Monday, 19 December 2016

Self Employed? How to take time off at Christmas (and why you should).

Christmas is looming, the kids have broken up from school, factories have closed their doors for the new year, teachers are enjoying that lovely break from the children and you? Well, you're self employed. So you're at your desk as you are every other day.

But this doesn't HAVE to be the case. Yes we all know if self employed people do not work they don't get paid but you're a human being. You need a break from work as much as the next person. The dangers of working too much can even be deadly. Did you know a person who works over 55 hours have a week have a 33% increased risk of having a stroke?

You CAN take time off for christmas (and any other time of the year for that matter) you just, as always seems the theme in my blogs, need to be ORGANISED. Check out our top tips for taking some downtime for christmas when you're self employed.

1/ Plan your time off in advance - Simple right? Obviously the big thing for most people is the loss of income during your time off. What this usually means for me is November and December are VERY busy times of the year. I always put more in the diary than usual months and front load the work (working longer hours and a few more hours per evening) to put more in the pot. 

2/ Watch your pennies - Try and be more frugal with your money at this time of year. Less meetings with expensive brand named coffees, less travel time and less fuel costs, less parking fees

3/ Squeeze your time - I mention it above but if you can map your time in advance you need to understand exactly how many hours you have available and how much work you can fit in.

4/ Communicate with your clients - ALWAYS ensure your client knows you are taking the time off WAY in advance. Reassure them and demonstrate to them how you are going to fit your workload in. I submit ALL my holiday dates to clients at the start of the year and how the work will be covered. Everyone knows where they stand and are comfortable that they are still getting a great service.

5/ Cover your work - Whether you do as I generally do and front load the work so it is all done and covered by the time you take your holiday or whether you outsource and handover just make sure everything is covered. This will differ from client to client. Some of my clients shut down themselves so there is no work to be covered. Some are happy to take back in house for the week/s i'm off. 

6/ Save for holidays & contingency's - Every single month I put money into my holiday account. At the start of the year I work out how much I need to cover loss of income that month and put a small amount per month into the contingency pot. This pot is SO useful if you are sick, if there is an emergency or if you plan on taking holiday during the year.

7/ Schedule extra time after your break - I always make a point of booking extra hours and childcare when I return from a break to ensure I have time to get back on top of things when I return without extra stress.

8/ Once you're off, you're off - Ensure you turn out of office on, do a full and complete handover and turn off email notifications. Let your clients know they can, of course, contact you if there is an emergency but if you've done a thorough handover (leave no stone unturned, it'll help you feel ready to take a  break) there really should be no need for contact. It's important to you to really relax so you can return to work invigorated, rested and ready to take on a brand new year!

Taking time off is so important for your mind and well being and often even more so when you are self employed and it can make a huge difference.

For more hints and tips about how to be organised and productive when self employed check out our website 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Top tips for improving your productivity at work

Being organised is THE best thing you can do for your business. Being organised makes us more effective, makes us feel calmer and makes us think more clearly. 

And it is really simple to do if you know how!

Becoming organised ALWAYS comes down to your own efficiency. Essentially we want to know how we do things faster but still thoroughly? I've said it before and i'll say it again but it all comes down to managing your TIME.

Follow our 'top tips for improving your productivity!

1/ Understand your time V workload - So very important this one and absolutely tip number one.There's NO point taking on work that you do not have the time to complete within the time you have available. This is where we get ourselves into trouble and begin to add pressure which will make us LESS productive.

2/ Have a realistic 'To Do' List - At the start of each week take the time to list EVERY single job which needs doing that week. Put those jobs in order of priority. Ask yourself what HAS to be done today and what can wait till the end of the week. Everybody is guilty of procrastinating and 'cherry picking' the jobs you would prefer to do. Even if those jobs are of a lower priority. This is a MISTAKE. Put the jobs in order and then DELIVER them in order. That way you stick to deadline and keep stress levels down. This will really help your productivity.

3/ See it, do it. -Entrepreneur Steve Olenski recommends implementing the "two-minute rule" to make the most of small windows of time that you have when working. The idea is pretty simple. Essentially if you see a job that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately. According to Olenski getting this task out of the way immediately takes LESS time than returning to it later. Perhaps you see something needing to be done whilst on route somewhere else in the office. Some filing perhaps. Or changing the ink in a printer.    You could do those quick jobs now, or leave them for later. If you do them now that is another job knocked off your to do list. If you do that several times a day it reduces everything you need to which frees up your time to get on with the bigger stuff. My productivity has gone up hugely since reading Steve's article.

4/ Quit your meetings! - Ask yourself if you REALLY need to have this meeting. So often we have meetings for meetings sake. There is a weekly meeting penned in the diary because, well there just is. Do you need it? Do you need to travel for it? Can it be done online? Could it be resolved with a quick phone call? Ask yourself how necessary it is. If you really don't need to why not make it a fortnightly meeting. or just a meeting when necessary. It can saves HOURS in your day. Just ask 'is it the best use of my time today'

5/ Map your hours - I've blogged about this before and it helped me to understand and breakdown how much work I have to do on a week by week basis. If, like me, you have multiple clients and multiple contracts it can be tough to try and juggle the work and ensure you are giving each contract the time and dedication it needs. Especially if you don't know exactly how long you're spending on each job. Make sure you map the hours you have available versus the hours you are committed to doing the work. You don't have to stick to it like a rigourous timetable as it is totally moveable but you need to ensure you have enough time available to deliver. It will help you understand your workload on a week by week basis and tackle it with a clear mind.

6/ Take a breakMake sure you take regular breaks throughout your workday. Just a trip to get a drink and taking a short lunch makes us more productive. Give yourself a breather and time away. Your brain needs a rest!

7/ There's always a chance to work - This comes back a little to the two minute 'see it, do it' rule. If you find yourself with downtime. Maybe you're on a train, sat in doctors waiting room, waiting for a meeting to start, waiting for your computer to re-boot. Even boiling the kettle. I always have a quick think if there is anything small I can knock off my list during that time. A quick email reply. A quick phone call. Quickly update your to do list. File your 'done' emails into a folder. Is there anything you can do to reduce the load?

8/ Minimise interuptionsThis is so simple. If you have allotted time to write a proposal or presentation that is what you do during that time. Don't answer a call from another client or colleague. Ignore the blinking email notification. Do the job you have sat down to do. Speaking to another person about something else will put you off the job in hand. That person/email/message will be there is an hour when you can deal with it and assign it the time it deserves. Just make sure you do get back to them!

9/ Track your time - You may think you know how long something takes but have you actually timed it? Are you giving a project or a client longer than you've actually planned for? Or even invoiced for? To ensure you are productive you need to understand how long your tasks are taking you. Only then can you ensure you have given yourself enough time to get a job done.

10/ Stop trying to be perfect! - Big one for me. I used to try almost too hard to get things perfect. Nothing is EVER perfect. Someone somewhere wont like it. Someone somewhere will have a note or an edit. Biggest thing is try not to overthink it. Just sit down and do it. Editing can be done at a later time if you aren't happy but getting something to your boss or your colleague or your client and moving on is really good for productivity. If they want changes they'll say and you can make them but getting it done and dusted and not over thinking and trying to be perfect is a great way to be productive. Nothing like a big penline through a task marked as 'done!'

So there you are. Simple really! If you are still struggling with your workload though we can help! Why not outsource some of it to us! Give us a call 07887552888 or email