Since I’ve really become serious about running, I’ve developed what I consider to be killer biceps. I’m happy, but my coach is not. My biceps are an indication that I’m a seriously inefficient runner.

After Coach James’ explanation of how much energy I was wasting by pumping my arms, my thoughts turned to my business. How much energy am I wasting by being an inefficient business owner? What can I do to streamline my processes and tasks to give me more time to work on billable projects?

I’m on a tear now to do two things this fall: finish a marathon in under 5 hours without killing myself and increase my income 25 percent without killing myself. Both of these goals are challenging, and they both require planning that I need to implement right now.

Here are the questions I’m using to try to identify my inefficient business practices:

  1. When are my most productive times? Least productive?
    I wake up early every day, but I don’t seem to start billing hours for projects until 2 p.m. or later, when I’m actually getting a little distracted and looking forward to my run. What do I do in the morning? How can I rechannel that energy into billable projects?
  2. What can I outsource?
    Which of my daily tasks do *I* have to do? What can someone else take care of? Right now I’m the only one who bills hours, thus I’m the only one who can make money for Avenue Z. So what can I give to my new assistant?
  3. What can I abandon?
    Once I take stock of all the little things I do that take up time, I need to look at the list and figure out if each and every item is essential to advancing my company. If something I do is not getting me where I want to be, I need to consciously drop it.
  4. Where and when am I marketing?
    I think because I haven’t created a marketing plan with clear outlines of my target audiences, I tend to just kind of jump into any marketing opportunity I see. For example, I receive requests for lunch meetings to discuss ideas with potential partners. I like lunch, of course, but is the partnership really something that would help me? I need to decide before I order appetizers.
  5. How can I manage my distractions?
    Email, the stat page on my blog, IMs from friends, my cat, the cupcake vendor across the street…. all these things tend to keep me from getting actual work done. How can I identify them as distractions and figure out where and when I can indulge?

As I read through these questions, the most obvious way to begin to increase my efficiency is to monitor my work habits for three days or so. Starting tomorrow (Wednesday, July 30), I’m going to write down every little thing I do, no matter how small, silly or potentially embarrassing (so sometimes I throw a coat of nail polish on my toes during work hours — doesn’t everybody?). I’m not starting today because I have 3 appointments out of the office all afternoon, which is a little unusual.

I should be able to post the results of my little productivity experiment by Monday…. unless I get distracted.

A few resources: