There is no way that I, or anyone else, can get more than 24 hours in the day for you. However, there are ways to make you more efficient, and therefore more productive, in the same 24 hours.
Make a commitment to take 10 to 15 minutes every day to plan your day. Then follow these five short steps:
1. Make a list: Write down everything you need or want to accomplish today.
2. Mark the A's: Put the letter A in front of everything that absolutely must get done today if you should be kidnapped tomorrow.
3. Mark the B's: Put a B in front of any remaining item that is really important and should get done today if possible, but could wait until tomorrow.
4. Mark the C's: Put a C in front of any remaining item that could wait for a while without any problems.
5. Prioritize each group: Evaluate your list of A's and put the number 1 in front of the most essential task for today. Then put a 2 in front of the second most important task in the A-list. Continue numbering down to the least essential in the A-list. Now repeat the process with the B-list and the C-list. Now, you are ready to start your day.
If you will commit to a planning session either at the very beginning or the very end of the day, you will be amazed at how much you will accomplish. On top of that, you will have peace of mind just knowing that the things that must get done, will get done if at all possible.
Take the time to analyze just how you are spending your time. For one week, write down everything you do and the time it takes to do it. I know, it takes some extra time to do this, but it really will open your eyes. You may be surprised to see how much time the business stuff (ordering, making telephone calls, etc.) takes out of your day. All that business stuff doesn't actually produce income for you. Selling and sewing make you money, and that's where the bulk of your time should be spent.
Scrutinize all your tasks to be certain that they are necessary and are benefiting your life, your goals or your business. Eliminate some if possible, or reprogram the necessary tasks.
Grouping tasks into one time slot daily or weekly could be one of the most time saving decisions you ever make. Beware, this will require planning, commitment and self discipline. Try the following ideas for starters:
1. Only make and take telephone calls during certain hours -- maybe 9 to 10 a.m. or 4 to 5 p.m. Let the machine pick up the rest of the time.
2. Every Friday (or choose another day), set aside a time slot in which you will not be interrupted and which is enough time for you to plan for a week. In this planning period, go over all your work orders, plan the cutting lineup for the next week, bring your production calendar/schedule up to date, check your inventory specifically for the work coming up for the next week or even the week after, plan telephone orders, make a list for errands and anything else you need to plan.
3. Designate one time slot every week for cutting the weeks work. The day after planning day is good.
4. Designate one time slot every week to run errands
5. Designate one day/time slot every week for placing orders that can be done on a weekly basis. For those that must be done on a daily basis, designate a daily time slot.
This list probably looks a bit intimidating. Don't let that stop you. Just take one or two ideas and put them into practice. When you've trained yourself on those, add another one. Be prepared, it won't work like clockwork every week, but discipline yourself to stick to your schedule as much as possible. The pay back will be worth it.
Many of you who are working out of your homes are doing so because you can be home with your children. The best planned schedule will be shattered by the attention and care you must give your family. You must accept these interruptions, but at the same time, use all the self discipline you can muster to stay as organized as you can under the circumstances. This is one reason why the first list of A's, B's and C's is so important. The habits you form now will still be there when the patter of little feet is gone.
While you are looking at your time analysis, there is one more step you should do. You have determined what tasks must be done, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should be doing all of them yourself or without help. Put a value on your time per hour and per minute. From the chart above, you can see that if you bill yourself (labor) out at $30 per hour, then for every 10 minutes you spend on the telephone, doing book work, etc., you invest $5 to get the job done.
With your list of tasks and their times in front of you, put a dollar value on each task. This will do two things:
1. You will see the actual dollar value of the time you literally have wasted and thrown away.
2. You will be better able to determine if investing in equipment, subcontracting, or some other means to eliminate or reduce some of your tasks will pay for themselves.
For instance, put a value on your time to make a pattern versus the value of purchasing a commercial pattern. Suppose it takes you two hours at $30/hr. to make a pattern. So it really costs you $60 just to make the pattern. Whereas if you purchased a commercial pattern that requires 15 minutes to alter, the pattern may cost you $25 plus $15 for your time, which equals $40 invested. You would save $20 by buying a pattern. The next time you use the pattern, it would only cost you $15 for alterations.
In this type of analysis, don't forget to factor in the reuse value of your investment, especially when considering equipment. Once a piece of equipment is paid for, the cost is virtually eliminated and instead becomes clear profit. At that point, you not only are saving precious time, but you are making more money too.
The busier you become, the more important it is to look at your tasks with a dollar value on them. If you do your own taxes, compare the value of your time with the cost of an accountant. He'll be able to explain your books and probably get you more deductions (saving you more money) simply because he spent his time learning about accounting, not draperies.
And what about the time you spend trying to install software on your computer, or adding a modem, or trying to get on the Internet or figuring out why the computer won't do today what it did yesterday? (Ever feel like you are trying to go into the 10th grade with a kindergarten education?) For those of us who are real computer novices, it is definitely worth paying a good computer consultant to fix the computer while we sew. (It's comforting knowing he wouldn't know what to do with a serger.)
The old cliché, "Time is money" couldn't be more true for the workroom business. Time is what our careers are all about. Treat it with respect and value it as you would a precious stone. But most of all, as you hone and polish your skills, recognize your true value and let it shine. You won't get more time into the day, but you can get more out of the day.
Kitty Stein is a 20-year veteran of the drapery workroom field, having owned and operated her own business for 16 years and having taught classes on window treatment construction. Until 1990, Stein and a partner owned a workroom with nine employees. She since has opened her own smaller workroom, Workroom Concepts, that has just one employee. She also does workroom consulting, seminar speaking and is the author of Order in the Workroom available through Draperies & Window Coverings.