I receive many questions about how I work, how I manage my time, and what my “systems” are for working as a writer and consultant.
I offer the following with this caveat: I'm still workin' on it, and I don't always follow the system perfectly. But each time I fall “off the wagon”, I get up, dust off my britches, and climb back on. So far it's worked pretty well.
A “day in the life of Ray” is a busy one. Here are current projects I'm working on:
1. Private Client product launch. This is for a new product that teaches a system of “workforce leverage”; this is a sophisticated product that is aimed squarely at real business owners, not “biz opp” seekers, and includes a robust web application. This one keeps me very busy; and it has huge potential. Of course I get a piece of the sales, so my hard work should pay off handsomely.
2. Private Consulting Client. This relationship translates to weekly phone meetings, a small in-house launch every quarter or so, and reams of copy generated for upsells, ridealongs, retention, phone scripts, etc. This is a retainer + revenue deal, just like the one above.
3. Private Retainer Client. This client retains me strictly for two sales letters per month, for different products each month; again, I have a piece of revenue.
4. Private Client in the real estate market; we did a product launch together (for which I still receive royalties over a year later — than God for honest clients!), and we also work on periodic promotions. And, once again, I share in the revenue (detecting a theme?).
5. Inner Circle Program. This is a monthly “coaching club” I run for those who cannot necessarily afford to hire me but who want to learn from my work, get me input, and receive training from me each month.
6. Book Promotion. My new book on copywriting for the web will hit store shelves soon, and I'm working with my publisher on developing the sales promotion for this book.
7. Three books in progress. One is a business book (first draft completed), one is a book for Christ-followers on the importance and power of forgiveness (first draft about 75% complete), and one is a book I'm not ready to talk about publicly just yet (still in outlining phase).
8. Two monthly newsletters. I write one for my clients, and one for paying members of my inner circle.
9. Workshops. I have three scheduled for the next 4 months, each taking place in my offices in Spokane. These workshops are small, for 5 participants only, and focused on Strategic Writing for the purpose of Influence.
10. Copywriting Protege Program. My students write for clients who either (a) can't get on my schedule soon enough or (b) can't afford my fees. My team writes your copy, I critique the drafts for re-writes, and then I approve the final work that is delivered to you. This means we can deliver affordable copy that still receives my “touch”. (To inquire about a project, please submit your request here: http://rayedwardsis.wpengine.com/contact )
The Big Question
How is it I'm able to juggle so many priorities and projects? Through careful conscious choice, and good systems.
And quite frankly: it's a work in progress.
In order to deliver the very best work to my clients and partners, and to still leave room in my schedule for rejuvenation (sleep, family time, time with God, and time to just plain relax)… I have to guard my time vigorously. And I have to be on guard against what Dan Kennedy calls “Time Vampires”. Some tactics that work for me in my current system:
My Morning Success Ritual is vital to my most productive days. While I don't manage to get this in every day, I'm getting better at it. My goal between now and the New Year is to achieve 95%+ compliance with this ritual every day.
The MSR is summed up by the acronym WWW B PREP, which stands for:
- Water (16 oz. filtered)
- Walk (at least 20 minutes)
- Plan (the day)
The days when I follow this MSR, starting the minute my feet hit the floor out of bed, are invariably my best days (most productive, most joyous, most satisfying). Probably because the most important things were done first – and when I'm still in the “NDZ”: No Distraction Zone (meaning no email, no voicemail, no phone calls, etc.)
The first thing I *must* do each day, after my MSR is complete (and after I have showered, driven to the office, etc.) is WRITING. I am primarily a writer. So this is my #1 Revenue Producing Activity (RPA). At this point my phone is off, I have still not checked email, not checked voicemail, etc. Still in the NDZ. I write for a large block of time at the beginning of the day — often 4 hours. NOTHING gets to interrupt the writing — including (and even especially) the clients for whom I may be writing.
My auto-check feature in Apple Mail is turned OFF. I only get email when I press the “Check Mail” button. I check it twice per day, Monday thru Thursday. Usually around 11am Pacific and 4pm Pacific. This is one of my policies that tends to be unpopular with those who are “urgency addicts”, and who want me to have a constant email discussion about minutia with them. I refuse to sacrifice my highest valued commodity (time) for the sake of what usually amounts to trivia. I suggest you adopt the same policy.
