Have you ever struggled with staying focused and on task? Or, have you “worked” all afternoon only to realize that you didn’t make a dent in your to-do list? I know I have. It can be so hard to hold ourselves accountable and manage every little task perfectly. Time management, who? And when there are a million things to get done, it’s natural to feel like you need to jump around.
But wait! There’s a better way. With a few handy time management tips and tricks you can stay focused, be productive, and feel comfortable tackling those pesky to-do’s. Today I’m going to be sharing my BEST tips and tricks for time management – try them out and see how it goes! I guarantee that once you start incorporating these tips into your daily routine, there’ll be no turning back.
This is a GOOD ONE so make sure you take note. You need achievable goals, peeps! If your goals aren’t achievable, then how do you expect to cross them off your list? An unachievable goal looks something like giving yourself one work day to finish 25 tasks. That’s too much! You’ll never get it all done (at least not well), and you’ll just set yourself up for feeling overworked and forever-behind. Pare down the list (by delegating perhaps, wink wink) and prioritize the most important ones. If something has urgency, then move it to the top.
Here’s a good rule of thumb that I learned for my own business – if something is both important AND urgent, do it yourself and make it a priority. If a task is important but not urgent, put it lower on your to-do list. If a task is urgent but not important, delegate it to someone else so they can handle it for you. Without importance, there’s no reason for that task to take up your precious time. Lastly, if a task is neither important nor urgent, hit that delete button friend!
Write a daily plan first thing in the morning or take some time to get it done the night before. Here’s the trick – keep it SIMPLE! This goes back to tip #1. Don’t add so much to your plan that you feel overwhelmed or rushed. Adding too much ends up being counterproductive. To up your motivation, try phrasing your to-do list items differently. Instead of writing “send email to team member,” try “email to team member sent.” It’ll feel oh so good when you check each item off and consider it completed.
No, this tip isn’t just crossing finished items off your list. Actually, I want you to create a separate list. So many things pop up throughout the day that we didn’t anticipate. When you complete an unexpected task, add it to your done list. You can keep track of these tasks right next to your to-do list. Trust me, this is a great tip for boosting motivation. At the end of a long week, go back and look at everything that you’ve accomplished. I guarantee you’ll feel satisfied and ready to take on even more.
I bet that you’ve had tasks to complete that you absolutely dreaded. I’ve been there too! We all have aspects of our business that we just do. not. like. And that’s okay! You don’t have to love everything. But when you do have some extra demanding things on the list, get them out of the way FIRST. Why is that? Most people are at the height of their daily productivity within the first few hours of work. In the morning, you haven’t had time for your brain to start going a million miles a second. That means less outside noise, and a better ability to focus. Take advantage of it while you can.
This one is based on something called The Pareto Principle. Basically, 80% of an outcome comes from 20% of the causes. That means that it’s important to take some time figuring out that 20% – then you can take advantage of the work that is producing most of the outcome. For example, if you’re spending a minimal amount of time engaging in Facebook groups and tons of time on Instagram, but you notice that most of your leads are from Facebook, then maybe you should switch up the platform you’re prioritizing. Completing a time audit to track where you’re spending the most time (and which activities are most effective) is going to be super helpful for you if you’re unsure of where to start.
Calendars are highly underrated tools. You can do so much more than the typical note of meetings here and there. Actively utilizing your calendar will make a huge difference in your business. That’s because you’ll be taking much more care of where your time goes. Time blocking on your calendar for each day is a great practice to make sure that each task has a devoted set of time. When that time is up, you’ve got to move on to the next task. You can also use your calendar to manage deadlines and keep yourself on track with larger projects.
Once you’ve started creating new systems for yourself within your business, make sure to stick to them! Goal setting is great to help you do this. Small goals in the beginning are more manageable, and then as time goes on it will form a habit. For example, make a goal to stay with your new system for 2 weeks. Then, once the 2 weeks is up make it another 2 weeks! After a while, you’ll be able to keep up on your new system automatically without needing the short-term goals. It’s said that it takes 66 days to form a new habit, so keep going! You can do it!
