3 Time Management System Tips
Time—it truly is a precious commodity, a limited resource none of us have enough of. This is especially true for solopreneurs. Most of the folks I work with say developing a time management system was their single biggest challenge at one point, but together, we developed a system unique to their individual needs and those of their business. Soon, inefficiencies became a thing of the past for these clients. This article is meant to drive you toward a similar reality.
Envision your typical day:
If you are like most entrepreneurs, your work day begins by checking emails, scanning your social media feeds, and responding accordingly. Perhaps you take a look at your calendar and make mental notes of scheduled phone calls and meetings. Finally, after all of that is out of the way, you dive into the first of your planned tasks.
Now imagine you receive a phone call or a notification of a new email.
This is where the scenario transforms into a “choose your own adventure”.
Scenario A: You shift your thought process away from the current project to tend to the phone call or email.
Scenario B: You send the call to voicemail and close the notification.
You might be thinking, “Of course I should answer the call or email immediately, it could be a potential client!” Here’s the thing, though: task switching is detrimental to productivity. Every time you are pulled away from the work at hand, you have to restart, and that takes time. It takes time for your brain to resume focus.
As the day continues, so does the cycle of interruptions and task switching and before you know it, your well-planned workday has gotten away from you, with nothing marked off your “to-do” list.
This cycle of distraction needs to end! By taking a few hours to develop a time management system for your business, you are empowering yourself to be more efficient with your time!
To start developing your own unique system, take note of how your time is currently being used. What activities occupy the bulk of your time? Which activities are high-value, of medium value, and low value?
How about in the short term, and in the long term? Ultimately, you’ll need to create balance, dedicating time to working on both.
Identify your goals: how well does the way you use your time align with reaching these goals?
Asking these questions will help you illuminate high-priority activities and separate them from those that bring less value.
Now it’s time to develop a time management system that will work for you.
Here are 3 (ish) steps to put you on a track toward higher productivity:
- Pinpoint your primary goals.
Often, we avoid high-priority projects because they appear to be too daunting. The solution is to simplify your problems. Sit down and make a list of your goals. If you are like most business owners, that list will get pretty long in no time. That’s ok, but you won’t likely be able to reach all of those goals simultaneously so the next step is to grab your favorite highlighter and pick out the to 2-3 goals you want to aim for first. Next, break each of those goals down into simpler steps (and file the rest of that list away for after those primary goals have been reached).
- Schedule your priorities.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities. Now that you have broken your goals into smaller, more manageable objectives you know where to begin! Outline the critical steps you need to take to reign in each of those objectives. Doing so gives you a chronological breakdown of your priorities. Always work on them first.
Block out time in your calendar to work on those activities and others necessary to business operations! You are in charge of your calendar—you are not at its mercy! If you believe you are its victim, it’s time to shift your mindset. You are in charge. If you hear yourself saying, “I’m too busy,” remember that you have created your busyness through your choice. Proactively calendar your time. Learning to prioritize both long-term activities that gain momentum later in time and short term goals necessary for incremental results is critical and requires careful planning!
You’ve got this!
- Discard low-value activities.
Consider each activity you’ve included in your calendar. Is it really necessary to attend that business luncheon with that group you felt obligated to join but have never gotten anything out of? Are you going to lose that client if you only check and respond to emails 3 times a day? Do you need to volunteer absolutely every time your child’s school requests it?
Determine where you can eliminate the activities that aren’t directly contributing to success and remove them from your calendar. Take the 20 minutes of that time that you just saved yourself and schedule periodic reviews for ongoing improvement. Discard the insignificant distractions that appear on your “to- do”list. Keep an eye and keep an eye on tasks that take too long or require attention far too often. Try to simplify those tasks or make further eliminations. Rinse and repeat for continuous improvements.
That’s it—you now have the skeleton of a time management system for your business. Now that you’ve made a plan though, YOU NEED TO STICK TO IT! Instead of loathing your calendar, look at it as the driving force for capturing your goals, being more efficient, and reaching success!
Every individual and every business is different: the time management techniques that work for one might not work for others. That’s why I found it incredibly important to provide a skeleton of a time management system rather than a template that tells you exactly what to do.
Let’s continue this conversation in the comments section. What techniques have worked for you and what tips and tricks can you offer other solopreneurs for managing their time and being more productive?