Thursday October 23, 2014
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Always running out of time? 14 ways to get more done

Always running out of time? 14 ways to get more done

I’m constantly battling with time.  There is never enough of it.  I always have multiple activities competing for it.  And once it is gone, I can never get it back again.

These are my simple time management tips to help you be more productive in your day.

Work to your natural rhythms

Figure out when you are most productive and make sure that your schedule works to that.   Identify which activities fit best with your energy levels and build your schedule around that.   If you try and do hard stuff when your energy is low, life and your business will always feel like a struggle.  I call this the energy dance.  Work with your natural daily energy cycle and move and flow through  your day simply and easily.  If you are a lark, work hard in the morning.  If you are a night owl, sleep until 10 and work until late.  The great thing about being a micro business owner is that you get to choose!

Plan before you begin

Decide what you are going to do and when you are going to get it done by. Know what your critical path is (the activities that need to be completed first) and put those milestones into a simple plan.

Always work from a list.

When you feel yourself getting distracted, refer back to the list of activities that you need to achieve that day and that week. This will keep you focused.

Schedule everything

Have a diary that you use to schedule your activities for the day and when you are going to do them. Schedule in your downtime if you know you need it to manage your energy. Schedule in fun so that you can give yourself a mental break to be more creative. Whatever you do and need to do to ensure your success, schedule it. If it isn’t scheduled, it doesn’t get done.

This is what my schedule currently looks like:

[6:00 – 7:00] Writing (I know it’s crazy, but this really is my most creative time)

[7:00 – 9:00] house time / me time / get kids to school time

[9:00 – 12:00] Work – only schedule meetings during this time once per week

[12:00– 1:00] Break time / Me time / home time / exercise time

[1:00 – 3:00] Work

[3:00 – 5:30 ] Kid time  - food and homework

[5:30 – 7:00 ] Work

[7:00 – 8:00] Kid time – bed time

[8:00 – 10:00] Husband and chillout time

The Law of Three (a la Brian Tracy)

Write down a list of the activities that you need to accomplish in a week.  What are the most important things? What if you could only do three of those things? Ask yourself if those 3 activities will really move your business or your project forward.

Bin the stuff that doesn’t.

Chunk your time

Split your time into chunks. Decide how long you are going to spend on an activity and then work to that time. Turn off all distractions during this period so that the activity gets 100% of your attention.

Set deadlines (and stick to them)

The work will fill the amount of time that you give it. If you really want to achieve something fast, then give yourself a challenging deadline and put it out there. Tell other people that they can expect a result at a particular time and you are much more likely to deliver.

Create systems

If you have activities that you do over and over again, or need to have the same conversation with different people, then create systems that will make the work much simpler and easier. This will mean that you are not having to do the thinking each time. Systems can be as simple as having templates in place, scripts to work from or a simple mind map that lists out the key activities.

Keep track

Check in with yourself daily and weekly and track your progress. Did you do what you said you were going to do yesterday? Was it important? Does it need to be done today? How are you doing against your schedule? Are you staying on course or going off track. Learn from what you are doing and what you aren’t doing.

Create a dashboard

Set some simple daily and weekly targets that you want to achieve and monitor the numbers. Don’t be afraid of them as they are clues about where you are in your business. Without knowing how you are doing against a set of key criteria, you won’t know where you are in your business and what you need to spend more time doing.

Create visual clues

Put up a poster where you can tick of each goal accomplished. Give yourself large scale visual reminders about what you have decided to do in your business. A friend of mine, Joanna Penn has a big chart on her wall to remind her that her main goal every day is to write 1000 words. She gives herself a big tick each day that she achieves this goal. And leaves it blank when she doesn’t. This shows her that she is keeping on track against her book writing target.

Create space for you to work

It’s critical that you have a work space that feels comfortable for you to work in. I’m not going to tell you that you need to carve out a space in your house where none exists, but it’s really important that you have a place where you can work that is conducive to getting stuff done. Make sure that you have a place that you can put all your work stuff away at the end of the day so that you can truly relax.  It will free you up mentally to be more productive.

Take breaks regularly

Your brain and creativity will thank you. Working continuously without breaks is exhausting and your work will suffer. Go for a walk. Do some exercise. Meet a friend of a coffee. Make sure you time box it but build in down time.

