Do you find yourself always playing catch up with your time?
Sometimes it seems there needs to be more hours in a day.
But that’s just it — we only have 24 hours and out of those 8 to 10 to spend on work.
A few years ago I found myself working nearly 14 hours a day trying to fit everything in that I could in order to keep up the pace. While projects were getting done there were also mistakes that had to be fixed because I was becoming exhausted. This tacked on even more time to my work day and I ended up working until 2 or 3 a.m. just to get caught up.
Take a look at these statistics covered by Sherry Borsheim of Simply Productive and you’ll see that time management is one of the biggest challenges we face in our work day:
- Office workers who are disorganized lose an average of 40% of their workday.
- Poor communication costs us at least seven weeks work of work per year.
- Executives waste close to 8 hours every week by attending too many meetings.
- Communications technology interrupts us an average of every 10 minutes.
- The correct organizational and time management tools available can help improve our productivity by 38 percent.
If you find that you are being stretched too thin then it’s time to take a look at whether your day is running you. The goal is to not only make time for you and your family, but to also be able to build your business rather than just working on tasks.
In a report by Business Management Daily they cover several areas we can improve our schedule and become more focused on what’s important.
Step One – Pick your schedule
Figure out what works for you and stick with that. Not all schedules look the same — you might be a better worker at night. Or maybe you are an early bird and like to get things done in the wee hours of the morning.
Stick with a set schedule then each week cover what goals you’d like to accomplish, and what your calendar is going to entail. Create action lists based on your agenda to help you quickly identify the most important tasks to work on first. Here’s what this could look like according to author and productivity expert, David Allen, on Wikipedia:
Step Two – Work less, accomplish more
Sometimes it feels like we’re going two steps forward then two steps backward. That’s because we’re most likely cramming way too much into our day and not balancing out the priorities — including ourselves!
This is where the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule can come in to help save the day. This basically means that you should enjoy an 80 percent outcome for 20 percent of input. Yaro Starak writes it this way on his blog, Entrepreneurs-Journey: “in your life there are certain activities you do (your 20 percent) that account for the majority (your 80 percent) of your happiness and outputs.”
One example could be that twenty percent of your blog content could produce 80 percent traffic for your blog. Here’s 3 ways you can accomplish more in your day:
- Pick a focus day to prioritize meetings, to-do lists, and tasks
- Schedule errands and paperwork or an admin day
- If the weekend works for you take that time to refuel, hang out with friends and family, go out into nature, ect. Some people like to set aside time each day for leisure, but of course this all depends on your current schedule and job(s)
Step Three – Invest in a good project planning tool
There are a myriad of different resources available to help you organize your time — many of which are free! For instance, if you use Microsoft Outlook you can brainstorm ideas, set a specific schedule of dates, prioritize your day, ect.
Here’s three top free apps you might want to try:
- Trello – much like Pinterest boards, you can use this tool to create and organize task boards for you and/or your team. Signup is right through your Google account or you can create an account with another email address and your information:
- Feedcamp – Try this free tool out if you’d like to organize your customer base, create a new task, start a new business, and manage your schedule. It’s a very simple, easy tool that can help you stay organized in a less complicated format.
- Taiga.io – This free, open source software is easy to get started with and use. The tool is geared for agile developers and designers. It’s customizable, intuitive, and has a clean and simple dashboard to work on.
Step Four – Get rid of distractions
You’ve just started a new project and boom! In comes a text message from a friend. We all have interruptions in our day — the key is to set boundaries and manage them well.
Let people know when you’re available! Use email, a voice recording, or even a social media post to update your contacts on your “work only” schedule. You can even set this up with your clients, and only hold meetings on specific days and times so that you can focus on building your business.
Step Five – Manage your calendar well
It’s tempting to cram too many tasks into one day. The problem is you may not be able to accomplish all that you want to, which can cause a lot of frustration.
Take the time to carefully arrange your calendar by prioritizing the most important goals first. If needed, hire a freelancer to help you complete the more mundane tasks. And with the help of today’s technology you can hold a lot of meetings online without the need to leave your office.
Step Six – Don’t be afraid to delegate
As managers of our own business we tend to think we can handle it all — but this is a sure fire way to failure. Who do you know that can help you with things that you either have little knowledge about or not enough time for?
Sometimes there are personal jobs that need to be taken care, like moving, which is what I recently did (not fun). I used TaskRabbit to help find a capable mover on the cheap, but they offer many more other services as well such as installing a flat panel television:
Step Seven – Put a reign on your meetings
When two or more people get together a 30 minute scheduled meeting can easily turn into a two hour time suck. So how does this happen? Several reasons — lack of focus beforehand, not enough information, poor communication, and so on.
When scheduling a meeting be clear about the exact time frame and try to keep this under 90 minutes. Deliver the expectations ahead of time via email, and prepare ahead of time to be able to answer any questions with an option to delegate if you can’t.
Step Eight – Be a project manager instead of a time manager
Instead of placing a timer on our lives why not break your day into specific project components instead? Find ways to maximize your day by putting together groups of tasks or meetings, and enlist the help of other for those endless to-do lists. This way you will won’t feel rushed when it’s time to make an important decision.
Use whatever you have to to keep yourself in check — project management software, post-it notes, reminders on your smart phone, ect. At the end of your day you’ll be able to better evaluate how you’ve used your time effectively rather than double checking yourself throughout the day.
Step Nine – Outline your agenda
You’ve got an important quote or consultation with a client coming up, and the last thing you need is to forget something important. Create an agenda ahead of time that lists the main points, and allows for enough time to explain each item.
This can be managed in a spreadsheet, a slide presentation, or even a .pdf file that can be easily viewed with any statistics, graphics, and charts. The goal is to make the process go smooth and to maximize your time with a better focus and hopefully more sales!
Step Ten – Evaluate and clean up each month
Now that you’re more organized and have a set plan set aside a day each month where you can review your progress and eliminate anything that is completed or no longer belongs on your calendar and tasks. Set aside at least three hours to accomplish this. In the end you’ll have more clarity while reducing your time to find files, records, communication, ect.
Managing our time wisely includes knowing what resources to tap into and creating a set of specific goals that we can work toward. Many of the tools mentioned above are available on both computers and smart devices with your information being stored in the cloud for easy access.
In what ways have you improved your time management?
Did you hire a freelancer to help you out or did you stick with using tools?
I would love to see your feedback and comments!