This tip is quick and easy – DO NOT respond to emails, texts, or any other messages immediately! You’re not held to the standard of providing 24/7 access to clients, and more freedom is a perk of self-employment after all. Constant communication can also become a distraction. If you’re focused on a specific task, shifting your mental energy to craft an email isn’t the most efficient use of your time. Instead of responding as soon as you receive a message, I recommend batching your communications. This means that you only respond at predetermined times. It’s a great way to cut down on interruptions and avoid feeling the need to constantly check your phone.
Let’s get those email folders organized! A cluttered inbox is not your friend. With an organized inbox at your disposal, you’ll waste less time sifting through emails and more time being productive. Here’s the thing – not every email you receive is important or urgent. Heck, some emails are neither! So, take some time and get that ish sorted. I recommend using Gmail (if you don’t already) because it offers a lot of options to tackle your inbox. I love using actionable labels for folders, using the archive tool for non-urgent emails, and filters.
I’m sure everyone has experienced a meeting that DOES NOT END. I’ve been there, and let me tell you, they end up being a huge waste of time. The purpose of a meeting is to work towards a goal, and while they are important, they don’t need to go on forever. That ends up being counterproductive! Time management skills definitely come into play here. To ensure that your meeting is effective yet concise, create a plan beforehand. With a set purpose and outline, it’s easier to stay on task and avoid wasting time. Bonus points if you share the meeting outline with the other participants in advance!
I’m sure you’ve heard it before – don’t sweat the small stuff! The big picture should always be the focus, not the teeny tiny details. Take care of your most important to-do’s. Dwelling on every little thing is only going to derail you because, hey, nothing will ever be perfect. And that’s okay! Perfection is not realistic. There is going to be a lot of learning on the way to greatness, so just make sure you’re getting everything done that needs to get done. That’s all you can do. Sure, make sure you’re trying your best, but worrying about being perfect isn’t the place to spend your energy.
I know this is probably self-explanatory, but you NEED REST. No one in the world is on-the-go all the time. Sacrificing sleep in order to complete a task will not yield the results you’re looking for. In fact, giving up sleep ends up affecting you negatively. Not good! When you’re tired, you’re more likely to procrastinate and become distracted. That’s not good for your daily time management practices. Getting that good ol’ 8 hours every night is important no matter what. The to-do list will still be there in the morning! Tend to it then.
Even exercise is a time management tip! Why, you ask? Physical activity has a boosting effect on productivity. Not only is it good for your body, it’s also fantastic for your mental health. After completing even a short workout, you’ll notice a difference in your ability to focus and complete tasks. I know fitting in a sweat session every day can be difficult, so try to aim for 3-4 days per week! Trust me, it’ll be a total game changer.
“No” is not a bad word. In fact, it should be a part of your most regularly used vocabulary. The inability to say no will hold you back from achieving your goals. Why waste precious time on tasks that you’re not excited about? If something doesn’t line up with your vision, say no. It’ll feel SO good. Even more, I want you to BE CONFIDENT when you say no. You don’t owe anyone an automatic yes, and it’ll serve you well to take your time and consider the answer you want to give. Once you start, each “no” will get easier and easier.
You need (and deserve) healthy boundaries. Proper time management also includes giving yourself downtime. Working away 24/7 isn’t sustainable, nor should it be. Here are some beneficial practices for setting boundaries:
Remember, you’re in this business for the long haul! Sustainable practices and proper time management will help you achieve your goals.
Learning to manage your time effectively is a process. Don’t get too hung up on doing everything perfectly right away. There are also many tools to help you on your journey. My favorite time management tool is Toggl – try it out here. Another awesome project management tool is Trello. It keeps me organized so it’s much easier to stay on track. I highly recommend checking it out!
This is just the beginning, friends. I have so many more tips to share to run your business like a BOSS. Keep an eye out for more blog posts coming soon! Until next time.