plan your day

Time Management for Internet Business Owners

I’ve used a lot of different systems over the years. Everything from software, to journals, to index cards – you name it, I’ve tried it. But I’ve found that systems of any kind tend to break down after a while.
Life gets in the way. The fancier time management systems are the quicker they stop working. I finally settled on a work flow that makes sense to me, and I think it will work for you as well, if you are in charge of your day.

I have a list of the things I HAVE to do each day. For me it looks like this:

  1. Download cash and check accounts
  2. Enter orders and process credit card payments
  3. Ship product / order from dropshippers
  4. Check UPS / Fedex to see what has gone out, notify customers of ship dates and delays
  5. Clear email and physical inboxes, entering things that need to be done later in Highrise

This sometimes only takes 15 minutes, other times it can eat up 6 hours, what with interruptions / phone calls / appointments. Some days the inbox is full of orders, and others I am free to work as I wish shortly after my morning coffee.

But if those things are done, and I get nothing else done, the business runs great.

Your list will look different, depending on how your business is set up. I do want to point out that it is a short list, and the first four items are all about just two things:

Customer service and collecting money

Regardless of what kind of business you are running, those should be the focus of your daily todo list. If you think you don’t have customers, you’re wrong. Even if you are just putting up AdSense sites, you still have two customers: Visitors and Google.

A few notes:

  • I only touch a piece of paper once. Paper can be tossed, filed, or acted upon and then tossed or filed. That is it. Never put paper back into your inbox.
  • Have ONE place where you write things down. Never use paper scraps or post it notes. I have a stack of spiral notebooks going back years. Every morning I write the day of the week and date at the top of a page and everything written goes there.
  • Your notebook needs to be reviewed at the end of each day. If there is some vital information there, or something that still needs to be done, it goes into your todo system.
  • Have ONE place where you put all of your todo and followup info. For me it has to be accessible via the web. Highrise even has a free version, and works perfectly for me.

If something can be done in just few minutes, do it. It it will take a little longer, put it into your system to do later. That is pretty much it. I have a list of things I do once per week as well, and I follow the same timeline with them.

A key concept is simplicity. I like a plain spiral notebook because they are cheap and free form. I can draw, list things, scribble, whatever – pages are not pre-dated, and I am not forced into some arbitrary format.

Highrise is the same way. Very simple, and I don’t even use many of its functions. No tags, or other categorizing of contacts. No reminders into my phone or email. Quick, simple, clean – everything on my mind and in my business recorded every day.

What slips through the cracks? Not much. This system gives me clarity and mental freedom. I know that everything is where it needs to be, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting something important.

Doing the “must do” things first is tremendously liberating, and if I need to go for a haircut or have a Dr. appointment it is no big deal.

So what about the part of the day after the morning routine is done? How do I decide what gets done next? Easy, I just ask myself one question:

What is the most profitable thing you could be doing right now?

Not “productive”, not fun: profitable. What is the thing that brings in the cash? It’s not fiddling with that Adsense site that you love, or checking up on your friends on Facebook . It is most likely something you would rather not do. Do it anyway.

I really like the big green question, because it focuses the mind, and brings us back to first principles.

For me it is down to just three things now:

  • Improving my (increasingly smaller) stable of websites
  • Working out ways to pull more traffic from a wider variety of sources
  • Moving my Breakthrough Project forward

What is a Breakthrough Project, if it is not one of my current web sites? More on that later…

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