It is not lost on me that I have been procrastinating about the right time to write today’s blog on time management. But write it I must for several important reasons:
- Time management means better days filled with more meaningful work, thus better years.
- Time management unequivocally makes your business better.
- I’ve got the low-down on quality time management hacks to make the task of muscling your will into action this year that much easier.
Whether you’re an employee, a freelancer, a business owner or a human, paying close (but not obsessive) attention to the way you spend your days is enlightening. Just as using an app to track the amount of time you spend on social media can shock you into reducing your daily mindless scrolling, time management tool can help you focus on the real game you want to play.
Distractions are everywhere, and they stop us from doing the really soulful work we actually want to do. (Yes, I’m looking at you mindless administrivia, online shopping, Instagram scrolling and Marie Kondo-ing. Better you embrace the Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over The Place.) Soulful work can involve a bit of digging and problem-solving, so we must steel ourselves to do it with support structures and plans.
Here are some of my most relied-upon time management strategies and tools to keep you ‘on purpose’ more often. Don’t think I’m being a killjoy that wants you to keep your nose to the grindstone for the man, or someone who schedules their existence to the nth degree – these are simply handy pointers that I hope will help you do more of the good work and good play that give life meaning!
Concentrate for short bursts of measured time with this online Tomato Timer. Also known as the Pomodoro Technique, the Tomato Timer breaks down working periods into intense 25 minute blocks. If I’ve got a big day of writing ahead or I find my mind is wandering, I pop on the Tomato Timer. 25 minutes is long enough of a time to achieve something relatively substantial – and the timer helps you gauge how quickly time really passes. Peeps: it’s fast. Make the most of it.
“I Just Want to Pick Your Brain”
There are few things that trigger me more than a request to ‘pick my brain’. And this isn’t because I’m cheap with sharing or ungenerous with knowledge – the phrase ‘I just want to pick your brain’ often results in meandering meetings without purpose that chew valuable time. It can also make the person whose brain you want to pick feel as though you do not value their time or expertise.
To improve your time-management and to enjoy more productive mentoring sessions, avoid ‘I just want to pick your brain’ meetings. Set boundaries and expectations with the person requesting a meeting by asking what they’d like to cover off in the meeting, and ask that they make a nominal donation to a particular charity in lieu of a consulting fee. These two simple requests changes the entire tone of the meeting – asserting the value of your time, and helping both parties to set a practical agenda. Less ‘pick your brain’ – more quality sharing in fewer meetings … and more time for your own projects!
Goal Setting Planners
Each year I make sure to engage in goal setting. It’s an important ending and beginning process that allows me to set an agenda for myself. The idea of goal setting used to set my teeth on edge, courtesy of years in corporate environments having other people’s goals foisted upon me, before being left to sort out how I would achieve their goals.
Whilst I am ultimately responsible for the success of my business and projects, I felt a real quantum leap when I began to use planners. They improved aspects of my practice including:
- My grasp on business financials
- Where I needed additional support
- Where I could grow my business further
- What I needed to do to hit particular financial / personal goals
My favourite business planners are Leonie Dawson’s My Shining Year / Life and Biz pieces. They’re colourful and playful and not at all what you might expect a hard-hitting business goal setting guide might look like. In fact, this is what I feel is most delightful about them. I don’t necessarily finish these guides, but that’s immaterial – they set up me for a new year and help me strike a compass. Invaluable.
I have also enjoyed participating in Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map process. LaPorte’s Desire Map posits a simple, powerful question: how do you want to feel? It help you really narrow down on the feelings you desire most, and empowers you to make decisions based on your own needs rather than external wants. I’ve done the Desire Map once, and found it a great counterpart to planning for newbies. Particularly if you don’t really know what you want, or how you want to feel this year.
Powerful Business Diary
You need a way to manage your workflow and keep you focused on bigger-picture goals on the daily. To achieve this, I use a Gmail calendar in addition to a Word doc I update weekly with ‘to-do’s. I input this stuff into my all important #ControlFreak business diary. This is a genius item: a quarterly business diary that has prompts to keep you accountable to your intentions, loads of room for meeting notes, daily to-dos and a full page per day for appointments. It’s also got additional goodies like social media planning schedules, ideal week planners and more! If you’re a control freak (or not), this is one bad-ass business diary that will change your relationship with time. It’s a clever item – you receive a a new, beautifully-designed business diary ever quarter for the ‘start over fresh’ feeling.
Happily, I will shortly be holding a #ControlFreak business diary giveaway over on the Ruby Assembly Instagram account!
If you’re a freelancer and falling into the deadly, life-sucking ritual of working on the couch all the time in a variety of stretchy pants – I recommend coworking as the ultimate time management tool. Get outta the kitchen and invest resources into supporting yourself as a business owner! When you’re freelancing, it’s easy to see coworking as an extravagance. After all, you can be just as effective at home. But can you really? Day after day, month after month of silo’ed writing without a community to be physically accountable to? Without camaraderie? Without learning in the real world? Bottom line is: we respect what we pay for. When we pay for the opportunity to work, we show up and get sh*t done. Coworking is the way forward!