IS YOUR SCHEDULE RULING YOUR LIFE?
‘Time management’ is a phrase that can send a shiver down the spine of many creatives. Most people recognise that time is a precious commodity that often seems to be in very short supply. ‘Finding the time’ to work on the details of your business, to be creative and create, to market and promote, to work with clients, and to plan and grow your business can be exhausting and defeating if all you can see is the number of things to do versus only 1,440 minutes of ‘time’ in every day. How can you better manage your time?
The shining beacon of light in these situations is often a schedule. At first glance, what’s not to love about scheduling every task into your week? It starts out great, you’ve got a routine, you’ve got your tasks lined out to perfectly structured (and if you’re like me, colour coded) blocks of time…blue = business management, yellow = client work, green = promotion. Great, right? But you start to realise that you don’t actually have any more time available to you and that the only thing that’s changed is that your tasks are now colour coded blocks of time in a schedule that is controlling you, more than you controlling it. That wasn’t how it was supposed to work right? What went wrong?
A schedule is really only a band-aid solution if you don’t get down to the detail of why your hours are long but your to-do list is longer. So, here are some steps to take back control of your time (and your schedule).
One of the ways you’re setting yourself and your schedule up for failure is by trying to pack every ‘to-do’ task into one week (or god forbid one day). It won’t work because it’s not realistic.
Since I put a weekly planning routine into place, time management has been much more effective and streamlined. I plan my week like this:
- Sunday evening – review my complete to-do list (I use Trello to manage this)
- Mark the tasks that MUST be completed within the coming week – again, be realistic.
- Anything that isn’t marked, isn’t factored into the week ahead
- Order these marked tasks by priority – I personally prioritise my tasks in the following way:
- tasks that are due first,
- tasks that will take the longest,
- tasks that are required for other tasks to be completed
- Start assigning these priority tasks to relevant days (see Batch Your Days below). My approach is to outline 3 priority tasks to each day, and this is dependent on the estimated time it will take to finish a task. I wouldn’t allocate 3 x 3-hour tasks to a single day; because that’s a sure-fire way to fail or run yourself into the ground and this blog is all about taking control of your time.
Batch Your Days
If you batch your days and keep ‘like’ tasks together you will start to see a significant increase in your productivity. When you look at the priorities and tasks for your week you will probably find that there are a few themes at play. For example, client contact or communication, business maintenance (emails, finances, reports), promotion activities – batch these things together.
You could determine that your days to complete client work/or create are Monday, Wednesday and Friday; Thursday might be business maintenance, and Tuesday may be marketing and promotion. Each of these days could have numerous tasks, but they are like-minded; flicking between writing a blog and completing a task for a client, or between reconciling your books and scheduling social media posts can cause cognitive fatigue. Batching your days will help reduce this.
Make appointments for your priorities
If you had a client appointment booked into your schedule, would you simply look at it and ignore it? I’m going to say ‘probably not’…definitely not if you want to have a successful business. So my recommendation is to treat your priorities like clients and book them an appointment. You wouldn’t bail on a client, so don’t bail on your priorities. Now that you know what your three priority tasks are for each day, book them into your schedule.
I’m also going to guess that when you meet with clients you give them 100% of your attention; you don’t let distractions like phone calls, social media, and other clients interrupt the time you’ve set aside for this client right? So, treat your priorities the same way – switch off your phone, turn off computer notifications, close down your emails (unless you need them for the task). If that is easier said than done, there are apps that can help you with this:
Offline – www.offtime.co
Moment – inthemoment.io
Flipd – flippedapp.co
Use the 52/17 method
Productivity techniques show that bursts of work followed by a period of rest are much more beneficial than long hauls of work. The 52/17 method suggests that the ideal work/rest breakdown is 52 minutes of dedicated, focused work, followed by a 17-minute break where you are completely removed from the work you’ve been doing.
A similar and quite well-known method is the Pomodoro technique which suggests 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5-minute break.
There are a number of applications that enable you to allocate work and rest periods, such as Toggl and Interval Timer.
Business automation has been the lifesaver in my business. Where I would previously have to set aside time in my daily, weekly or monthly schedule to carry out tasks manually, setting up automated workflows means that these tasks can hum along in the background without much work from me. One of the areas of my business that I’ve automated and has made an incredible difference to my schedule is my client onboarding. Through the use of programs like Dubsado, Acuity and Trello, I’m able to action lead queries through to the point of discovery call automatically; I literally don’t touch this process unless there is an unusual request.
The key to Business Automation is to start with the pain points of your day-to-day business runnings, the tasks that are taking the most time or are the most repetitive. You’ll also notice that once you start exploring your processes you’ll find more ways to save yourself time by automating what you’re doing.
With a new week ahead, why not try out some of these techniques? Give yourself back some time with better ‘time management’ – and let me know how you go. If you’ve got other suggestions on how you can take back control of your schedule I’d love to hear them. Drop me an email at email@example.com