OmniFocus & Reviews

I mentioned doing monthly reviews in my last post and got some questions regarding how I manage them and what software I use. Here is what I currently use:

I use a product called OmniFocus that syncs through all my devices and helps me keep track of all the projects and tasks I need to get done. It takes some time to get it setup properly and integrate it into your daily workflow, however, once you get it synced it becomes a critical part of your daily routine. Some really good resources and videos to get started with the product can be found below:

Getting Started with OmniFocus

Getting Up and Running with OmniFocus in 5 Minutes

OmniFocus Basics

OmniFocus ScreenCast Tutorials

Once you have all your projects and tasks setup, the program gives you the ability to set a review date on all pending tasks. I have set aside a time at the end of every day to do a daily review. This brings up all the projects that need immediate action as well as those which have pending due dates coming up very soon.

At the same time I have setup reviews on a weekly and monthly basis to review projects that are coming up soon as well as those that I need to plan for in a couple of months.

Reviews help things from falling through the cracks and help prioritize your projects to ensure that you are able to meet your short term and long term goals. If someone needs help or is using omnifocus and wants to talk about shortcuts and hacks I will be more than happy to do so!

Is it Urgent or Important?

Time management is one of the greatest challenges that entrepreneurs face. With a constant flux of incoming and outgoing requests, it often becomes difficult to focus on the long term. This results in short term wins, it does however leave the business at a long term disadvantage. I liked the video attached above. Compartmentalizing your day and ensuring that you put aside adequate time to think about long term implications of your decisions is critical.

A Hiatus from Blogging

Image by ecstaticist

Since the morning of Jan 1st 2008, this blog has been a part of my daily routine. It has become a place I come to share all that I learn along the way, and to structure those thoughts with a greater level of clarity. It has  become a refuge from my daily routine, and has helped me in so many different and empowering ways to grow as an entrepreneur. No matter where you are in life, no matter what you may be doing,  integrating a blog into your daily life can, and does in my experience, bring immense clarity to life’s path. If you are not blogging, I strongly recommend that you start, sooner,  rather than later.

Over the course of these last 30 or so months of blogging, my blogging frequency has reduced periodically. From blogging every single day in 2008, to every other day in 2009,  and now in 2010, a fairly erratic posting schedule so far. I think one of the main reasons for this more infrequent schedule of posting is due to the type of content that I was concentrating on. Rather than random blog entries, I did my best to focus on a single topic, and then talk about it at length. The problem with these sort of blog posts is that they take a lot of time to write. Lately, I have been thinking that I will start writing a little more generally about the world of entrepreneurship , as well as  articles around specific topics, whenever I get the time. I want to keep this blog alive , and hope this transition will be a refreshing change from the past and one that my readers will enjoy.

The next couple of posts will be a recap of the last month. I have been involved in some very exciting new projects  this month, and may have finally found the one meaningful startup idea that I was looking for. It has been a long time coming, is still very much at an early stage right now, but I would really like to document the journey as we grow. I am hoping to post every second day starting from July 1st. The next 2 weeks will be a good gauge of whether this will be possible or not. If there are any topics in particular that readers want assessed,  please do email them to me and I will do my best to write articles around them soon.

Entrepreneurship and Time

time-management

It has been an absolutely crazy first quarter. With an unending series of ups and downs, my days have been merging one into another at break neck speed. Whilst reviewing my blog history I discovered that a post such as this is repeated at least once a year when I cannot believe how quickly time is flying by. I am so very grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way and all the individuals who have supported me during this time to make it all a reality. Entrepreneurship is definitely not the easiest path to choose in life but it certainly brings in an enormous amount of satisfaction on a daily basis. Everything in life is a direct result of the actions we take on a daily basis. If we do not like what is happening around us, then the only person to blame is ourself.

This probably explains why so many entrepreneurs who have this very strong inherent competitive streak operate the way they do. We treat almost everything as a race , this is not necessarily a healthy streak, but,  it is what makes us tick and work 20 hours a day for months at a stretch. It is this very streak that very often makes us lose all  track of time and things that are happening all around us. I was asked a question today,  it was , once I achieve certain milestones or goals I have set for myself, what would I do next?  My almost immediate and spontaneous reaction was that I really would not want to do anything other than what I do today! Working with startups and small businesses, helping them grow from the ground up and often creating a laudable entity provides an immense sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

I digress. Apologies for not being able to update the blog regularly. I should be returning to a normal posting schedule in May and will be introducing many of the projects that I am currently working on to get your feedback and suggestions. I want to thank all my loyal readers  and hope to connect personally with a lot more of you and, be of assistance or find ways to work together.

p.s I am also looking for entrepreneurs who want to guest post on this blog. Please do get in touch with me at blog (at) usmansheikh.com if you are interested. Thank you!

