, but you get my point. Sometimes doing just one thing at a time is more than enough. Save the multi-tasking for tasks that don’t require your full attention. Getting more done in less time only works when everything is done well.