The First 100 Days, Looped

The first 90 days is a concept which seems to be popping up at the moment in the various business / lifestyle podcasts. The idea is that you divide the year into four 90-day blocks and set targets for each. They are short term goals which you would like to achieve, a way of constantly pushing personal or business development.

This is something that I do myself although with a slight variation. What I prefer is a 100 day rule.

I have a huge interest in American politics and something that each new president is aware of is the media's obsession with the first 100 days after the president is inaugurated. This is the period where generally, the new administration has the most energy, enthusiasm and opportunity to make significant changes. It's a chance to show the public that things have changed, for the better.

I prefer 100 day plans in my business too and here is why.

The problem with the 90 day rule is that it doesn't give you a break in between. With four 90 day blocks, that's effectively reviewing your progress every three months then immediately setting new targets and getting started on them. There's no down time, no opportunity for real reflection. With 100 day chunks, you have the opportunity to complete your targets and then sit back for a few weeks, bathing in your glory before starting all over again. This will help avoid burnout and give you the chance to think properly about what you want to do next.

100 days break the year down into three blocks of 100 days, with around 20 days gap in between each period. 

With 100 day blocks if you need a bit of extra time with one of your targets and you're going to miss the deadline, rather than carrying it over into the next period, you have a buffer of a few weeks to get it finished. What you don't want to do is carry the target onto the next period otherwise it will stay on your list forever, continually getting pushed back and delayed.

Shiny Object Avoidance

As entrepreneurs our brains are wired to continually evaluate everything, find the problems and try to make a business out of those shortcomings. I do it all of the time. I cannot help but see faults in the way other people run their businesses and think, I could do better than that. The problem is that far too often, I waste time on developing a business off the back of these ideas, only for it to fail weeks later when I get bored of it.

The best way I have found to stop myself is to add the idea to my next list of targets that starts in 60 days' time. If I am coming towards the end of a 100 day block, I will not schedule the idea in the next block, but rather the one after that. This gives my brain time to think over things subconsciously and let the excitement die down. If the idea still has value to me after the 60 day period, I know that it is worth pursuing. This saves me huge amounts of time and money.

Take a Notebook Everywhere

In the last couple of months I have been carrying a small reporter-style notebook with me every time I leave the house for a dog walk. Twice a day I grab it and head out for a long walk in the sun. During this time I am either enjoying the peacefulness of being away from everyone or listening to business podcasts. Either way, most days the notebook will come out and I will jot an idea down, start writing notes for a blog post or note down something that I want to research later on.

Since taking the notebook with me, I have half-filled it with blog post ideas and targets which I can quickly and easily review at any point. I know that most people would argue that you can do the same on your phone and in many ways the phone is more convenient because it is always with you but for me, a physical notebook seems to work much better.

The alternative is of course to just try and remember things but I find this, in the style of the Getting Things Done book, uses up too much mental energy. By getting ideas out of my head and on to paper, it frees up my brain for other things.

Activity Blocks

'Chunking' or 'batching' activities is a common way to power through some of the daily or weekly jobs. The idea is to work through all of the similar jobs, in one go. Rather than working through your jobs in some random order, do them in batches so that you do all of the related jobs in one go.

By batching your jobs, you save time in two ways. Firstly, you are not constantly switching between your spreadsheet, your e-mails, logging into your bank account... If you do all of your finance jobs together, you log into your bank account once rather than doing it five times throughout the day.

The second reason is that most tasks follow a similar process e.g. you log into the bank account, download your income statement, reconcile your invoices... if you batch your tasks together then your brain does not need to work as hard because it only needs to prepare you to follow the process once. It's a bit like loading a program on your computer. When you load Excel, it takes a few seconds to few seconds from clicking on the Excel icon to actually loading the program. Your brain works in the same way. Before each task, your brain needs to load the process to complete the task successfully. If you are constantly switching between tasks, each time you need to load that process into your brain again. Not only is this draining but mistakes are more likely to be made.

Batch your jobs into slots throughout the day or week.

I batch all of my finance related jobs into Tuesday and Friday mornings. E-mails are batched into an hour each morning. Writing I do around 10a.m. each day as that seems to be when I am most creative. Different systems work for different people, it's finding what works for you that will make the difference, save you time and lead to fewer mistakes.

Get in the Zone

This is another case of doing what works for you. Personally, I have never found it difficult to motivate myself to work, in fact I am the complete opposite - I find it difficult not working.

A friend of mine who works in a 'proper' job in I.T. occasionally get to work from home. He struggles to get motivated but he found that it helps if he got dressed for work - in a full suit and tie. That's what he normally wears so subconsciously getting dressed into his work clothes shifts his brain into work mode. That may not be your thing but find what works for you and then do it.

Autoresponders

These are such a basic thing but incredibly useful and time saving. I have auto-responders set up on all of my support@ e-mail accounts so that when a customer e-mails, they immediately receive an automatic reply, just letting them know that I have received their message.

Before I had them set up, customers would often e-mail with a question and then e-mail again or call me a couple of hours later just to make sure their original message had been received. Some people sit in front of their e-mails all day and can assume that everyone else does, too. If they do not receive a 'timely' response, they will end up generating you more work.

Stock / Canned Responses

If you have ever caught yourself writing almost the exact same e-mail a few times, you need to work on your canned responses.

Canned responses are just templates which you can save in your e-mails, help desk or just a text file which you can copy / paste into an e-mail, change a few minor details and send out to your contact.

Here's an example. One of my businesses is building web sites. After the initial contact and payment, I start work on a draft design. Once ready, I attached the draft design to an e-mail, copy in my stock response, change the name and whoosh... e-mail sent.

Before I set up this canned response, I would find myself typing out virtually the same e-mail to each customer. It's only five paragraphs long but it must take a few minutes to write each time. Instantly I have saved myself lots of time as well as some mental energy because I do not need to keep checking the e-mail to make sure I have given the customer all of the information that they need. I have done the hard work once, getting the e-mail exactly right, and now I can copy, paste and send almost instantly.