Ah, time. We all have the same 24 hours in the day, so why is it that some people manage to build empires, change the world and leave lifelong legacies while the rest of us poor schmucks can barely find time to make dinner and remember to put the bin out?
Sound like you?
Then take a look at these time management tips, which are designed to help you to fit in your business, your kids - oh and to even have a few minutes left to, you know, have a life!
1) Set Goals
I've already written 2 other posts about goal setting, but if anything is worth repeating, it's this! In fact this should be point number 1 of ANY list of time management tips!
Not just business goals but goals for everything you want to achieve that day? Perhaps you want to write a blog post for your business, but you also need to do the laundry, book a dentist appointment and start planning for Christmas?
Whatever they are, get clear on those goals for each day and it will help you to stay on track.
2) Create a Plan
Now you know WHAT you want to achieve, you need to work out HOW you're going to do it! Take 10-20 minutes at the start of every day to plan out what tasks you're going to complete in order to achieve your goals.
Would you like a FREE weekly planner to help you? I've got you covered...
Download your FREE Weekly Planner here!
3) De-clutter Your Home
Have you ever noticed that the more cluttered your surroundings are, the more cluttered your mind is too? You see, clutter is a distraction. You may not even be conscious of being distracted by it, but just try having a clear out and see how much more focused and motivated you feel about your work!
4) De-clutter Your Work Space
I know, I know, this is starting to look like a list of time management tips that are really just nagging you to tidy your home!
I'm not just talking your office or desk here (although something as simple as facing away from a window could help). I'm talking your digital work space too. Is your desktop full of random files you've saved their over the years? Is your inbox bursting at the seams with emails you've never read and are never likely to?
Time for a purge! Clear your work space and clear your mind. Speaking of which....
Join my Facebook group!
5) De-clutter Your Mind
Now, mindset is a HUGE factor when it comes to starting and growing your own business. In fact, it could be argued that it is the most important factor. If your mindset isn't strong, then your chances of success are minimal. I'm not going to dive into the realms of mindset here, but I am going to suggest that from a time management perspective, it's a good idea to keep your mind sharp and clear.
That will mean different things to different people but I find meditation, exercise and writing a diary help me.
6) Schedule Your Time
Plans and goals are great, but too often, life gets in the way. We never get around to those tasks we planned because something came up. We had to do the school run, work late, pop out to the supermarket...
That's why you need to make a commitment. You need to actually schedule those tasks in. Use a planner, a calendar or even just a notebook. But get time specifically blocked out to complete your tasks.
Not grabbed your free planner yet? Oopsie! Here you go...
7) Be realistic
There is something so discouraging about being all organised and planning ahead, but then never actually getting that plan done because you were just too busy with all your other commitments.
Be realistic about how much time you can really spend on your business. Then be realistic about how much you can actually achieve in that time! Better to schedule less in and achieve more then to set yourself up to fail (and to feel like a failure) by scheduling in waaay more than you can actually do.
8) Know Yourself
We all work differently, so get a feel for when you are at your most productive and aim to schedule your time accordingly. Perhaps you're super creative first thing in the morning, but in the evening you can only manage the more administrative type jobs (totally me!) or perhaps you have a sudden burst of energy at 11pm!
Whatever works best for you, know yourself and plan your time to fit.
9) Note Down Your Distractions
Netflix, Facebook, Food.... hey, for some people it might even be cleaning or chores (weeeird...). Whatever your weakness is, whatever has you clicking away from your work and wondering down a completely different track - make a note!
The more aware you are of your own bad habits, the easier it is to resist them.
Try it - each time you notice you've been distracted from the task in hand, make a note of what it was that distracted you. Do that for 2-3 days and I bet you'll see a theme...
10) Note Down the Tasks You Put Off
In the same way that there are always certain things that we're easily distracted by, there are certain tasks that we're easily distracted from.
Try tracking this too. Which tasks always take you way longer than they should because you keep finding something else to do instead?
Being aware of this will make it easier for you to resist the urge to procrastinate.
11) Make Time for Fun
You know what they say about all work and no play! When you're planning out your week, make sure you schedule in time for fun - whatever that looks like for you. It could be playing sport, spending time with family or just vegging with a good book.
If you don't give your body and mind some recreation time, your business and health will suffer.
12) Accept that bad days happen
No amount of planning, meditation and commitment can stop it. Once in a while, your day will be interrupted by unforeseen circumstances. It might be something external like unexpected guests or a burst water pipe. It might be something internal like a major case of 'I can't be bothered today-itus'.
Go with it, accept it for what it is and then get back to it the next day.
If your bad day turns into a bad week or bad month, then start to look at what the deeper cause is and do something about it. But if it's just a bad day, then shake it off and stop beating yourself up over it!
13) Write lists
Man, I LOVE lists. I have lists for everything. Shopping lists (obvs), to do lists (double obvs), birthday lists, jobs around the house lists, wish lists.... the list (haha) goes on...
The thing is, lists have several benefits. They help you to stay focused and organised - but they also act as a real motivator. I don't know about you, but there's nothing quite so satisfying as crossing something off my 'to do' list!
14) Use Time Management Tools
Modern technology eh? There so much cool stuff out there that can really help you to be more productive! Even better, an awful lot of it is completely free. I've actually done a whole video and blog post on my favourite productivity tools, if you want some inspiration.
15) One Thing At a Time
There's a project management system called SCRUM, which was designed by a chap called Jeff Sutherland. The basic idea is that you break a project down into tasks and then just do one at a time.
Sounds simple - even obvious doesn't it? Is it something that you actually do though?
Try creating a Trello board (or using an actual notice board) and then keeping 3 columns. The first is for all the tasks you need to do to complete a project, the second is for the task you're doing right now and the third is for completed tasks.
