This quote from John C Maxwell has changed my perspective on time management a bit:
Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.
With that in mind, here are 3 practical steps you can take to stay organized and feel like you’ve gained more time in your day.
1. Make a daily list.
Either the night before or first thing in the morning, write down (yes, write down, don’t keep it all in your head!) everything you need to get done. I would suggest even putting them into categories like:
- Must get done
- Should get done
- Could get done/Can be done tomorrow
- Want to do
Don’t skip that last one! It’s important to build things into your day that you want to do as well as need to do. And sometimes what you want to do and what you must do can be the same thing, which is even better!
Once you’ve listed out all of your tasks, you can then start to prioritize them. It’s good to remind yourself during this step that not everything is important. Don’t stress yourself out by putting everything in the must get done column. Sometimes we have time constraints and can’t avoid them, such as moving to a new place and needing to clean and pack all day (ahh the list is so long!), and yes it probably is, but that means you don’t need to also try to fitting in lunch with a friend, taking your dog to the groomers and talking to your mom for an hour that same day. Priorities people.
Creating a daily (or weekly) task list is mostly about organizing your thoughts, discerning what is most important and creating boundaries for yourself and those around you. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t have time to do that” or “Is that something I could complete for you tomorrow?”
If you need additional help on this step check out another post I did on “Creating Task Lists using the Eisenhower Matrix”.
2. Decide what is important.
But Tayler, everything is important and must be done today! Ok, well probably not.
In discerning your high priority tasks, ask yourself these questions:
- Will I lose money if I don’t do this?
- Will not completing this task put me behind on the project?
- Is this something I could complete tomorrow?
- What does my time look like for the rest of the week?
Basically it’s important to really think about the tasks as a smaller piece of the whole. For example, if you are working on a project for a client and you have a deadline, then you want to prioritize that project and the individual tasks so that you can deliver it on time or early. Delivering the project late may cause you to lose the client and ultimately lose money in your business. And if your business isn’t making money than how will you continue to help your clients?
Now, personally, I don’t think purely being motivated by money is a good way to organize your tasks. As I mentioned in point #1, it is also important to fit in things that YOU WANT to do. But if you run a business, than making money is important and if it’s a day where you only have a couple of hours to get your work in then that first question becomes really important.
3. Make a plan.
After you’ve made your list ( and broken it up into must, should, could and want categories) then you are ready to create your schedule. The best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to Block Schedule and Batch Everything!
These two tips could be full blog posts and there are a lot of good articles out there about each of them, but here are the basics of how they work.
Block scheduling is basically organizing your day into blocks of time where you focus on certain tasks. This helps in multiple ways.
- Creating Boundaries for yourself
- Providing yourself the space to focus on each area of your day
- Not feeling guilty for not working on something else
By creating a Block Schedule you are giving yourself permission to focus on the tasks that you’ve decided are most important. Here is an example of what that could look like. (PS- if you have kids this schedule will probably look a little different, but you get the idea).
7-8am: Get ready, eat breakfast, morning mindset/meditation
8-9am: Create daily list, Check emails or Social Media
9-12pm: Client 1 Project
12:30-12:30pm: Check Emails
12:30-1 pm: Lunch
1-3 pm: Client 2 Project
3-3:30pm: Emails and/or Social Media
3:30-5pm: Personal Business time (write, blog, watch a webinar, listen to podcast, etc)
7-8 am: Get ready, Eat breakfast, morning mindset/meditation,
8-10:30 am: Client 3 Project
10:30-11:30am: Check emails and social media
12-1 pm: Workout
2-4:30pm: Client 1 Project
4:30-5:30pm: Check emails and/or social media
7-8am: Get ready, eat breakfast, morning mindset/meditation
8-9am: Emails & Social Media
9-12pm: Client 2 Project
1-4:30pm: Content Creation
4:30-5pm: Emails and Social Media
When creating your schedule, you can also consider what times of day you work best. Maybe you do your best writing in the evening. Maybe you like working out at lunchtime instead of early morning. Build your schedule around when you are at your best.
And maybe you rotate what you do in those hours. So if your best hours are from 8-12 then maybe on Tuesday and Thursday you schedule that time to write for yourself and on M, W, TH you schedule that time for your clients. It’s okay to give yourself your best hours sometimes 🙂
The other thing to keep in mind when creating your block schedule is to batch everything. You’ve probably heard people talk about this and maybe you already found yourself doing this naturally without much thought.
Research shows that it can take up to 20 minutes to refocus after being interrupted during a task. 20 minutes! If you get interrupted 3 times working on a project that means you just lost an entire hour of your time.
The idea is to do like-minded tasks at the same time.
If you are a writer, set aside specific blocks of time to do all of your writing. Then the next day you can batch edit what you wrote the day before, then batch create graphics for your posts and then batch schedule your posts out.
When I say batch everything, I mean batch everything! You’ll notice that in the example schedule above that checking emails have a set time to be read and responded too. You shouldn’t keep your email up all day and check it each time an email comes through. Create blocks of time (ie boundaries) where you set aside time for each task. You’ll feel more focused and more productive each day.
Ultimately, it’s not about being perfect! Life happens sometimes and that’s okay. The goal is to find some balance in everyday life. Creating boundaries is a healthy habit! And sometimes the best gift you can give yourself is to create a few boundaries for your day as well.