For years, I struggled with time. I was always craving more of it, thinking all I needed was a little more time to get everything I wanted done. The truth is: It doesn’t have to be that hard. Time is simply a way we manage our mind around each day. It’s the way our brain organizes our life and our activities. Sounds simple, right?! Well, it’s not always that easy.
Time management can be a struggle for designers and creative entrepreneurs. We might think that having everything planned out will stifle our creativity. But it’s actually the exact opposite. When we learn to manage our time and schedule properly, we end up having more time freedom.
Time seems like something we are controlled by. And if you are like I was for years, you may think time is something you are in a race against each day. But you have far more control over time than you likely believe.
First, we have to see where we’re wasting our time, so we can plan to spend it more wisely!
What to do when you already feel like you’re running out of time
Our thoughts are the biggest killer of our time, and we may not even be aware of what we are thinking and that we are sabotaging ourselves and our calendar. Our thoughts always determine our actions, and the good news is: our thoughts are optional, so we always have control over them! (Want help in mastering your mindset? Check out my free workbook here to learn how you can use your mindset to make more money!)
It’s completely your choice what you think about time. If you think you don’t have enough, you will likely be overwhelmed and have chaos in your life. If you believe you have enough or more than enough, you will likely experience more organization and productivity, not to mention peace of mind and success at making time for doing the things that really matter.
Before learning to manage my mind, I awoke each morning, feeling like time had already won. I felt behind before my feet even hit the ground. I felt overwhelmed when I looked at my to-do list. I believed there was never enough time to succeed at what I wanted to.
At my most dysfunctional point in my thinking about time and how to manage it, thoughts of allowing an assistant to help me with my calendar and scheduling my appointments sent my fears through the roof. I feared being trapped by a schedule that someone else had set for me. I feared being obligated to do things I couldn’t get out of. And I feared that I would yearn for more free time and less time being overcommitted.
But the funny thing I have learned about our thoughts is that our fear of the worst case scenario, almost always looks exactly like our current situation. I was already trapped by work, obligated to things I didn’t want to do, and I yearned for more free time and balance.
So, if my biggest fears were coming true with no planning, no schedule and no deliberate approach to time, then what if getting organized and blocking my time were actually the solution to my problem and not something else to be afraid of?
As you can guess, planning, scheduling and sticking to the plan, plus being deliberate with my time, didn’t trap me but gave me the ultimate freedom! I soon learned that I had been trying to do 75% more than would fit in my days and I had to start saying no to some of it (or most of it). And it was LIBERATING!
How to feel like you’re in control of your time
You might be surprised to learn that creating time with your actions is even possible. That you can become the Master of your calendar. It’s important to realize that Time used wisely, can get you lots of money. And money is amazing, because it can actually buy you more time in your day by hiring others to do things so you don’t have to.
The first step in maximizing your time is to start by writing out all your thoughts about time.
It’s very important that we assess how we spend our days and compare that to how we would want to spend our days. For most of us, until we dig in and do some major work on our mindsets and our schedules, our days don’t look like we would choose them to look, do they?
I don’t know about you, but two of my main goals each day are to create as much money and time as possible. I call this creating time freedom and creating financial freedom. I want these two things because I believe they help me live the life I truly desire. I have found that to reach both time and financial freedom, the key is mastering your use of time.
What is the true cost of wasted time?
The main ways we cost ourselves time are:
- Buffering (numbing with anything like Facebook, food, alcohol, drugs, binge-watching TV)
- People pleasing
- Indecision/second guessing
- Judging ourselves and others (including gossip, opinions and psychoanalyzing )
If you just eliminated these things, you would have more time left in your schedule than you can imagine.
Hours can feel different based on our thinking. The hour is exactly the same length, 60 minutes, but one can go fast (the weekend) and one can go slow (a colonoscopy or a visit to the DMV).
These days, even my weekends feel indulgent and long, because the way I use my time differently than ever before.
People who get the most results in their life don’t spend time, waste time or lose time. They are very deliberate with their time even when they are relaxing and playing and having fun!
When we have a chunk of free time and we don’t use it deliberately, it flies by. We waste it. It’s gone.
These days, I manage my free time by mapping out what I want to do with it. I find a mix of down time and accomplishing things, is the most restful and joyful to me. And planning my weekends actually creates time for me, because I don’t accidentally end up working all weekend, when I had imagined a more exciting 48 hours.
