Time management is one of the biggest issues business owners and newly promoted employees face on a regular basis. New responsibilities and a new role can be overwhelming, and without some effective guidelines for better time management, stress can take over pretty quickly. For the most part, it boils down to building better habits for dealing with unexpected distractions, developing systems to tackle simple tasks, and setting boundaries around who or what pulls you away from your work. Here are three tips to help you show up fully every day.
One of the biggest issues my clients bring to me is time management. For those of you building a business or working very hard on nurturing a career, it can be easy to start out with a plan and then find yourself responding to everything that comes by and suddenly feeling like you’ve lost control. It can happen fast and it can feel defeating. The most important thing to remember when that happens, however, is that this is a symptom of taking on more and different responsibilities. It happens when we push out of our comfort zone in an effort to be a better version of ourselves. It’s a symptom of wanting to do bigger things, and that’s putting stress on you.
When this happens, it’s best to reassess how you spend your time. Start by carving out a specific time in the day for appointments, responding to email, writing your thought leadership, or self-care like a workout. Once you dedicate a specific amount of time to something that you have to do everyday, you’ll find that you start to create time blocks for other things, and once you have a regular schedule, you’ll have predictability. If you’re like me and you don’t like being chained to a schedule, keep this in mind – having a daily schedule serves as a bridge that brings you from the old to the new. You’re already going through enormous change. Having a set schedule to take you there will ease some of the stress from the other unknowns. It removes the panic almost immediately and helps you get organized without having to rewrite your to-do list every day.
Once you have your time blocks in place, you want to develop a system of tackling the things that come across your desk and dealing with them effectively and immediately. It’s not enough to have time set aside for tasks; you now need to look at how you use that time. A system can be as simple as using the same formula to write your content, or developing a process for handling a certain type of email. The most effective systems take the tasks that come across your plate, and then sort them, prioritize them and process them quickly.
After you’ve taken the time to evaluate what needs a good system, you’ll want to document the process involved, even if you’re the only person using the system right now. While it does take some time to pull it all together, the time saved in the long run is worth it. Many of my clients tell me that they have no idea what they would delegate to an assistant if they had one, but the systems and processes you create for handling routine tasks are the perfect way to slowly integrate working with an assistant. Take some time to think about the ways you navigate throughout the day or week and document a path for the things you deal with on a regular basis. It could be anything from responding to client inquiries using a pre-written template to developing a full client intake process with custom touch points throughout the communication process. Start small and build from there. Even with a few small systems, you can save valuable time.
This one is harder than it sounds. It’s human nature to deal with stress by avoiding certain issues. If I have a big project coming up, for some reason I think that’s the perfect time to organize my closets or clean out the garage. Alternatively, the group of people working from home and still managing a family has increased over the years. This is the group I hear from the most. It is very easy to get pulled away by other responsibilities while trying to carve out time for your work or business. The more you resist this urge to distract yourself, however, the easier it will be to develop new habits for dealing with big projects or stressful new work.
This is where setting clear boundaries with yourself, and the people around you, becomes important. If you have a habit of starting other projects to distract from bigger obligations then setting an hour aside to satisfy that urge will help you keep that habit contained. If you have a family or other major responsibilities that pull you away from your work, then having a clear conversation to set expectations is a good beginning. From there you can set reminders and even incorporate a schedule for time when you can dedicate yourself to important people in your life. With a schedule of appointments, you’ll start to see how much of your time goes to your work and how much goes elsewhere. There’s no good or bad here, either. This is about you looking at how your time is spent and then deciding how to focus your energy for getting things done.
If time management has become a struggle for you recently and you want to take back control of your day in order to step fully into your job or business, start by asking yourself the following questions:
As you can see, with better time management, you’re creating a schedule for yourself, developing systems around you to help with your workload, and limiting your accessibility to inevitable distractions so that you can concentrate on your work. Try one method for a week and see what improves.
If you’ve found a unique way to manage time, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.