Being Productive in a Super-Busy life
Knowing how to manage your time is a game changer. It’s all great and well setting amazing goals for yourself, but if you don’t know how to go about achieving those goals in a timeous and sustainable way, you’re going to end up overwhelmed and behind schedule. If you’re anything like me, that means you’re going to freak out and hide in a book or TV series for a few hours (okay, days in my case) to avoid the thought of failure. Which puts you behind schedule even more, which makes the whole cycle of work>freak out>hide>work start all over again. Ugh.
Before we look at time management tips, let’s have a look at some time wasters. By knowing the enemy we can better prepare to fight against it (she says in her best Aragorn voice).
1. not listening
By not listening to the opinions of others, new ideas or advice you remain in a rut. Those open to advice and ideas will fly past you in terms of success and achievements, leaving you behind doing the same things over and over. Cue cycle of freak out>hide>work once more.
2. Not Finishing
A great indication of time management is seeing what you actually get done. If half-done tasks and projects are scattered around you like confetti then you’re opening the door to overwhelm, feelings of failure and that vicious cycle. Successful people are great finishers.
3. Working Late
Okay, bear with me here. This DOESN’T mean if you’re a night person and most productive at night that you should stop. In this case, ‘working late’ means doing overtime consistently. Working too much. Hustling. By overworking your brain you’re numbing it (remember when we used to study for exams and cram cram cram knowledge until we hit a ‘block’; like our brains were a saturated sponge and nothing we read would be retained anymore? Exactly)
Overworking is a clear sign of poor time management. The problem with this is also the effect it has on your relationships and your creativity. It’s difficult to come up with innovative ideas when you’re tired and ‘numbed’.
4. Lack of Focus
When priorities keep shifting you create chaos for yourself. Consistently changing focus from one thing to the other more often than not leads to unfinished tasks and thus a feeling of never getting anywhere.
5. Bad Planning
Of all things, bad planning is one of the greatest time wasters out there. By failing to plan properly you’re setting yourself up for constant adjustments and changes in the future – which will waste time which could otherwise have been used to complete your task or project.
6. Technology Interruptions
You know what I’m talking about. You’re in the productivity-zone and ideas are pouring out your soul like sunbeams (the analogy works in my mind). Then suddenly BEEP-BEEP! And you’re yanked out that magical innovation space in a second. Someone has texted you. Or liked a Facebook post. Or emailed you. Or tagged you in a fluffy puppy pic. Or something. Either way, productivity-mode is over and you’re likely sucked into the black hole of social media for a good 10 minutes before you try valiantly to focus on work again.
Allowing your technology to control you instead of merely being the asset it’s meant to be is a huge time waster (and possibly addiction?)
7. To-Do Overload
The classic ‘biting off more than you can chew’ problem. This is basically exactly that situation I told you about where you have too much to do in too little time, leading to a meltdown, hiding, etc. I half suspect that this came from that saying of ‘if you want something done give it to someone already busy’ – the idea being that they know how to manage time and will fit it in. The problem is, so many people don’t know how to manage their time, but aspire to be productive and busy, leading them to biting off more than they can chew. What do you think?
8. Drop-In Visits
An open-door policy is all great and well, but having your focus constantly interrupted by people stopping by is a major time waster. If you don’t respect your own time, then neither will anyone else. Rather schedule ‘open door’ times.
9. Lack of Delegation
You’re not superman/woman. You’re awesome, but you can’t do everything, as much as you may want to believe you can. To delegate tasks is to make use of the resources around you – match the skillset to the task for maximum efficacy. If you’re not great at accounting, why are you slogging through the books? You’re taking twice as long as someone who is skilled in it – you’re wasting time.
10. Poor Organisation
This is a problem that you need to fix ASAP. If you’re not organised you’re wasting time, plain and simple.
This can come in many forms; procrasti-eating, procrasti-cleaning, procrasti-planning… You know what I’m talking about. Personally I can be a procrasti-planning queen when I want to be. Which is why I have a system set in place now. (Wanna know more? Check this out)
Also, procrastination is a defensive position, and being on the offensive is where you gain ground in your business. Meet your issues head-on, and reward yourself afterwards.
12. Hurried Decisions
When a question is at hand and you’re in a hurry you’re more likely to give the easy answer than the correct answer. That’s going to bite you in the butt later when you then need to make adjustments. Taking a bit of time to answer correctly in the moment will save you time in the future when you don’t need to fix any mistakes.
Here's a bit of a dramatic analogy: whenever driving and someone comes speeding past I always hear my mums voice saying "Rather get there late than never", meaning that that persons speed may lead to a fatal accident. Hectic right? But think about it - what hurried decisions have you been making in your life and business that may be jeopardizing you in the long-term?
13. Unproductive Meetings
Those meetings that are hours-long where only certain people are talking (usually the same thing over and over again) and you’re dreaming of all the work you could be doing instead. Or of the coming weekend. No judgement here.
A meeting that has no timeline and no specific outline is a huge waste of everyone’s time – especially since it’s highly likely that another meeting will need to be had to discuss the same things.