Ever Felt Like Procrastinating?

procrastination

Image by MoralesDirect

Most of us have procrastinated at some time or the other, knowing fully well that we have things we need to do, yet, delay them because “something else” popped up instead. I have a report that needs to be submitted to a client by the end of the month, the end of month still seems relatively far, and I seem to be filling my days with everything else but the report! With the advancement of technology, procrastinating has become a lot easier. Hours pass by using facebook, twitter and youtube. Even going through my RSS reader and catching up on the blogs that I follow can take hours at a time if I am not careful. All of this has created a greater need for discipline in our daily routines. However, by and large, entrepreneurs do not like following routines very much.

I handle routines by batching my day into several compartments. I allocate time slots for each project that I am working on, and spread them through the day according to what I feel like doing next. My blog gets 90 minutes everyday. During this period of time, I can either write a post, research my blog and figure out how to improve it, or read other blogs within my niche that I follow regularly. Likewise, I have many such time slots that fill the entire day. It is a flexible way to keep on top of your work, and yet not be restrained by having to do any one particular thing at a given time. There are and will undoubtedly be parts of the day when I deviate from what needs to be done!

I use a software called RescueTime.that helps me keep track of time I spend on all activities on my computer. I strongly recommend you give it a shot, it is free, and will help you see just where your time is actually being spent when you are using the computer.

In the end we will all have days when we put off things that need to be done. However, we need to put controls into place to ensure that we do not have too many of these days within a specific period of time. Put checks and measures in place to ensure that you are hitting targets. Use programs like ResuceTime and GTD software to monitor where you are spending time. We should not wait until the last minute to deliver, this will cause our work to suffer and cause unwarranted stress in life. Start by arming yourself with a simple to-do list on a daily basis, and eventually build more sophisticated controls to ensure that you perform at your potential, for a major percentage of the time.

Are You Meeting Deadlines?

deadlines

Image by Moonrhino

Whether you are an entrepreneur or a working professional, everyone has deadlines that need to be met. These are promises we have made with ourselves or our clients/colleagues/investors, about certain tasks or projects that we may be working on. Failure to reach these deadlines has disastrous repercussions and can result in terminated contracts, getting fired, broken friendships and many other such scenarios. However, time and time again, deadlines are missed and lessons unfortunately not learned. I have been guilty of missing such deadlines on several occasions, it has invariably placed me in a very awkward situations. Listed below are some guidelines I have set for myself as far as deadlines are concerned:

1. Understanding the Requirement: Without thorough knowledge about what a project or task entails, we will not be able to set realistic deadlines. Before setting any deadlines, it is essential that the project/task is broken down into manageable chunks and evaluated. How many resources will be required? What sort of buffer is going to be needed? What information needs to be exchanged before beginning? What is the required deliverable? What are measurement metrics? Gather as comprehensive an understanding as possible before you make a commitment. This is a step that is often skipped, even though it seems the be the most natural first step to take.

2. Be Clear: When setting deadlines we have to be as specific as possible. What is expectedto be delivered, and at what date? Who is going to be responsible for delivering the final project/task? What is the expected time frame for delivery. Without a clear understanding of what is required to be delivered at deadline time opens up a lot of room for ambiguity. For instance if you agree to deliver a project proposal by Noon 18th of May to a potential client, be very specific about what the proposal will contain and what it will not. Many a time when things have been left open, clients have taken advantage of the opportunity to ask for more than what is required.

3. Open Communication Channels: The last thing you want to be doing is working on a project/task and ending up completing it in a manner that is not acceptable to your client. I am an advocate of using all communication mediums available to us such as email, IM, basecamp etc, to keep communication lines open throughout the entire developmental process, to ensure that the client is aware of the developments. This not only makes us more accountable along the way, it provides a level of comfort to both parties knowing that the project is moving as planned.

4. Do Not Over Commit: Entrepreneurs are notorious for biting off more than they can chew. If you are a new startup without an established level of credibility this is a bad idea. Commit to a few projects and do them exceptionally well. If you have over committed, the last thing your client wants is excuses. Apologize and reschedule the deadline. If you make a habit of this, you will most likely find yourself out of work. Stay within your limits and focus on excellence rather than quantity.

5. Reward Yourself/Team Members: When you or your team reaches set deadlines they need to be rewarded. This is a critical step as it builds confidence and motivation to reach future deadlines. It is always a strong motivational force to know when you are currently carrying out the task/project, that you will be rewarded when it is completed. I have fbeen following this advice for some time now and think that without an appropriate rewarding strategy deadlines have a significantly lower probability of being met.

If you are not currently meeting your deadlines I would recommend assessing yourself on the pointers in this post. Sometimes when we get caught up in the moment we overlook the simple things. I would like to hear from readers about strategies they have in place to ensure they reach their deadlines. Look forward to hearing from you all.