As a parent, partner and business owner, you’re never lacking in things to do. You’re on your phone replying to emails, managing a big project and organising the must-have item for show-and-tell at 7 am on a Friday morning. No matter how much you wish for it, a 25-hour day isn’t going to happen. However, there is a solution and it’s managing your time better. If you learn how to control where your time is used, you’ll feel less stressed and be able to add in self-care like a massage, gym or yoga class. Here are some of the methods I use to manage my time. Caveat – I’m not perfect! I don’t get it right every day, week or month. I’m a work in progress, just like you.
Master Your Schedule.
If you’re like me, there’s a list of to-do’s that need to be completed by the end of the week. As Friday slowly creeps closer, you starting feeling anxious. Most of your tasks are underway but none are completed. “I still have my weekend” you reassure yourself while you envy those that’ll be having fun with their family.
It’s great to have a to-do list but how can you finish your tasks efficaciously? You time-block! It’s a simple activity where you create a specific time for you to accomplish your tasks. The old adage remains true – ‘Time is Money’ – and all your tasks are things you want to ‘buy’.
A calendar’s your best friend when it comes to time-blocking. I use Google Calendar because it’s easily accessible across any device and it synchronizes notifications to my iPhone. I suggest you create separate color-coded calendars for important aspects of your life like family and business (client calls in pink, marketing in yellow, accounting in grey for example) to make it easier to manage. Next, Look at your to-do list and create time-blocks with padding in between. You’re forced to prove your priorities with action and it promotes deep work which helps with GTD – Getting Things Done! Don’t be unrealistic with your time-blocks because you’ll feel unnecessarily stressed. It takes time to get it right. Spend a couple of hours doing it the first time. Take a screenshot of your Calendar Blocking for the week. Then, as you progress through the week and certain tasks take longer you can adjust it on the calendar. If something gets done quicker, reduce the time. If you procrastinate or mindlessly scroll on social media for 30 mins plot that into the calendar in big, bold RED. That way you can get into reality about how long things actually take and how productive you’re being.
You can then assess if your actions are aligning with the goals you say you want to achieve.
Short Bursts of Focus.
Now that your calendar’s blocked with the best of intentions, no distractions in sight. You open your MacBook and suddenly you think, “Do we have food to eat later?”, or have I booked my little one into holiday club for the next school break? This is a form of procrastination. I’m guilty of letting my mind wander instead of working but you can try the Pomodoro Technique to stop procrastination. If you’re an Italian food lover, a tomato probably pops into mind. This isn’t a tomato but a time-management tool to keep you productive in short bursts. The Pomodoro Technique tells your mind, “Just focus for a few minutes, and you can play afterwards”. All you need to do is set a timer for 25 minutes and dedicate that period to a single task. Next, give yourself a 5-minute break. Rinse and repeat to bust procrastination!
Focus on What Needs to be Done, Outsource the Rest.
No matter how well you schedule your calendar and work efficiently, you only have a limited amount of time in a day. You simply can’t do everything by yourself. It’s more than likely time to bring in some help. You may have an excuse like “I’m already so busy and I won’t have time to train and manage people”. These are excuses to not take action! Richard Branson hires people smarter than him to run his companies, and so can you. I use virtual assistants for various tasks in my business to help me save time. This is managed through Asana where I can distribute tasks with my iPhone. Start to look at tasks that other people can do and outsource it. You’ll gain an abundance of time which can be spent on your children and to grow your business.
Make Your Phone Work for You.
You live in a connected world where people can contact you instantly. If you get an email from your client or a Facebook message from a family member, you can quickly respond through your iPhone. This makes your iPhone the worst time consumer as peoples ‘urgent’ issues become your problem. Your agenda gets disrupted and you get frustrated with all the distractions. There’s no doubt that your iPhone’s still a great tool but you need to prep it to work for you, not against.
Create a list of productivity tools (Asana, Google Calendar), time-drainers (Social Media, Email), and aspirations (Yoga, Read Books). Keep your productivity tools and aspirations on your home screen while hiding your time-drainers on a different screen. This creates a suitable environment that nurtures productivity. Sometimes it’s best to delete an app that has no purpose. Yes, I’m talking about you… Candy Crush. Notifications will distract you when you try to focus on a task. I like to put my iPhone on airplane mode when I have important tasks to accomplish.
I turn off ALL notifications on all of my apps at all times, and this allows me to focus on what matters.
That Guilty Feeling.
It’s highly necessary to take a break, recharge and get going with fresh energy again. When you decide to spend time with your child you think “I could be finishing that proposal email I was supposed to send”. Later, when you sit down at your desk you think “I should’ve spent more time with the kids or partner or yourself”. Besides making you feel bad, feeling guilty takes away the joy of living in the moment. You NEED to take breaks, in the same way, that you need to work. It can be difficult, but you need to do those things that make you feel ‘guilty’. It’s important for your wellbeing and it’s non-negotiable for your mental wellbeing! Once you understand that, you can appreciate your time more and get tasks done, stress-free.
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