By doing this, you stay focused on what needs to be done now and not bogged down by trying to do everything at once.
16) Get a Good Night's Sleep
You already know this, but you need sleep. You are more productive when you're not tired. Prioritise sleep. For some reason, in certain entrepreneurial circles it's somehow become 'cool' to work through the night and only sleep a few hours.
You're 'hustling' because 'sleeping is cheating'.
I call BS on that. It just sounds like poor time management to me.
Plan your time properly, get a decent night's kip and your body, mind AND business will thank you for it.
17) Get Some Exercise
I started running regularly last year and it has made such a HUGE difference - and I'm not just talking about my fitness levels here. It's impacted my business too.
When you exercise your body, your mind feels clearer too.
Plus hey, it's not good for you to just sit at your desk all day without moving!
18) Set Priorities
Sometimes, you have SO much to do that it just feels overwhelming and you really don't even know where to begin.
When I was in my corporate role, that happened a lot. I had a 'to do' list - but it was PAGES long! Bleurgh. It makes me a bit queasy just thinking about it!
Now, I use a simple trick to prioritise my tasks and stay on track.
I go through my entire 'to do' list and I number each task from 1-3. Nothing complex. All the 1's get done first, followed by the 2's... you see where I'm going with this...
There are other ways to do this, such as Eisenhower's Time Management Matrix, which focuses on whether tasks are urgent or important.
19) Learn to Say No
How often do you get waylaid because someone asks you to do a favour for them, or perhaps you're asked to do a job that doesn't really fit with your business but 'you know all about xyz, so could you help anyway?'
Just say NO. I once read an amazing book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Greg McKeown) and it completely changed my outlook! It explains that in order to achieve great things, we often have to say 'no' to good things...
20) Have a Notebook to Hand
If you're anything like me, you'll be in the middle of one task and then you'll suddenly have this great idea about something else you want to try - and that in turn will remind of something you wanted to do a few days ago but forgot about...
I've found that if I keep a note book at hand (ALWAYS!), then I can just quickly jot down my ideas so I know I won't forget them and then stay focused on the task in hand.
21) Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Often, poor time management is a result of lack of focus. In turn, lack of focus can be due to lack of motivation.
Create a clear vision of WHY you're doing this. That might be in the form of a vision board, or journalling, or perhaps just imagining where you want to end up and why.
Whatever works for you, remind yourself of what you're doing this work for and let that inspire you to stay on task.
22) Support From Friends & Family
We all have a lot going on in our lives and our business is only a part of that. You have children, a spouse and other family or friends who need you and your time.
While it's important to have balance and allow time for both, it is a huge help if your nearest and dearest understand that your business requires you to spend time on it (and away from them) and that they allow you to do so.
The people closest to you can sometimes be the biggest drain on your productivity and mindset - but if you can create a strong support network, they can also be your biggest asset!
23) Schedule in Contingency Time
During my corporate years I worked on some pretty huge projects and I learned that any project manager worth their salt, always builds in some time for 'contingencies' - ie. things not going to plan!
We've already talked about how inevitable it is. You can plan and write lists till the cows come home, but sometimes things go wrong.
Give yourself a buffer to lessen the impact of any unexpected delays!
24) Get into Good Habits
When you first start working in a different way it can feel like you're wading through mud. So if you're not used to planning, writing lists, scheduling your time or any of these techniques that can be used to manage your time, then at first, it may feel like more work and more time than not doing them!
That's where you have to persevere until these things become habit.
25) Track Your Time
This can be a very revealing exercise! We often talk about our priorities but when it comes to actually tracking how we spend our time, it can tell a very different story.
You may think that you just don't have enough time for your priorities - but that might not be the case...
Try using a free tool like Toggl to track everything you do for 24 hours (or longer if possible) and see what your priorities REALLY are.
26) Maximise Your 'Wasted' Time
There are certain times when you will be naturally 'non-productive'. I'm talking about your commute to work, the time you spend in the waiting room at the doctor and even standing and waiting for your toast to pop up!
Identify what these times are for you and whether there are certain tasks that you could fill them with?
Perhaps you could listen to a personal development podcast on your commute? Brainstorm post ideas in the waiting room and check your social media by the toaster?
Always look for opportunities to maximise the time you have!
27) Batch Tasks
This is all about working in a way which will maximise your productivity.
Break down your weekly or daily tasks and look at which ones involve similar tools or skills. It can often make sense to put certain jobs together to save time.
As an example, I often like to batch up my content creation. I might plan out my posts for a month on one day, then write them on another and create my social media for them on another....
28) Get Help
You're not a superhero. It's ok to ask for help.
In fact, it's a sign of a good leader.
The type of help you decide to get is up to you (and your budget). You might decide to get a Virtual Assistant (VA) who can help you with some of the administrative tasks in your business.
Perhaps you could get a cleaner to save you a couple of hours of chores each week.
Alternatively, perhaps that great support system of friends and family that you've built up might watch your kids for an hour or two. Perhaps cook the odd meal to save you time...
Help comes in a lot of different forms - but we ALL need it and that's fine.
29) Lose the Non-Essential
I mentioned the book 'Essentialism' in point 19. It's all about the choices we make and the way we prioritise. If you really want your business to succeed, then chances are, you're going to have to sacrifice something to get there. Work out what isn't essential for you and let it go.
BONUS: FREE WEEKLY PLANNER
Wow - the fact that you've made your way to the end of this list means that you're taking your time management pretty seriously!
As a reward (and a thank you for reading), I'd love to send you a free weekly planner template. Just print it off and use it to plan and prioritise your time.