Any meeting that lasts longer than 15 minutes is probably too long. Not always, but most of the time. Any project that requires multiple meetings each week is probably in trouble. Long meetings = inefficiency at best, and postponement of the inevitable at worst. (As a sidebar: frequent short meetings are just a disguised way of having long meetings. HEAR ME: if you have “meeting-itis”, either you just want an excuse to talk about work instead of doing it, or something is wrong with the project … something another meeting won't solve).
Phone Meetings / Conversations
Same as meetings, only worse. Conversations and phone meetings should be 15 minutes or less. Anything longer and you're probably wasting time for at least some people in the group.
Just say no. The only time I use it is when I have SCHEDULED events on Skype (usually interviews). Also, I occasionally chat with family or friends — but again, this is SCHEDULED. I am NEVER “just available” to be interrupted. (If I was, that would mean that I was either doing something unimportant, or that I was doing NOTHING. If I'm doing something unimportant… WHY? And if I'm doing NOTHING, it's a PLANNED nothing and it's important that this not be interrupted!).
Yes, I have an office outside my home. I lease currently. I'm considering buying an office building. I keep regular business hours most of the time: Mon – Thurs, 8am – 5pm Pacific.
By the way, my office phone is answered by a LIVE HUMAN (not some stupid voicemail torture device) Monday – Saturday, 8am – 6pm Pacific time. Why do I have the phone covered even when I am out of the office? Because other members of my team keep different hours… and because emergencies DO happen, and I like to be available if a TRUE emergency arises. My phone team knows how to reach me in those cases.
Why The Emphasis On Not Being Interrupted?
Interruptions cost you dearly.
As a writer, I know that allowing myself to be interrupted by a client or vendor (“Hey Ray – got a minute to talk about the new logo?”) can seem harmless… but it isn't. That interruption costs me (a) the state of “flow” I was in while working, maybe impossible to recover, (b) the time of the interruption itself, and (c) the time it takes me to get back into the “zone” with what I was working on… minimum 20 minutes, maybe longer.
I can't afford to let that happen.
My clients and customers can't afford for me to let that happen.
I once had a client who loved to call me at 11pm at night and talk for two hours. I tried to tell him I worked set hours and was available at those times, but he didn't seem to understand. When our first project was finished, I fired him. His dysfunction did not automatically become my problem. Be warned – people will WASTE your time if you let them. Will you let them? be polite, be loving… but don't be a victim.
In the end, if you guard your time, you are being most respectful of other people. Think about it: if you allow yourself to be interrupted, or your time wasted when you should have been doing something else… who suffers? Your clients. Your customers. Your family (“Sorry honey, I have to stay late because I wasted 2 hours today listening to the web team make excuses…”).
You're not serving anyone by being a poor steward of your time.
New Experiments In Time Management
I'm currently going through a re-vamping, refining, and re-evaluating phase and I thought it might be useful to you if I shared some ideas I'm trying out. While I'm sold on the stuff I mentioned previously, I'm telling you right now these next items are EXPERIMENTAL. If they prove successful, I'll have more to say here in the future about them.
1.Three-Sentence Emails. If you receive a lot of email, you know what it's like to feel overloaded by it. This is a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be three sentences or less. Read more at http://three.sentenc.es/
2. Fifteen Minute Meetings. Just like the above, only not quite so regimented. *Most* meetings will be 15 minutes or less. That's my default meeting length. If it needs to be longer, we can negotiate in 15 minute blocks. If it needs to be longer than 45 minutes, we better be working on something like the Middle East Peace Talks.
3. Free Days. I used to cheat on this. I'm sorry to admit it. But no more. A “free day” is one in which there is NO business activity of any kind: no emails, no blogs, no IMs, no phone calls, no reading articles, no business books… NOTHING. Right now, I have at least one scheduled FREE DAY per week (Sundays). The purpose is to allow for real refreshing, rejuvenation, and creativity to arise. My goal is to eventually reach 3 FREE DAYS per week. This does not mean that I'll be spending 3 days a week doing NOTHING… these days will be filled with family time, spiritual and charitable pursuits, and yes, even recreation. For more on this, see Dan Sullivan's “The Time Breakthrough”.
This was a long post – I hope it was useful to you. If you have questions or want to add some ideas of your own, please do it below!