STOP WASTING TIME
Three Tools to Plan Your Day and Stop Wasting Time
Time management. It’s a necessary evil whether you’re working in a job or running your own business. There’s only so much time to do what needs to be done. So what to do if your own to-do list is outpacing the available hours in the day?
Years ago, when I was working in a corporate job for KPMG, our time sheets were calculated in increments of minutes (six? twelve? I can’t quite remember) and we had to code how we spent each of those small blocks of time. Maybe 60 minutes were spent in a meeting with client X, another 60 minutes in a team meeting, another 30 minutes drafting a proposal. You get the picture. It was all about “billable hours”, but when you track your time like that it becomes apparent very quickly how much time you spend in “Admin”, which is the code we’d use when we didn’t have anything else to code to! Naturally some of that time truly was “Admin”, but how do you code “wasting time on Facebook” or “gossiping with your co-worker”?
The whole point of that little story is to get you thinking about how you spend your time in your business. If you’re finding you don’t have enough time to get everything done, then you need to find where you’re “leaking time” and plug that hole. Here’s how you can start.
1. List your top three priorities for the day.
Every morning identify the top three tasks that you need to get completed that day. Write them down and stick them on your wall so you see them and stay on track. I’m talking tasks that you can get finished; rather than taking a scattergun approach and doing a small amount of work on several different projects, focus on getting three things finished today. If a task is going to take longer to complete, break it down into smaller bite-sized chunks that you CAN get done in a day.
Then prioritize those three tasks. I find I’m good at banging out great work for 2-3 hours, then my focus starts to slip, so I choose the task that’s going to my most creative energy at the start of the day when I’m the most productive. This changes on a day by day basis, because life changes. Sometimes I may not be feeling particularly creative until the afternoon – this usually happens in the summer when it’s so hot I can’t sleep! Then I’m left feeling sluggish and lethargic in the morning, so it makes sense on those days to focus on something that isn’t too taxing until I’ve had a few coffees under my belt.
2. Batch your tasks.
This is something I’ve always done; it’s so automatic now that I do it without thinking, which is a lucky perk of being a great organizer and administrator. But anyone can do it! Batching is when you take a group of the same tasks and do them at the same time. For example, I don’t write my blog posts on the day they’re due. I block out an afternoon once a fortnight specifically for blog post writing. Just the writing, not the formatting or uploading to my website. Same with my newsletters, I don’t write them one by one, I batch them and write several in one sitting.
Batch your small tasks as well. I spend 20 minutes on social media in the morning and another 20 in the afternoon, and in between I stay off of it. How much time have you lost on Facebook or Twitter? Heaps, right? I do the same with emails. I check them three times a day. Morning, lunchtime, end of day. I turn off all the notifications because they’re simply a distraction. If I’m writing a blog post and an email notification pops up…guess what? I’m going to read that email, and then respond to it or click on a link, and then maybe half an hour later I get back to my blog post, train of thought completely lost, and then the damn thing takes forever to write.
3. Systemize and automate.
If you put systems in place for every task in your business, completing that task will take less time every time you do it because you don’t have to think about it. You just do it – or you delegate it, because now that you have a system, delegating to a team member is super easy. When I mentioned above that I batch the writing of my blog posts, I noted that this did not include the formatting or the uploading. That’s because I delegate that part to my assistant. I created a system and put it into place for my business, so she knows exactly how to format the posts and how to schedule them for posting in advance. Likewise with my newsletter; I write the content and she gets the rest of it organized. Just those two tasks alone free up around an hour each week where I get to focus on my business.
I automate anything that can possibly be automated. Blog posts are scheduled in WordPress, and my newsletters are automated with AWeber. When someone signs up for my free eBook, it is automatically delivered to them. Follow-up emails are automatically sent at set intervals. When a client wants to book time with me, PayPal is integrated with my TimeTrade account (via AWeber) so that once they’ve paid, they receive an email with instructions about how to book their time and then that goes directly into my calendar. No more back and forth trying to find a time and date that suits both.
You can reduce your time on social media by automating your posts using Hootsuite and Buffer. Every Friday afternoon I schedule posts for the following week, which is why I only need to spend twenty minutes every morning and afternoon in my accounts, replying to comments and interacting with my followers.
So what’s the first task you should prioritize for today? I’ll tell you: Identify where you’re leaking time from your business and start taking the necessary steps to take back that time. What processes can you automate? What activities can you batch? Commit to it, put it in your calendar and cultivate it as a daily habit for your business.