(Ambrosio’s note: This is a guest post by Nicole Smith, President of the International Association of Kumon Franchisees, and a good friend of the blog. I invited Nicole to contribute to my Franchise Tip of the Day column, and she graciously accepted. This post contains a lot of practical advice that I will be trying out myself. Based on all my interactions with Nicole, I know we can learn a lot from her on the subject of living efficiently — and joyfully — when you’re a busy, over-worked franchisee.)
As a franchise owner, president of an association, mother, choir member — with all the hats I wear, and I’m sure every one of you reading this wears — how do I complete each day in a productive way in this busy 21st century without feeling hopelessly and constantly overwhelmed?
These are some of the ways I’ve learned by trial and error to (more or less) keep all of those balls in the air:
1. Answering phone calls and emails as quickly as possible
By forwarding all calls to my mobile device and all emails to one account on that device, I’m always aware of everything that is directed at my email addresses and phone numbers. Whenever possible, I answer the phone or get right back to people by phone or email if I can’t be interrupted. I track and flag emails/calls I cannot immediately answer so that I respond as soon as reasonably possible.
I have noticed in my own life and in the lives of colleagues that when one gets overwhelmed and/or low-spirited, it feels too hard to answer the phone right away and necessary to put off email responses. The trouble is that they will continue to pile up and day by day become even more overwhelming and time-consuming if ignored. Of course, it’s also bad for business and relationships not to respond promptly.
2. Starting the day early or working after hours
I’m always amazed at how much more work gets done at times when the phone isn’t constantly ringing or the emails always arriving, whether before or after the official business day. The lack of interruptions not only makes time spent more efficient but also leads to a great decrease in the stress to do it all.
But I wouldn’t recommend too much burning the candle at both ends — it’s important to choose either the early mornings or the late nights depending on whether you are a morning or night person, family needs and the like. Otherwise, there is the very real danger of burn out.
Taking frequent breaks, getting regular rest and enough sleep and healthy food/fresh water are very important, as is finding ways to incorporate daily exercise. Many of our jobs are very sedentary and sitting around too much is not only more stressful but also energy-draining.
Speaking of exercise, personally it’s now far easier for me to get that exercise by walking to places where I would normally drive but are actually within a comfortable walk. When I get too busy to set aside time to exercise, if I re-think my “transportation,” I can often be much more active. Another strategy is to use stairs instead of elevators and park farther away from stores and businesses.
4. Taking regular alone time to be refreshed and to review life/schedules
It’s easy to get out of balance and do too much of one thing and ignore other important things. I find I need to check in with myself on a daily/weekly/monthly/annual basis to work toward balance as much as possible. Without these reviews and re-evaluations, I feel disconnected and much less in control of my life.
5. Following your bliss
I feel blessed that I love everything I do, and that joy gives me energy and drive to keep going day after day in the pursuit of reaching more students for Kumon, developing a stronger and more vital association, refining my singing voice and learning new repertoire, and being more deeply engaged in my personal relationships.
This means, of course, finding the positives in the not-so-fun but necessary work. I practice gratitude and a better sense of perspective on a daily basis and that helps me not to get bogged down in negativity or feelings of drudgery.