Time is a finite resource, and although we can’t create more minutes or hours for ourselves, we can better manage those minutes and hours.
And “time management” isn’t just about literal time….it’s a lot about managing your attention and energy levels too.
Your current time management strategies may not be working for you if:
– You’re not getting what you want done
– You can’t stick to it because it’s just too cumbersome or complicated
– You feel stressed or rushed or overwhelmed
If this sounds like you, check out my tips below on the 5 best ways to manage your time!
Focus On Just 3 Things
How many things are you trying to get done in a day? Is your to-do list jam packed with all your projects, goals and dreams? Constantly jumping from one thing to another? Feeling stretched a bit thin? Running around like a chicken with its head cut off?
I love that you have tons of amazing ideas, and that you want to make them a reality! But the actual reality is that we’re all human and can only do so much at once.
When we overcommit ourselves, and fill our days to overflowing with projects, goals and deadlines, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Inevitably a lot will be left undone, and that can feel frustrating, discouraging and stressful. You might even feel guilty for not sticking to your plans and start doubting your abilities.
To avoid all these icky feelings, set yourself up for success by focusing on just 3 priorities each day. Choose 3 main projects or to-do’s that you want to be able to say you’ve accomplished by the end of the day. Three is the max number of things our brain can handle at a time. It’s manageable, realistic, focused, intentional and achievable.
And let’s keep it real. I’m not talking about planning to finish 3 huge projects each day. I’m talking about finishing 3 smaller, bite-sized, broken down tasks that you can realistically finish by the end of your day. This can include things like outlining or drafting a blog post, writing a portion of an e-book, scheduling social media for the upcoming month, conducting two client meetings, two hours of marketing activities, doing a FB live, a networking event, website updates or research event venues.
Schedule The Important Stuff First
Do all of your most important projects and tasks always seem to get pushed to the side? Are you constantly moving them to your next day’s to-do list? Why can we never seem to make time for this stuff?
To be clear, “important” refers to those things we want to be working on, that are meaningful to us, that bring us closer to achieving our goals, and that will have an impact on our lives and businesses. This is where we should be spending our time.
However, a lot of us make the mistake of thinking that when something feels “urgent”, it’s the first thing we should work on. It’s easy to prioritize the urgent stuff, like responding to texts and emails, and other people’s requests. But next thing ya know, the day is over and none of the important stuff got done (yet again). Urgent stuff tends to be very reactionary (like deciding in the moment that certain things need to get done) and a result of others’ demands and expectations.
So now that you know “urgent” does not necessarily mean “important”, ask yourself what’s most important for you to be working on? What’s going to bring you closer to achieving your overall goals, purpose and vision? What excites you most?
Schedule and block off time for these meaningful and important things in your calendar. Like, now.
Track That Precious Time
Have you ever wondered where the time went at the end of the day? Seriously, how is it 4pm already?!
A great way to get over the day-be-gone blues is to track your time. You might think you know how you’re spending your time, and that you’re making the most of it, but time tracking can be an eye opening experience.
Time tracking will allow you to:
- See how long various things actually take you to do
- How much time you’re really wasting
- Decide if you’re using your time well or if adjustments need to be made
- Schedule more time for the important stuff
- Become aware of your attention, energy and focus levels throughout the day, so you can schedule your highest impact and most important tasks more effectively.
You can use an app such as RescueTime to track yourself automatically – it just runs in the background of your phone, tablet and computer, spitting out a really cool report for you at the end.
Or you can do it manually using Excel or Google Drive. Keep note of the time you start and finish each thing you’re doing and working on (this includes breaks and mindlessly scrolling social media!) or set a timer for each hour and write down everything you worked on during that past hour.
Set Deadlines For Yourself
If you’re internally motivated (meaning you thrive on the internal satisfaction of a job well done), this is for you.
When we’re working on a project that’s open ended and / or we don’t have anyone to answer to, as us entrepreneurs tend not to, we’ll often procrastinate, get distracted and fill our time with other stuff. Who’s experienced the Facebook or IG black hole more than once? *raises hand*
Here’s how to get started with your own deadlines:
- List every single thing that needs to get done for whatever project you’re working on. Be extremely detailed.
- Include the estimated time each of these things will take you to complete (your time tracking will help with this!)
- Think about when you’d like to get this project completed by, and when you can realistically get it done (based on your list of tasks and time estimates). Pick a date somewhere between these two that feels right for you.
- Set mini deadlines for various stages of the project. These will be your milestones that let you measure your progress, keep you on track and celebrate your accomplishments along the way (hey there motivation!)
- Now write these deadlines down in your planner, Google calendar, wherever you’re going to see them daily. Writing our intentions down makes them real and gives you accountability.
- Talk to people about it and tell them what deadlines you’re working towards. This also keeps you accountable, and then you can all celebrate together when you finish!
And if you happen to miss a deadline, remember: it’s not the end of the world. Deadlines have to shift sometimes, that’s normal! Use it as a learning opportunity by asking yourself what went wrong? Did you under estimate your time? Did you procrastinate? If so, why?
Say No More Often
This is easier said than done, amright? Believe me – I know the feelings of anxiety when I want to say “no” to someone. I don’t want to upset them. I don’t want them to be mad at me. I want to be a “good” person.
But in reality, people don’t take it quite that hard when we say “no” – and they usually completely understand. Saying no isn’t always about another person and what they’re asking of you – it can be hard to say no to ourselves too. Sometimes we need to say no to expectations we’ve set for ourselves, or projects that we’ve written on our to-do list.
By saying no more often, you’re going to free up so much more of your time – for that important and meaningful stuff we talked about above.
Ask yourself straight up what can be eliminated from your to-do list. What things need to be done, but you really don’t like doing them? Maybe they can be delegated or outsourced. Is there anything that’s really hard or frustrating? Those things are going to take up a lot of your time, so hire an expert to do it instead. What can be paused, and come back to later? Is this thing important to you (and bringing you closer to your goals)? Why are you doing it? To please someone else? Be honest here.
So how can we be tactful about this saying no business? I like the idea of a “compliment sandwich” – start by genuinely praising the person’s idea or effort, then tell them you’re not in a position to help right now, and end by expressing gratitude to them for thinking of you. Boom.
Now you’re a time management guru! Get started with your top 3 things to focus on, then schedule that important stuff in your calendar. Make it a priority. Putting it in writing and setting the intention will make it much more likely to happen! Do some time tracking so you have a solid idea of how you’re spending your time and how long things actually take you. This will put you in a perfect place to map out some deadlines for yourself and say “no” to at least a few things on your list. Happy time managing!