Time management and productivity is a common topic of conversation especially for business owners who are trying to juggle lots of different responsibilities like a family or a full time career. There never feels like there is enough time in the day to get everything done.
The reality is we all have the same 1440 minutes in the day. It’s the choices we make every day that determine how productive and successful we are. I understand that some choices are taken away from you. For example, taking the children to school (although that’s a choice we made a long time ago when we decided to have children), but most are flexible and can be planned for accordingly.
There are many time management techniques, some of which I’m going to share with you today. Personally, I think to be really productive it is as much about mindset as it is about techniques. If you start your week thinking “I’ve got so much to do I’m never going to get it all done.” you’re likely to find at the end of the week you haven’t been productive. You’ll feel de-motivated and the following week you’ll start the whole cycle off again.
Here’s a mix of some key mindset shifts and time management strategies that should make a difference, not only how you feel but how much you achieve.
We all live our life by a set of core value and beliefs. When something goes against these values it can lead to procrastination and overwhelm.
For example, I used to find it difficult asking for the sale or offering my services. Logically I understood that to have a business I needed clients. I totally believed that I could help people but when it came to asking for the business I’d freeze. It also meant that any tasks that would lead to having a conversation I started to put off, hoping that people would come and ask to work with me instead.
Initially I thought that it was lack of time, but when I dug deeper I realised that for me asking for the business felt like I was being pushy and that went against everything I believed in. I also realised that if I didn’t offer my coaching to someone who could clearly use some help I was doing them a disservice. I’ve since found a way that doesn’t feel pushy and still gets results.
The key here is to understand why you’re struggling to do something. Let’s face it, if it’s been on your to-do list for over a week there must be a reason. Once you understand the reason you can either challenge these beliefs or find a way that works with your values and not against them.
Prioritising and planning are crucial to good time management. Spend some time working out what your priorities are and if possible how much time on average you can devote to these activities. This will give you an idea about how you spend your time now and how that fits with your ideal.
Once you have a list of your priorities you can start to see how much time you’re likely to have available for each and start planning accordingly. You can then use a calendar to block out time to devote to each of your priorities.
Lists can be an effective way to manage your time if used correctly. I’ve found having three different lists works really well. The first list is a daily to-do list, the second list is a list of filler tasks and the third list has everything else. It’s helpful to break tasks down in to smaller chunks. They’ll feel much more achievable that way.
Daily to-do lists: Be realistic with how many tasks you’re likely to achieve in a day, taking into account any commitments or time constraints you may have. Rank those tasks in order of importance and do the most important or scariest tasks first. That way they’re more likely to get done.
Filler Tasks: Filler tasks are tasks that can be done in 5-15 minutes. They’re a great way to utilise any small amounts of time you have available. Maybe you’re waiting to pick your children up from school or waiting for a client to call and don’t want to get to engrossed in what you’re doing. You’ll be surprised how all those minutes add up.
Anything else list: Your anything else list contains ideas, task you want to do at some point and things you don’t want to forget. It’s like a brain dump. Some people use journaling or notetaking for the same purpose. It’s a way to take the ideas and thoughts in your head and put them down on paper so that it frees you up emotionally to focus on what matters.
Having a theme of the day/week can really help you make progress on a particular area of your business. By focusing on one area for a period of time you’ll be so much quicker and will therefore get more achieved.
If like me you like the idea of theme days rather than weeks it’s important to remember it’s about making progress. You will not necessarily complete a project in one day.
Here’s some examples of my theme days.
I love social media. Not only has it been instrumental in the success of my business I’ve made some great friends too. However, social media can be incredibly time consuming. If you’re not careful you’ll find yourself scrolling through your feed on Facebook watching funny videos when you had planned to do something else. Turning off as many notifications as possible can help. Instead, check them two or three times a day for a specific amount of time.
Like social media, emails can also be extremely time consuming. We often get caught signing up to newsletter and tips which all seem great until you spend a couple of hours going through your emails.
Every now and then it’s good to have a clear out and unsubscribe from those emails that are no longer useful or you never read. You can do this really quickly and easily at Unroll.me
Turn off email notifications, if someone needs to contact you urgently they can always call or message you. Instead get in to the habit of checking your emails twice a day and deal with any emails that will take only you a few minutes straight away. For those emails that are going to take a bit longer you can either schedule time in your calendar or add it to your to-do list. You can always send a holding email explaining that you will be replying fully shortly.
Bookkeeping is something that tends to mount up if you’re not careful. Before you know it’s the end of the tax year. You have a stack of receipts to enter, invoices to file, statements to check. That’s enough to give anyone a headache. The key to this is to do it regularly using software that’s easy to use.
When choosing which software to go for here’s a few things to look out for:
If you’re on a low budget and are looking for something that doesn’t cost you anything then you can use any spreadsheet software like excel or a free online accounting software like Wave.
The downside to these free options is that they are not as time efficient and often don’t have the same functionalities that some of the more sophisticated paid options have.
The key is to use something and use it regularly. If after doing this it still feels you with you dread you can always hire a bookkeeper or accountant to do it for you.
Outsourcing and delegation are a great way to free up some precious time. This could be as simple as asking older children to do certain tasks for some pocket money, getting a family member on board or by hiring a virtual assistant. If you’re someone who likes to have control and feel that by asking someone else to help you’re giving up some of that control, start small and increase when you feel comfortable to do so.
Hiring a virtual assistant may seem like an expense you can’t afford but if it frees you up to spend time talking to prospects or marketing. They will pay for themselves in no time at all.
There are many more time management techniques out there including the Pomodoro technique which I will be covering in a future blog. However, all the time management techniques in the world will not help you unless you use them consistently. Whilst it good to try new things, it’s important you don’t keep switching from one system to another. It takes time and patience to really determine if something is going to work for you.
Remember, it’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter.
Do you struggle with finding enough time to get things done, or are you super productive and have a time management technique that you can share?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment below.