14. Not Learning
If everyone lived by the mantra “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” we’d all still be struggling with the technology and systems of ages ago. Continuous development and training is the only way to streamline your processes and become more efficient. Learn from the past and implement those lessons to avoid wasting time in your future.
15. Not Engaging
Spending time with others is a way to communicate and open up possibilities to collaborate and delegate, thus saving time in the long run.
Time Management Tips
After seeing the things that waste our time, it’s now important to understand how to manage our time more effectively in order to avoid that waste. These hacks are important for business as well as for everyday life.
1. Stop Multitasking
Oooh shots fired! We’re all guilty of this. You’re typing an email, eating a bagel, doing your finances and on the phone with a supplier all that the same time. Are any of them done well? Is the email eloquent and proofread? Is the bagel yummy and chewed properly for digestion? Are your books balancing or have you missed a digit somewhere? Did you hear what the supplier just said, or are you going to be on the phone again in a week when the one product doesn’t arrive, only to be told that he had explained that they’re out of stock?
Focus on one thing at a time. Schedule it. Get it done. Move on.
2. Set Deadlines
It’s a proven fact that we’re more productive when we have a deadline to work towards. Knowing we have to get things done within a certain time-frame enables our brains to focus more, allowing us to work more effectively.
Don’t set ridiculous deadlines which will put you under stress (cue vicious cycle), but do set reasonable time-frames for you to work in.
3. Prioritize Tasks
To-do lists are all the rage, especially with the bullet journals taking over our Instagram feeds, but having an unending list of things that need to be done can be just as debilitating as unreasonable deadlines. Have your to-do list, if that’s what works for you, but prioritise the tasks on it. There needs to be a hierarchy, otherwise things like procrasti-cleaning happen.
I personally only allow myself 5 tasks a day on my to-do list, and they’re put in order of importance. Too many tasks and I’m overwhelmed and procrastinating like a boss. Too little tasks and I’m reading or binge watching something because I think I have time to do the tasks later. Then the dreaded cycle and… well you know.
4. Remove Distractions
These can be your phone, your social media notifications, your pets (I have 2 cats who hate it when I work instead of adoring them), your TV, your radio, your current book. Do what you need to do to avoid any interruption of your focus. Switch off your phone or put it on silent, turn off your notifications, set boundaries with your pets (yes I know, I’m laughing too), ask hubby to hide your TV remote or book, keep your radio off…
5. Keep Your Mind Fresh
Taking regular breaks to renew and refresh your mind is important not only for creativity purposes, but also for self-care. If you’re not taking care of you then sooner or later you’re going to burn out.
It’s advised to work for 90-120 minutes and then take a 20-15 minute break. Sketching or reading is a great way to get your brain completely off work, allowing it to relax and renew its focus for your next stretch of 90-120 minutes work. It’s an inspired system of managing both time and energy – as the tow are so intrinsically linked with regards to time management.
6. Work When Most Productive
If you’re a morning lark, then wake up earlier.
If you’re a night owl, then schedule your time accordingly.
If you’re some form of permanently exhausted pigeon, then you need to rethink your schedule and adjust it big time.
Do what works for you. It’s all great and well to have everything planned to a T, but if you’re not taking into account your own energy levels then you’re going to struggle.
7. Set Reminders
These can be on your electronic calendar, which will send you a notification to remind you, or can be on a traditional paper planner. Either way, setting yourself reminders will help prevent the little tasks from falling through the cracks of busyness, requiring you to scramble at a later stage.
I personally set myself a reminder for the day of, as well as a few days prior to ensure I’m prepared and not doing things at the last minute which would cause me to rush and possibly compromise the standard.
8. Turn Off Email Alerts
This ties in very much with the previous ‘remove distractions’ point. Schedule a time in your day when you will look at emails. This can be first thing in the morning, or later on; whenever works best for you and your business. The rest of the time, ensure your email notifications are switched off to avoid losing focus on your current task.
9. Batch Your Tasks
This is something that has helped me in a major way. I’ve time-blocked my weekly schedule, giving myself specific days and specific lengths of time to do certain tasks.
For example, I give myself 30 minutes a day to go through my emails. Only 30 minutes. This forces me to prioritise and avoid wasting time by reading emails which aren’t business-focused or what I need in my business at the time. The emails I don’t get to are deleted. Intense, but highly effective in keeping me on track.
I also give myself 4 hours to write a blog post. Planning is done in a separate 30 minutes, but the actual writing must be done in 4 hours. If I need to go over then I’m either waffling too much, or the blog post needs to be broken up into a ‘part 1’ and ‘part 2’. I can write over a thousand words in less than an hour, so there’s no need for me to be taking too long with a post.
The purpose of batching and time-blocking isn’t to restrict yourself, but rather to allow for greater productivity. If you’re spending your day jumping from task to task to task then you’re wasting that precious time between tasks getting your mindset to change from situation to situation. Instead of creating images for Facebook day by day, rather set aside a day or two and create all the images you need for 3 months.
