Simplify your Sign Life.

Chances are, if you own and run a sign business, you feel pretty overwhelmed at times. There are the stresses of the sign industry in general, the myriad details of running a business (hopefully profitable) and the everyday items that go with having a family & social life. To make matters even more complicated, you also have to deal with a constant barrage of phone calls, faxes, voice mail messages, e-mails, text messages, IMs… the list could go on. Throw in the fact that your cell phone, blackberry or iphone can pipe all of the interruptions straight to your hip pocket and you begin to get an idea of the madness.

So, how do you handle it all? If you are like the vast majority of people here in America you simply integrate each interruption into your daily life. You figure out ways to “squeeze in” just a couple more e-mails while eating your day’s fast food meal. You “multi task” by going over sign designs and logo concepts while simultaneously surfing the latest posts to your favorite sign industry forum. (Heck, even though I know better, I’m writing this right now while the Packers and Rams play football on my television… hold on, let me hit the pause button on the Tivo).

Despite our nation’s obsession with multi-tasking it has been shown that this pattern of behavior is actually bad for quality results. No matter how much you think you are accomplishing it is a fact that the human mind can only process two simple tasks, optimally, at the same time. An example of this would be listening to a podcast or radio while simultaneously sorting mail or filing papers. Anything added to this combination of simple tasks will result a dramatic decrease in effectiveness. In other words true multi-tasking is a myth. Not only is it virtually impossible to accomplish multiple significant tasks but, in the visually based sign business, it means you are not delivering the best sign work you can.

Here are some suggestions to simplify your sign life…

1. Limit your e-mails: OK, OK, before you panic, let me explain. E-mail alerts are, by far, the most common interruptions that we face as sign professionals. So, go into your e-mail settings and change the “check for new messages” option to every 2-3 hours. Just implementing this one simple step will go a long way toward reducing distractions in your day. If you are really concerned about people being able to reach you quickly then set up an auto responder to announce you are checking mail at 10, 1 and 4 and to call if it is an emergency.

2. Learn to say NO: If you think back on the last few days you will probably realize that you say yes ALOT more than you say no (children don’t count). Every time an friend, customer, employee or local Chamber rep asks you for “just a little favor” does not mean you have to do it. Don’t apologize and don’t feel guilty for not doing everything everyone else wants… remember, your time is important too. Start getting in the habit of saying no and watch your life begin to get simpler. On the plus side… when you do say yes , you will be able to give that task all the attention it deserves.

3. Use your calendar: Take advantage of the tools supplied by Outlook or even your Daily Planner. By developing the habit of writing everything down you will begin to get a better idea of where your time is disappearing and, more importantly, how to recapture it. Stop scribbling notes, dates & appointments on random pieces of paper and organize your time.

4. Eliminate clutter (have less stuff): Do you REALLY need the 27 partial rolls of vinyl colors that have been in your shop for 3 years? Do you HAVE to have the corner of the woodshop full of partial substrates, the 3 boxes full of old notes or the storage rack stacked to the top with old channel letters…? Purge that old stuff and de-clutter your sign business to simplify your sign life.

By taking these steps to simplify your sign life, I believe you will improve all aspects of your life. Do it now and begin to get more free time, improved quality of service and better all-around quality of life.