Sometimes, you can feel like you are constantly running on all cylinders. Between your job, your relationships, your home duties, your health, your side hustle, etc. — it can be easy to feel buried.
And while you are running around like crazy and still leaving tasks undone, some friends, colleagues, and even entrepreneurs you may idolize seem to handle it all with ease. Do they never sleep? How do they find the time?
Likely, they seem to have it all together because they have worked on saying no to what doesn’t foster their overall goals. More specifically, they have probably mastered what it means to truly be productive (i.e. getting the most important items done first and the rest follows) on their own terms.
We all get 24 hours in a day, after all — are you using every hour to the best of your ability? Here are some statistics about time management:
- Business owners waste up to a third of their week on unimportant tasks.
- Companies spend an average of 16 days per year looking for paperwork.
- Up to 80% of the workday is spent on activities with little or no value.
- 46% of the stress reported among Americans was due to an overwhelming workload.
- Only 17% of people actively manage their time.
Clearly, many of us are lacking in time management skills that will enable us to be more productive. However, if you can learn to make your time work for you instead of always playing catch up, you can feel more accomplished and truly get shit done.
Let’s review 7 easy hacks you can start today to improve your time management skills.
1. Start Early
The early bird gets the worm, right? Your missing time might be passing by while you are hitting the snooze button.
And it’s not just about wasted time in the morning, but early risers are actually more productive than their late-rising counterparts. Only 48.6% of late risers considered their days highly productive, while 61.2% of the early risers reported being highly productive. And it seems that this is even more true the earlier you wake up — 71% of those who get out of bed by 4:00 am described their days as highly productive.
Early risers have also been found to make more money, be less stressed, and happier in general. Why is this? When you get up early, you have time to prepare yourself and conquer the day on your terms. When you constantly hit the snooze button, you will likely feel stressed and be running late, constantly playing catch up. Do yourself a favor and greet the day earlier.
2. Create a Schedule
It can be easy to waste time when you don’t keep track of it. Section out your day and decide what will happen when. Some people like to focus on 3-5 tasks that must get done throughout the day and schedule them out.
Using a task management service like Monday can help organize your to-do list into an easily-read format so that you can see everything at a glance. Organizing in this way can ensure that everything gets done and is prioritized correctly. Also, Monday allows you to assign tasks to different team members, making it easy to keep track of what everyone is doing.
As you create your personal schedule, be sure to put your more taxing jobs at a time when your brain is performing at its best. This time may be different from person to person. In general, it is good to tackle the big things first thing in the morning rather than after lunch (when you might be feeling sleepier). However, you may be someone who consistently gets a rush of energy around 10:00 am and feels more groggy in the mornings. It is important to know yourself and what works best for you.
3. Take Regular Breaks
You can’t be expected to churn out quality work all day long without taking breaks. Many times when people want to just get shit done, they end up working too hard for too long and then get burnt out. Taking short breaks throughout the day can help you recharge and refocus so that you can work at your optimal level when you dive back into work.
How often or how long your breaks are depends on your individual preference. Some people find that working for 45 minutes and then taking a 15-minute break is a good cadence. Others like to use the Pomodoro Technique, which is a system where you work for 20 minutes and then take a 3-5 minute break. After completing this cycle a few times (4-5), allow yourself to have a longer (25-30 minute) break.
The point is to not wait until you are burnt out to take a break. Small, frequent breaks can help keep your brain fresh and your motivation primed.
4. Avoid Multitasking
Somehow, society has decided that in order to get shit done, we need to be constantly multitasking. Multitasking can be an important and necessary skill, but it can also leave you spinning and never really doing one thing well.
When you create your schedule, stick to it. If you are supposed to be working on your marketing strategy, don’t get distracted and look into research and development. Don’t try to write a blog post while also managing your budget. When you decide to tackle a project, focus on it. If you start to find your mind getting pulled to another task, write it down and add it to your schedule. You don’t need to do everything right now — focus on what needs to be done now, and then you can focus on the next task when the time is right.
(See my previous blog post on 5 Quick Ways to Be More Productive for additional tips)
One of my favorite ways to organize tasks is by using an Eisenhower Box.
Organize your tasks based on urgency and importance. If something is urgent and important, do it now. If something is important and not urgent, schedule a time to complete the task. Of course, if something is not urgent and not important, don’t do it at all. And lastly, if something is urgent but not important, delegate.
As an entrepreneur, it can be easy to want to do everything yourself. However, that isn’t a sustainable or even an effective way to run your company. Look through your tasks and decide what can be done by someone else. Maybe you can hire someone to manage your social media accounts or hire a bookkeeper to keep track of your finances. Maybe it isn’t wise to waste time trying to master web design when you can cheaply and easily hire someone else to handle it for you.
What’s more, finding quality freelancers has never been easier. You don’t need to hire a new full-time employee to take some work off of your hands. Fiverr is a great place to find freelancers for anything from SEO to graphic design to data entry. Fiverr is transparent about pricing and your freelancer’s work is guaranteed — they don’t get paid until you’re satisfied. FlexJobs is also a great place to find qualified freelancers, as well as people looking for part-time, flexible, or seasonal work.
6. Learn to Say No
For some people, this may be the hardest hack on the list, but it is essential. Again, you can’t do everything. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much you can juggle. When you get caught up in saying yes to everything, it spreads you too thin and forces you to complete everything at a sub-par level.
This can be a difficult pill to swallow because you will be saying no to good things. Maybe you want to volunteer in your child’s classroom, but this week you know you have a big deadline coming up. It’s okay to say no. There will be other weeks. You can say no to the speaking engagement across town if you think you will be running late to your other commitments. Remember, you want to be known for doing things well — not necessarily doing everything.
7. Reward Yourself
Don’t forget to celebrate your successes and “treat yo’self” once in a while. Yes, there will always be things to do. Yes, you will always have room for improvement. But don’t be afraid to take a second and celebrate your accomplishments and reward yourself. Your entrepreneurial journey is just that — a journey, not a destination. Make sure to take time along the way to appreciate your successes and mark your accomplishments.
Wrapping It Up
You are given 24 hours in each day — make each one count. Your time is your most valuable asset, so use it intentionally and in the most efficient way possible. Without managing your time and holding yourself accountable, it can be easy to waste away your day with unimportant tasks and distractions. Use your time wisely and make the most of each day, while also taking time to take breaks and reward your efforts.
Bonus Tip — Be intentional when setting goals.
Sometimes it can be easy to set goals because it gives you a sense of motivation to start off your day or week. However, being intentional about your goals is about really wanting what you’ve set out to accomplish.
Your goals for the workday should be centered around the bigger picture. This will allow you to keep your vision top of mind while taking the necessary steps — even if they are small — to achieve each milestone. Here are some key steps to get started:
- Write down three goals you want to accomplish for the day.
- Categorize those goals under a short-term goal. For example, let’s say your goal is to publish 30 blog posts this month. One of your goals would be that you are writing a new blog post each day. This holds you accountable with a timeline in place.
- At the end of every workweek, review what you’ve accomplished. This gives you an idea of what you completed and what you didn’t. Seeing this can help you readjust where needed to be more efficient for the next week.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. Set realistic goals that are doable. Don’t overextend yourself.
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