I have been doing a lot of work recently with small business owners on how they manage their time - helping them find the pathways to efficiency so they get to spend more time working on their business.
When it's business we can lose sight of the reason we started a business in the first place - and that reason was not to spend hundreds of hours stressed about work.
You know you have EXACTLY the same number of minutes in a day as everyone else on the planet. How is it that some people seem to manage to do more than others? Is it smoke and mirrors or do they have a secret?
Well I'm sorry to say - there are no secrets or magic formulas - it's about boring old routines. You find time by managing time. You find time by being productive with what time you have. How you spend your time is a decision you make every day. Here are some tips to help you get organised.
Eliminate energy vampires
Start by examining your energy vampires and arm yourself with garlic. What do you put time into that sucks you try and leaves you with no sense of satisfaction. Are there people in your life who are needy? Do you find yourself scrolling through Facebook or mindlessly watching whatever is on TV?
If you spend time watching TV, ask yourself what you really want to watch rather than just having it on for the sake of it. Try not to watch any program you have to tune in weekly or daily for. If you have a huge desire to follow a series, watch it during a time that suits you. You might find a diminished interest if you break the habit.
Schedule time for yourself
You need to be of healthy mind and body to run a successful business. Schedule time first for exercise, yoga, meditation, socialising and sleep!
Use time management tools
Use time management tools that work for you: a notebook, electronic or paper diary, sticky notes, speech notes etc.
Do not be a slave to your email. Set a few email sessions a day and when you get to them – deal with them by filing or responding/deleting/throwing away. Establish routines and stick to them as much as possible. As well as saving you time and energy (no thought required), it generally will save you money. For example, fill up the car with petrol on the same day of the week, no matter how much you have left in the tank, and choose the day in your area when petrol is at its lowest price.
Instead of creating ‘to do lists’ you might want to create schedules. If you find you are never getting through your to-do list using a different technique could help you get it into shape. Establish how much time you want to allocate for each of your daily tasks. Prioritise the list (start with the hardest). Set your timer and stop when the time runs out. Come back to it in your ‘hour of power’.
Schedule one hour every day for your ‘hour of power’. This is the time to finish off what you started in the tasks above, to deal with urgent tasks that may have popped up during the day or to start things you have had scheduled for later in the week. Set a time – don’t cheat!
Stuck? Solve problems or dilemmas using a timer. Set a timer for two to three minutes and come up with as many solutions you can think of in that time. Choose the best one and go for it. The more practice you get at this technique, the faster your brain will be able to respond to dramas in the future.
Have effective systems and processes
If you spend a lot of time looking for things, such as searching for files and emails, then you need to spend some time organising them into files that make sense and work. Create a simple file saving protocol and tag all of your files with key words so you can find the version you need easily.
Save what you are currently working on in the cloud so you can access from anywhere
Effectively use all your time
Inevitably we spend time waiting. Waiting for an appointment, in line, on hold or travelling. Prepare for these events by having things to do. Always carry a notebook to jot down ideas. Take something from your pile of necessary reading. Use the car as a mobile university by borrowing talking books on CD or downloading books onto your MP3 player. If you fly, try to limit your luggage to carry-on.
Don't set unrealistic expectations
Be realistic about your time. Don’t set unrealistic expectations of what you can achieve. If your schedule goes awry just recalibrate and know for next time how much time tasks can take. If we stick with time limits we can faster at completing everyday tasks.
Allow time for disasters or opportunities– you know they’ll occur. By being totally organised you will be able to manage the disasters and take advantage of the opportunities - all without losing the sleep we need to stay well.
I created an infographic to describe how I try and manage my time. You can grab it here. Maybe pop it up on your wall or use it as your screensaver. I am happy for you to share. And please pass on your own time management tips and tricks.