It always feels like there’s never enough hours in the day. Anyone else feel that way? In my case, it’s the result of one of two things – either I’m trying to cram in too much stuff into too little time or I’m just simply not using my time efficiently. Either way, it’s frustrating. I have developed a few different ways to try to manage my time better so I can get more done.
Here’s what I do to try to get more done:
- Have a designated work space. I’ll admit – I have more than one. Because of some of my health restrictions, I can’t always sit at a desk to get my work done. So I have both a desk area and what I refer to as my portable office. It’s a basket that is filled with office supplies that I may need to get my work done. I can take it to my chair or my bed along with my tablet and continue to get my work done as needed. Still, I think it’s important to have that desk set-up. It gives me a base of operation, a place to hang up reminders, and a location that I know is devoted to business – important for those times I really need to focus and get down to work.
- Make your work space attractive. I have motivational artwork hanging above my desk, a cute little holder for my thumb drives and memory sticks that my niece and nephew made, a pretty pencil holder, a DIY memo pad decorated with flower designs, and so on. My desk has a glass top with a colourful scene from New York City (one of my favourite places) that looks like it was painted by Andy Warhol. Everything there makes me smile. Even with my portable office basket, I’ve added flowers, ribbons, and other colourful bits to make it pretty. It may seem silly but having a work space that makes you smile when you look at it can be very motivational.
- Have your own computer. I know, I know. This is a financial issue and perhaps it’s just not possible right now. But I really believe that you need one that is all yours – not shared with anyone else in your household. If I didn’t have my own device, that would be the first business item I’d be saving up for. This way you know that you’ve always got a computer that is dedicated to you and your work whenever you’re ready to sit down and get to it. And it means that you won’t have to worry about anyone accidentally deleting something you need! (Been there, done that.)
- Stick to a schedule. I’m not able to set the same schedule for each day – for that matter, I’m not even able to follow the same schedule for each Monday or each Tuesday and so on. But what I can do is sit down each evening and set my schedule for the next day. My schedule is done in blocks of time but you can establish yours in any way that works for you.
- Goals: set them and write them down. You are much more likely to work towards them if they are in writing. I find hanging them up where I can see them every day to be very effective. I have a couple of clipboards hanging on the wall to accommodate this. Be sure to follow SMART goal setting to ensure that your goals are achievable.
- Once your goals are set, it’s a good idea to revisit them regularly. Look them over. How are you doing on them? Are your goals still relevant? It’s ok to adjust them. It’s ok to change your mind. It’s ok to abandon goals that no longer fit you and your life. Regroup and revise and move forward towards those goals or in a new direction.
- Prioritize your goals. One of my goals is to learn some Italian because I’m planning a trip to Italy (and because I think it’s just a beautiful language). This goal is important to my soul but it’s not something that will earn a living for me so it needs to be balanced against those higher priority goals. That does NOT mean you should put the goals that feed your heart and soul aside or stick them at the bottom of the list where they may never see the light of day. It simply means that you need to look at them in terms of balance and ensuring that you are taking care of first things first. I like to list my goals according to what parts of my life they are “feeding” and then prioritize within each list so I’m sure to be meeting goals in every area of my life.
- Use your goals to generate your daily checklist. I like to divide and conquer my list and set up tasks in smaller chunks. Since I work with social media, there can be a lot of interruptions which can be frustrating if I’m in the middle of a “long” task. Breaking them down into smaller, more manageable bits means that I can see more items through to completion before having to break to tend to other things.
- Delegate some tasks to others. Get your family involved. Hire someone if you can. In my world, it doesn’t make you an amazing superwoman because you try to do it all yourself. It makes you someone not making the most efficient use of your time. (I can say this and I say it with love because I, too, am someone who tries to take it all on her own shoulders.
- Set a timer. Some of the tasks I do as part of my job are also ones that can easily suck me in longer than needed. I have to go on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest for my clients. I don’t have to stay on them for hours. I set timers to remind me to check in on social media and timers to limit how much time I’m there. When there are difficult tasks to be done, I break them up into sub-tasks and set a timer. It’s a lot easier to motivate myself to scrub my impossibly difficult to clean kitchen floor when I do it in 10 minute chunks – you can get through nearly anything when it’s only for 10 minutes.
- Take an electronics break. This is coming from someone who makes her living online so I don’t say this lightly. There are times when I’m working on one specific task but all those notifications from social media keep drawing my attention away. When you are working on a task that requires your full concentration, think about turning off your electronic devices (or at least the notifications) for an hour (or whatever time is appropriate) and buckling down to get that task done without all the distractions.
- Consider changing your schedule. There is a well-known idea that says you should “eat the frog first” – that is, get the most unpleasant or difficult tasks done early in your day to get them out of the way. But that doesn’t always work with my particular energy cycles. I sometimes need time to engage in the somewhat routine tasks first while my brain “warms up” and then I can jump into these “frog eating” tasks. Try to figure out and work with your cycles. You might also consider getting up earlier or staying up later (NOT both – you NEED a good night’s sleep) so that you can get work done before the rest of the family wakes up or after they go to bed AND to take advantage of your prime times.
- Give yourself a break. You need to take breaks – your brain and body need to rest and replenish. I remember hearing it compared to an oil lamp. You can’t keep burning bright if you never take the time to refill the oil. Build in breaks and transitions. Perhaps you work best by performing large tasks or a series of several smaller tasks and then taking a longer break – or maybe you work better by completing a small task or sub-task and then taking a quick break after each one.