10 Time Triage Tips - Part I

One of the common themes I hear from interior designers is their feeling of being overwhelmed and “busy” especially when business is really good which we all hope it will be in the near future. This is the perfect time to really think about your business and plan for a more successful future.

The important question to ask yourself is, “Am I Busy or Am I Productive?” We’ve been talking about this in our Business Mastery Membership Monthly Mentor sessions, but I want to extract some key ideas for you to consider.

1. Laser Clarity – this is really the key to time control because you’re really not controlling time, you’re controlling yourself. If you aren’t clear about why you’re doing something and how it will get you to your goals, you’re wasting time. Once you’re clear, the path is direct and inevitable. It absolutely must be tied into your emotions, values and reason why or you’ll find yourself sabotaging your results. Your goals must be specific, measurable and written with a date for completing. The quality of your life depends on the quality of your questions. (paraphrased and author unknown) Here are some questions to ask yourself:
  • Why are you doing what you are doing?
  • What is success to you?
  • What are the measures of success to you?
  • Does your business align with your values?
  • Are you enjoying it?
  • What specifically do you like about the business?
  • What specifically do you love doing?
  • What specifically don’t you like about the business?
  • What specifically don’t you love doing?
  • What specifically would you like to learn?
  • Are you happy?
  • Are you achieving what you want?
2. Fanatical Planning, Laser Focus & Lockdown (Debbie Green's great word!)
  • A goal without a written plan is just a dream. I don’t remember who said that, but it is true.
  • You can only do one thing at a time. The more projects you start at the same time, the longer it will take you to complete all of them. Multi-tasking is deadly to achieving your goals. Focus on the biggest and most important things first. Start with the end in mind and write down the step that needs to be done prior to achieving the major goal, and then the step before that, etc. Schedule your time.
  • Identify your 2 – 4 most productive hours of the day. Are you a lark (early) or owl (late)? Always schedule your work on the drivers of your business during these hours. Be ruthlessly protective of this time and do what Debbie Green with Minutes Matter Solutions, Inc. calls “lock-down.” Turn off the phone, instant messaging, close the door, totally focus on the projects that will do the most for your business first. If you have trouble starting, just write down the smallest step you can take to get started.
  • You have to know how much time things take, and if you don’t you can’t manage your time. Start logging for a few days how much time you spend on different activities. If you’re spending two hours on email and answering your phone per day, you’re being reactive vs. proactive. Control this and start becoming aware of how long things take to do. As soon as you know how long things take, find ways to do them more efficiently. Always look for the elegant solution.
3. Creative Chunks – do similar things at the same time. If you are writing blog posts, do those all at one time on a specific day and time and do a month’s worth. Every time you shift from one task to another, you lose as much as 20 minutes just getting into the rhythm of the project. That’s why it is so important to have laser focus. Use a kitchen timer to keep you on schedule. Take complete mental breaks (maximum of 90 minutes on one project before a break) and do something to rest your mind like taking a walk, etc.

4. Systematize & Streamline – parts of this business are fairly routine. Document the routines completely so you can delegate or outsource them. Your time as the owner of the business should be spent on the five drivers for your business – sales & marketing, project planning & oversight, client relationships, systemization and joint ventures. If you were to focus your time on these five drivers alone, you would achieve more in less time and make more money…what could you do with the extra time and money? Use that to power through the documentation and systemization process so you can assign the work that doesn’t require your creativitity and skill sets.

5.Improve Your Strengths & Outsource or Delegate Your Weaknesses – I just learned this a few years ago, and it was really eye-opening to me. Keep this in mind if you have kids, too. If you have particular strengths, focus on improving those if they are the key drivers of your business. Find a coach, or find the best person you can to be a mentor to you to teach you the best practices. It will save you incredible amounts of time, money and wasted effort. This is also known as modeling. Everything that is not a strength, don’t do and don’t try to improve. It is extremely freeing to give up trying to improve things that aren’t playing to your strengths.

Watch for Part II soon...

If you’d like to learn more how to get more clients, work less and enjoy your interior design business more, be sure to request Design Success University’s Interior Design Fee & Salary Survey eBook - $49 Value with our compliments. We’ll also add you to our complimentary weekly newsletter, IDEAS that is full of educational and inspirational articles plus a calendar of upcoming events.


  1. Great post, Gail. I realize some of the points that I do really well, and others that I need to focus on a little more. Systemization and focus are always challenges for me. I have learned to "do what only I can do" and outsource the rest. That made a significant difference in my productivity. I'm looking forward to part 2.

  2. I have read so much in the last year about focusing on what you do well and dropping or outsourcing the other stuff. And also focusing on what you like to do (within reason) and dropping the other stuff. I don't like to cook in this season of my life but still have kids who need to eat. So, I decided to do more "on the go" type meals or we all eat cereal or sandwiches for dinner. Instead of being a grump or feeling guilty about not cooking perfect meals all the time, my kids and husband and I are having a ton of fun at meal time and I stopped feeling guilty. I am trying to translate that into my business as well. Some things I am not good at and some things I am great at. I love selling and meeting with people. I don't love administrative or finite detail stuff. But my husband does. So I do the selling and he does the detail things. So figure it out - What should you do and what should you outsource? Makes so much sense to me now both for my business and for my family. I just hope I can figure out more areas where this practical tip (and thank you again for it) can help make me a better, more productive me.