I’m asked all the time: “How in the world do you do everything?” And on some days, I wonder how I’m going to get it all done, too. But to be your most effective, you have to have a great plan for time management. That’s the only way to juggle it all – and it’s how I keep everything moving day to day.
So what’s the one thing that’s really holding you back from making the most of the time you have? It’s YOU! That’s right, it really is you. You can be your own worst enemy when it comes to managing your time. It’s just human nature and we all do it. So let’s talk about some ideas to get you back on track:
1. Keep 2 to-do lists. Yes, I know it’s hard enough to keep up with one. But this really works. I have one long list with everything on it that I need to get done, categorized by project. That helps me avoid dropping the ball on anything that I need to do. But my second list is just for things that have to be done today, and it only includes 3-4 things. Because it can be really intimidating to have to look at a 15-page to-do list every single day – and really discouraging, too. Being able to cross things off a list, and actually finish a list each day, keeps you on time and on task.
2. Block your time. This was the game changer for me. I was forever getting distracted by whoever or whatever happened to interrupt me next. And that is a major time waster. Instead of just taking on whatever hits my desk next, or allowing anyone and everyone to bring me yet another task or issue whenever they want, I now block my time each day. This allows me to set aside blocks of hours that are exclusively and only for design, for example. Or I have several hours blocked out just to work on client outreach or financials. The understanding in my office – and the promise I keep to myself – is that I won’t take on anything else during that block other than what I’ve set it aside to accomplish. It really keeps me focused and it helps me better manage my time.
3. Delegate tasks. What tasks in your business are doing that you should not be doing? Come on – you know there are things like that! Are you taking out the trash instead of setting your financial goals? Are you running errands instead of focusing on client outreach? That needs to stop! As business owners we have the tendency to try to be in control of everything. But you cannot and should not do everything. The only things that should “live” on your schedule are tasks that make you money. Everything else on your task list is costing you money. Who can you outsource some of those things to?
4. Revisit your systems and processes. Remember those processes you defined for your business? The ones that you were going to follow to the letter? Well cutting corners and dropping steps will really eat into your time management. That’s because you usually end up having to take 15 more steps to fix problems you created when you didn’t follow your process. If you don’t have processes and systems – and these can be for client experience, for client outreach, for project management – then create them now! They really do act as a reminder of all the things that need to get done for a smooth and efficient project.
5. Turn off all distractions. You have to really commit to this to have any effective time management. You have to stay focused on the business things that matter. Distractions happen to all of us. Some of us are parents who get nonstop texts from our kids about homework, friends coming over, or thing that they think are important at that moment. Top performers can deal with these distractions while maintaining focus on the things that matter. Maybe it’s learning to turn off the phone, or letting someone else in the family deal with the distraction, or setting rules about when you can be “bothered.” Whatever it is, keep your focus. That will allow you to get things done in the time you have to do them. But there are other distractions that will destroy your schedule. Your phone. Social media. Watching a puppy video. We all do it, but those things will completely eat up all of your time and will keep you from doing what you need to do. Put your head down and stick to it – and get out of your own way!
But what ONE thing is common to those 5 tips? DISCIPLINE. You have to be disciplined to get things done when you say you will, to keep distractions away, to focus on what you need to get done. If you can’t do that, then no amount of time management tips are going to help you. So buckle down and get serious about your time – it’s your most precious resource!