What’s your mindset when it comes to time management? Has your stomach just cramped, have you exhaled in frustration, did your eyebrows just crease with exasperation?
Me too. Until I hunkered down and spent some time (pun intended) focusing on how I manage my time.
After focusing on what was causing me angst, I came up with seven time management tips for sanity and productivity.
One tip relates to your overall time management mindset, three are focused on the big picture and three are focused on details.
Ready for some sanity savers and amped up productivity? Here we go.
1. Make time for time
Spend some time figuring out what your mindset is when it comes to your time management. For me, it was cramped. I was so tired of always feeling like I never had enough time, like I was rushed and trying to cram too much into my day. What about you? What’s your mindset when it comes to time? Think about it and really dig deep. Once you know how you feel about how you manage your time that will give you some serious insight into how to progress.
Need some help? I developed this worksheet about how we pace our self. Feel free to download it and use it as a prompt to figure out your time mindset: Pace: In praise of medium (not mediocre) + a worksheet.
Three big picture tips
2. Time blocking
I’ve become a big fan of time blocking. Time blocking is figuring out how much time you’re spending working and then breaking it down into chunks. Then blocking out those chunks in your work. I use Google calendar to block out my time. I set the tasks as reoccurring then drag and drop them around each week, until I have the week planned out like I want it.
What chunks should you use, you may be asking? It will depend on what you do but here are mine as an example: social media, admin (mostly answering email), foundation (e.g. designing learning materials), client getting activities, finance and wellness/home.
3. Project management
Take time to figure out how technology can help you manage your projects, to do’s, tasks, reminders etc.
Generally speaking the more features a tool has the more time it will take you to learn how to use it, but the more deeply you can dive into it. If you’re in for the deep dive try the free version of ClickUp. I started using it months ago and am in love.
If you’re cringing at the thought of a complex project management tool then try Workflowy. You can be up and running in 5 minutes. I’m serious. It’s a simple, easy and free way to track your to do’s.
4. Content and Tool mapping
Now that you’ve got a plan in place for your time blocking and project management, spend some time mapping your content and your tools.
By content I mean things like:
- Your to do lists
- Ideas for projects etc.
- Messages (those people you are waiting to hear back from)
- Lists (e.g. packing, the tasks you assigned your VA)
- Blog posts and their status (eg draft, finished, scheduled, posted)
- Client information
- Invoice status (e.g. due to be invoiced, invoiced, paid)
- Client notes
- Your professional development; course notes etc.
By tools I mean both tech tools and paper based, things like:
- Paper notebook
- Paper files
- Google Calendar
- Google drive files
- Reminder app
- Diigo (social bookmarking tool)
Create a spreadsheet with your content down one side and your tools across the top. Then check off which content you’re which tools with.
Be prepared for some surprises.
The benefits of doing this are many, including:
- You’ll see where there are overlaps (eg using multiple tools for the same thing, which then gives you a chance to simplify and make things easier to find because you’re not looking in multiple places for it)
- You’ll see where you don’t have a tool to help you.
Three detailed tips
Make sure you take breaks and figure out how to make sure you do just that. I was alarmed to learn that extended sitting can trigger up to 30 diseases. So I designed some cards to help you take regular breaks.
6. Tracking your time
With all this talk of time you’ll need to find a way to track your time that doesn’t take more time than it’s worth. Enter Toggl. It’s a free easy way to help you see how you’re spending your time, so you’re in charge and not the clock.
In addition to having tools to help you with your project management, to do’s, time tracking etc. make sure you have a good start and ending to your day. I’ve started beginning and ending my day with RnR, which means routine and ritual. Every morning and every evening I start and end with a little routine that I’ve made into a ritual. It varies but includes things like: a short mediation, spending 10 minutes learning something new, gentle stretching, etc. It’s easy and it makes a difference.
I encourage you to do the same; introduce some RnR to your morning and evening, some RnR that is customized to you.
Overall my time management isn’t perfect (that’s not my goal) but I do feel much more in control and way less cramped and pressed for time.
Acknowledging that I frequently felt like I never had enough time was the beginning of making a change.
Mapping out my content and tools gave me huge insight into what was working and what I had to fix. Working with tools like Google Calendar (for time blocking), @Toggl for time tracking and @ClickUp_app for project management has given me a lot of ease and has increased my productivity. And adding in RnR and breaks has made my body and soul happier.
Try these tips yourself. Make sure your time management plan fits you and your future self will thank you.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead.
- I made a short video of this post. Check it out here.
- Don’t let time control you. Get in the driver’s seat and create a system that works for you. It’s easier and more in reach than you think, unlike this cat whose solution, while just in reach, is out of mind.
- Spend some time on your time and then pick one or two of the tools and give them a whirl. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear.
P.S. Speaking of tools, my free Learning and Development Roundtable is around the corner. This month’s topic is how to put your learning into action. Check it out here and RSVP for the March 20th online and in-person workshop.