Learn to say no

Say no at least 4 times a day. Decide that you are going to take control of your time and you decide your agenda, not others. It’s not selfishness, it’s self preservation.

Bonus tip

Set clear boundaries.

I got this from the webinar that we did with Wendy Kerr earlier this month – when 9:00am starts… stop doing laundry and the dishes and cleaning the house and doing the grocery shopping. Respect that your work takes priority during whatever work hours you set and don’t deviate.  I know it’s hard, and I know as a woman that you are good at multi-tasking but you would be surprised how much time those little things take up in your day and away from your business!

If you have other tips that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them.  Please share them in the comments below.

Share this article if you found it useful! And leave a comment in the box below. We hope to connect with you soon.

About Julie Hall

Hi, I'm Julie Hall, the founder of Women Unlimited. I have been running my own businesses since January 2000. For the last 9 years I have owned and run a new media agency, called Springmedia, in south west London, creating customer focused websites for small and medium sized businesses. I hope you find the articles and stories on this website useful, and feel free to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you.

18 comments

  1. Great post. So true that noticing your work behaviors and patterns is important to optimize your work. Thanks for the tips!

  2. This is so true! It seems like there’s never enough time in a day. That’s why it’s so important to have and follow a schedule. This article is a must read for everyone. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thank you for the reminder, particularly your thoughts regarding working with the flow of your energy. As someone prone to bouts of debilitating chronic fatigue I sometimes try to push on through the extreme tiredness and the foggy head. On those ocassions when I have allowed myself a power nap I have been much more productive afterwards. Another thing that I find useful with regards to my weekly schedule is to colour code different activities, e.g. purple is for mind/body/spirit, yellow is for business development, red is for client appointments, orange for friends/family etc. that way I can see at a glance if I have an even spread of activities during the week.

  4. That’s a great article. The advices are brilliant, but it’s not so easy to stick to them, when you’re a mother of a baby and a toddler lol:)

  5. nice article, work behaviors and patterns are important to optimize your work. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Thank you for your helpful advice, especially on keeping focused on the important things that need to get done.

  7. Brilliantly written. Procrastination also is a huge time sink as well. We always justify to ourselves that we can always “do it tomorrow” but really, it’s better to do it RIGHT NOW.

    Awesome use of photos as well. I need me one of those machines that can punch letters!

  8. Great article.Effective time management is a primary means to a less stressful life.These practices will help us reduce our stress and reclaim our personal life.Thanks for sharing these tips Julie.

  9. I find your tip “Always work from a list” has been very helpful for me. I use Asana to manage all my day to day task. I would be lost without it. Thanks for all the great tips.

  10. i really like the bonus tip of stopping what you are doing at a designated hour to do what is on your schedule. i think that this will be an interesting one to try out with the alarm on my phone!
    Something i have found really useful for being more efficient is staying focused on the job at hand. Being more present to a single task helps stop the head chatter and thinking about the next thing to do and reduces being distracted. jobs seem to get done more efficiently leaving time left over – yeah!

  11. Great Article. work behaviors and patterns are important to optimize your work.

  12. Great Tips. I recently installed a white board to list my goals. The large visual reminder certainly does help.
    I have written about learning to say ‘no’ here: http://www.mmcareerservices.com/#/career-blog/4568097217/How-to-Say-No-At-Work/6624475

  13. I can relate! I always feel that I do not have enough time for my work but with a list I am able to schedule what I have need to do and accomplish more.

  14. Hi

    I wish I could be disciplined enough to have a schedule, problem is I put myself under more pressure the moment I fall behind. But lists I love lists.

    Great piece.

    John

  15. so true about dishes in the morning – I do that!

  16. These are some great tips! I usually have no choice but to make a plan and write it down if I want to get anything done because I guess I don’t have the ability to stick to my memory. I take a lot of pleasure of making a list of things to accomplish and feel even better when I am able to cross out each task after completion.

  17. Julie I feel like we’re siblings separated at birth! I found myself nodding along to all of this and thinking YES YES YES! Brian Tracy has been my guru for 25 years and I am a chunker and a tracker :) You’ve reminded me though that I need to take breaks! That’s my downfall. I get so caught up in my work that I even ignore signals that I have to go to the bathroom or eat! errr… better stop and do that now.

  18. I always start the day with the worst task or calls i dread making, then the day gets better and better.

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