The definition of a good Buffer Day is a day focused in preparation for upcoming Focus Days. True “Buffer” Days are meant to be spent on delegations, putting out fires and working on the business so that when Focus Days come, we have the capabilities in place to truly focus. Without careful planning though, every day can quickly become a Buffer Day, ever creeping into our focus time.
Growth takes a backseat because the majority of time is spent cleaning up urgent messes rather than focusing generating new revenue. A friend of mine refers to this place in business as “Marshmallowland;” a place where time stands still and we operate in a chronic state of trying to move forward, but stuck in a sticky, grabby mess that keeps us immobilized and bouncing around endlessly in our business.
You can escape this place of bouncy buffering by (1) focusing on creating more intentionality with time, (2) making a commitment to process and (3) fostering a culture of discipline.
Intentionality with Time: “Here is the secret to subtraction. It doesn’t matter what you remove. What matters is that you stop adding it back.” If you don’t already subscribe to or work within the Entrepreneurial Time System®, start there. Intentionality and protection over time is the crucial first step to creating space and delineation of activities in your week. Deploy a gatekeeper scheduling resource to take daily planning and management of your calendar off your plate. A few tips on how you can strategically use this resource to protect your time:
Allow them to apply objective discipline when scheduling on your behalf that adheres to the ETS. For example, he/she can offer Focus slots (sales calls, key meetings) only on Focus days.
They can help you by setting up time blocks on your Buffer Days to work on key prep activities. Encourage them to proactively suggest pre-work that they can do in preparation for your upcoming time block so that it is as productive as possible for you. (Example: research, data entry, etc.)
Have them set recurring quick meetings with your team on Buffer Days to work through things that came up while you were busy on a Focus Day. Train your team to delay the interruptions as much as possible, and hold them to discuss in your Buffer Day quick meetings. Help your team understand the value of the ETS and to respect the schedule.
Valuing Systems & Process: Solid systems offer the best protection of your time. Why? Because the piles of repeatable stuff in the business are captured and in some cases even on auto-pilot. The clarity limits the distractions and interruptions by your team. The backbone of our companies, process is what sets us apart and what helps us grow and build trust both with our team and customers. A few easy next steps around creating process in your business:
Identify and capture the repeatables: Look at the parts of your business that repeat; for example: client onboarding, billing, metrics collection, email marketing. Identify who owns the majority of this process and have them interviewed. Let them explain the steps they take in detail while another team member captures it (try a tool like Coach Unique Method™). Review the process and talk through ways to improve the process for the future. Turn the process into a template using a tool like Asana and then set it and forget it!
Layer in Automations: Review the list of steps in the process that were just captured, and liberate you and your team from lower-value tasks. Which tasks could be automated by technology? Review tools like Zapier which offers millions of “zaps” to automate tasks. Check out our recent webinar for a list of some of our favorite automations you can layer into your processes.
Look for Easy Win Delegations: Many times when we see our processes captured (and finally out of our heads!), it’s easy to spot tasks that we are doing within the process that can easily be delegated. Review each step and ask yourself, am I the only person who can handle this step? Delegate to elevate yourself out of the routine process related tasks as much as possible.
Capturing process, while it takes time still supports your goal around better time management. The investment ensures that the recurring parts of the business are humming along backstage during your Focus Days. And you’re hearing about and resolving process issues on your Buffer Days because the team now has an outlet and designated time slot to bring them to you in a productive, efficient way.
Leading by Accountability: Jim Collins teaches us in Good to Great: “Disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action operate with freedom within a framework of responsibilities.” One of the greatest ways we can bring focus to our teams is to promote a culture of discipline that starts with us. A commitment from you (as the leader) to see the best ideas and projects through from start to finish with consistency will build confidence across the team. Managing your own impulse to buffer endlessly and commit to what is already in motion is the most impactful contribution you can bring to your team. Lead by example with your discipline around time and your commitment to process as important and urgent parts of the business and leave the buffering to your Buffer Days.