April is not a good month for reflection. From early March until 11:59PM on April 30th my days are packed. My OmniFocus lists are filled with "File xx", "Fill out xx", and "Ask client about xx". What you don't see a lot of during this time of year is "Brainstorm xx", "Test out xx", or "Rethink the way I do xx".
That's understandable during tax season. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and grind through your lists until the work is done. What a lot of people forget, though, is to make sure those big picture questions are getting answered when there is more time.
Two of my favourite business books are Getting Things Done and The E-Myth Revisited. GTD is about task management, and E-Myth is about the way you structure and run your small business. They're not the same topic, but they both focus on the same goal. Spend time creating intelligent systems for your business. Make the systems powerful, but also easy enough to work with day after day.
The problem I have, and I think a lot of solo business owners have, is time and priorities. It's so easy to get lost in the task list. Beyond just being overcommitted, it's about money. I can't bill a client for brainstorming. There are only so many hours in the day, and I have bills to pay. If I have 2 hours and my choices are to spend that on billable projects or watching a tutorial on my bookkeeping software...guess what I usually choose? How about you?
Let's not fight it. You can't expect your in-the-moment self to make a choice that pays $0 over one that puts food in the fridge. Instead, plan ahead. Schedule a weekly appointment with yourself to review the big picture. During the crazy times this might be a monthly thing...but whatever schedule you choose stick with it. GTD followers will be familiar with the concept of a weekly review. Make sure your weekly review includes time devoted to looking at the system itself. Here are some good questions to ask yourself.
- Am I using the right software? Should I start researching other options?
- Are there courses or tutorials available for the software I use?
- Am I scheduling my days properly? Am I doing the important work when my energy is at its highest?
- Should I consider a price increase, or changing the way I charge for my services?
Don't forget, it's just as easy to spend too much time on this. You don't want to focus so much on the big picture that you're missing deadlines and losing money. There will always be new apps, time management systems, and differing opinions. You don't need to test them all. If you have a system that works, keep it. Do some regular tweaks, and train yourself well so you know your system inside and out. If you do this, you'll be able to work much more efficiently when crunch time hits.