Time management is a pain. I can go through periods of demonic production and at other times I can be like the laziest beach bum around. If I could just harness those extremes together and be more consistent I know I can get more done.
Well, here’s what I’m working on to do just that.
Putting together a short list of essential must-do’s – and do this at night so when I wake up I don’t have to think. I just do. I can spend a lot of time flapping about and being unfocused so this is one way to keep myself on track. I keep that list by my side at the desk for those moments I get distracted. Prepping the list the night before means my mind is still thinking of what’s left undone or to be done and I don’t lose that sense of relevance overnight.
Having a list is one thing but using it smartly is another. In the olden days I’d find anything to do on my list that was easy. I’d pick the low-hanging fruit if you will. But I could pick at that fruit all day and still not get to the important stuff by nightfall. Now, it’s a matter of doing the most important thing first. After that I can do anything I want but I bite that ugly frog up front. Prioritizing means I work on what’s important rather than convenient or urgent.
A danger of working for yourself is that you tend to take on too much. Sure, I’m superwoman, I can do the work of ten people in a single day. Err, no. I can get heaps done but only if I focus and prioritize. To avoid overloading myself I make sure there’s only 4 things on my “business must do list” and those are things that are designed to help progress and can be done in one session. Chunking stuff up into doable bits reduces the overload sensation. having a set of 3-4 ticks by day’s end is satisfying and improves that sense of achievement.
I can be a workaholic but I’m not always a clever workaholic. I can take as much time as humanly possible to fiddle and farnarcle with something and before I know it a fifteen minute job has sucked up two hours. Now, I set a time limit (I use and actual egg timer) and after a while you get to know how long a task on average takes you. Deadlines are great for those who ‘perform well under pressure’ but we tend to procrastinate until the last minute. So bring the last minute forward.
When I work on my own, like I have the last twenty years, I can get distracted easily. Checking social media can end up taking an hour or more, researching the web can degenerate into interesting but irrelevant side alleys, short breaks can lose an hour or two. Now I have a rule. I check social media and email three times a day and I set a timer. What’s not done has to wait until the next session.
That feeling of “it’s just me in my business so I have to do it alone” is crippling. It blocks any real productivity because you just can’t do it all yourself, even if you are curious like me and want to know how. At some point you’ve got to delegate (or in the online world, outsource). Trusting others can be a challenge for me but I’m learning to adjust expectations of others being able to do things exactly as I would.
Getting out of that mentality of “I’m at work so I have to be at my desk from 9-5” is a mental obstacle I’m getting over. I’ve set new work hours – isn’t that why I’m doing this? To have more freedom? Yes the work has to get done but I can adapt. So my new work hours are generally 8-2.30 and then I play or do chores or socialise or whatever. Then if I want I can do an extra hour or two at night if necessary. It’s amazing how things get done when you have less time 🙂
What are you doing to work more effectively?