With a shift in my approach, now my weekends include everything from lingering over that 3rd cup of coffee in my PJ’s, to cleaning out my closet, to a long afternoon nap, or hiking with my family followed by a delicious lunch at our favorite spot and maybe even a casual dinner party at our home with friends.
I can squeeze a lot of joy into my weekends with planning. In the past when I left my weekends open to be “spontaneous,” I usually had little to show for them, often barely getting out of bed. And I rarely got to Monday feeling relaxed, fulfilled or connected to the people I love. Now, that’s all changed.
How can I feel like I have more time?
In the book Essentialism, Greg McKeown says the goal is to make one decision that eliminates 1000 other decisions. So how do you do that?
First, by making decisions strongly. No wavering. No second-guessing or regretting and changing your mind. Make a decision and stick with it. Also, not waiting to take action, but just doing it right now is the best time creator! Don’t think about it or talk about it. Just do it.
Decisions made in advance are even more powerful than decisions made in the moment. If you plan your schedule, your meals, what you are wearing, how you are spending your weekend, where you are going to visit and eat and shop on your vacation. All these and any other decision made ahead of time eliminate hours of discussion, weighing options, and doubt.
Planning is another key time creator. It’s a game-changer. But honoring the plan is part of the deal. You must keep your word to yourself which is often not easy for a lot of us. Master Life Coach Brooke Castillo estimates that for every 1 hour of planning, she creates an extra 5 hours of time.
Not only planning, but deciding a certain amount of time the task will take and doing it in that time, with no exceptions, creates even more time. It eliminates fits and starts. It keeps you from going into perfectionism mode. With a set time limit, you don’t have the luxury of seeing how long something takes. You make it take whatever time you have.
Because if you can cram it in a certain amount of time when you have the pressure of an impending deadline (think cramming for college finals), then why can’t you make it happen in that amount of time all the time, but before the last minute? The answer is you can. You just have to believe you can.
Constraining and saying no are other time creators. This includes constraining your goals to one key goal at a time. But there are many things you can constrain to simplify your life—the number of clients you take on, the number of people you learn from at a time, how many places you shop, how many friend relationships you pour yourself into at once, how many and what services you offer in your business, how many belongings you have. Truly any part of your life you can constrain and simplify, the better quality all the other things in your life will be because you will have more time to focus on those essential things and people.
Failing is also a time creator. It eliminates the need to get stuck in indecision if you just go ahead and try and fail and then get feedback on what to tweak. Trying not to fail, wastes hours of thinking, fretting and trying to figure out how not to fail and there is never a guarantee that you won’t fail anyway. So do yourself a favor, and fail quickly. It’s a huge time saver. And don’t judge yourself or make it mean anything personal about you when you do fail. Just move on.
My Favorite Approach for Mastering Time & Scheduling
The number one way I have mastered my time is through Zero-balance time blocking. A concept I created after learning the benefits of Zero-balance budgeting from Financial Guru Dave Ramsey.
The idea is that with your money if you don’t earmark every dollar, and you only budget the big stuff like your mortgage, car payments, private school or student loans, and you leave all the rest in a “pot”, then you end up wasting most or all of the pot.
Because you aren’t tracking it, you really have no idea how much money you have, where it went and you often spend money you don’t even have.
I realized the same is true with time. When we are only putting the big stuff in the calendar like a client presentation, a meeting with a vendor or industry partner or subcontractor, and our daughter’s school play, then all the rest of our time goes into a big pot and we waste it away, having almost nothing to show for it at the end of a week or month other than exhaustion and an incomplete list of to-dos.
And I get it, just the thought of earmarking every moment of your time, even your sleep, seems too constraining and even claustrophobic for creatives like us. But realize those are just your thoughts. And open your mind to the idea that this could be the most freeing practice of your lifetime, because you will actually start getting things accomplished, faster than ever before, which means having more balance.
Are you ready to experience time freedom, too? I created this free downloadable planner to help you start scheduling and managing your time in the most effective way. Once I started scheduling like this, I had more time for my family, my business and my self-care—and I saw my income double in less than a year! Get your free Tobi’s Ultimate Planner: The Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide to Time Management now!
I hope this is helpful for you! Leave me a comment below and let me know how your scheduling goes. And what you’re able to do now that you follow this method!