You’ll see how your time management is drastically changed with this method.
10. Brain-Dump Your Thoughts
Having a moment of alllllll the ideas just buzzing around your head, and all you want to do is get started on ALL of them right now?? Brain dump. Write down all those ideas and the thoughts branching off them, then put that paper aside and work on what you had originally planned for that time.
When you need to think of new content or ideas, that’s when you can bring that paper out again and utilise those thoughts. If you start working on them immediately then you’re bringing chaos into your work space and you’ll find you’re not really getting anywhere because you keep jumping from idea to idea to idea. Be systematic and plan properly. Spontaneity is great, but not if it’s at the expense of productivity.
11. Decline Additional Commitments
Sometimes you just feel too bad to say ‘no’ to someone asking for a slice of your time. Unfortunately it’s another case of if you don’t respect your own time, then no one else will. Be intentional about the commitments you make – how are they good for you and your business? Is the stress worth it? Will it require rescheduling other tasks that’s going to end up making life difficult?
12. Tidy Your Workspace
A tidy workspace automatically makes you feel like you have your shiz sorted. You’ve got this. Also, it usually means you know where to find whatever it is you’re looking for, as it isn’t all piled together in an untidy heap. A tidy workspace allows room for creativity and productivity.
13. Get More Organised
The amount of time people waste looking for things is shocking. Organise your paperwork, desk and rest of workspace. Do it now. This is one of those simple things that so many people struggle with, and it’s a huge part of effective time management.
14. Get In A Routine
Not so much so that you’re stuck in a rut, but enough of a routine to calm your mind and allow for ‘brain memory’ (you know, like muscle memory). Your body gets used to routine and a good routine also helps you relax into the comfort, leading to better productivity.
15. Manage Your Stress
When you feel overwhelm creeping in, or stress bubbling up, stop what you’re doing and take a break. Do something to completely take your mind off your current situation (whatever is causing the stress) and whoosah. Put a cap on it; 30 minutes should be enough, otherwise you’re procrastinating. Then step back and try look at the situation in a logical and emotionless way (this can be hard) and assess how you can alleviate any of the pressure or make things easier for yourself.
Do you need to reset a deadline? Do you need someone’s help? Do you need to change your goals slightly? If you start to stress again then step back completely again, but this time you’re only allowed 20 minutes. You need to learn to manage your stress, not give in to it.
You’re a badass. You can do this.
16. Delegate Tasks
Match skill-sets with tasks for effective productivity. Hire an accountant if that’s not your jam. Get a VA if social media is speaking ancient Latin to you. Hire a coach if you’re struggling to create a kick-ass game plan for your business.
Delegating doesn’t have to cost you money either - ask your hubby to cook 3 times a week. Ask your kids to wash their own dishes (or everyone’s; chores teach responsibility). Ask a friend if they’d mind proofreading your blog posts.
“Share the load” as dear Samwise Gamgee says.
17. Break Big Projects Into Steps
This is a tip that has saved my bacon in a big way. This isn’t just a case of breaking it up into steps, it’s breaking those steps into steps, and those into steps, and putting time frames to each steps’ steps’ step. It doesn’t matter how small the step may be, breaking it all down makes it more manageable and achievable. You’re no longer confronted by this huge project; instead you’re doing many small things consistently.
18. Only Take On What You Can Finish
There’s a saying that goes around every now and then (even I’ve used it) that goes like this: “Say yes. You’ll figure it out afterwards”. Ummm how about not? Yes, challenge yourself to do scary things. Yes, do those tasks that force you to grow in a big way. Don’t let your eyes be too big for your tummy and pile a huge plate of food at your mother-in-laws place and then get stuck in the situation where you can’t finish the food but you don’t want to disrespect her either. Totally different scenario, but YOU KNOW what I mean!
Assess each decision to be made regarding new clients and contracts very carefully before you dive into the deep end of the pool and have no idea how to swim. That’s not the best way to learn swimming – either you drown or you’re lucky or someone saves you. With all these situations you’re wasting time and possibly money.
19. Get Inspired
Do something crazy! Go on holiday! Attend a retreat! Host your own darn retreat!
Get those creative juices flowing and dream of where you want your business to go. What you want for your personal life regarding your business.
Go get ‘em.
20. Only Focus On What Matters
Facebook’s famous company motto is “Done is better than perfect”.
How much time are you wasting on making something perfect? I’m not saying high standards aren’t great, but what I am saying is that sometimes we go full procrasti-perfectionism and don’t get anything done because we’re so busy adjusting adjusting adjusting that which is already finished.
Give yourself a limit of how many changes you’re allowed to make to something, then set it aside. It’s finished now, move on.
Time management is one of those things that can be continuously improved on and is never perfect. By slowly implementing each of these tips and taking note of the time wasters you’ll definitely see a marked improvement on both your productivity, progress and stress levels.
If you’re looking for the ultimate planner for your business, be sure to have a look at this bad boy.
Go kick butt. You’ve got this.
What time management tips would you add to this?