As a creative who adores creating as well as a hybrid strategist for content and marketing campaigns time managemet is essential. Knowing that time stands still when I am engaged in work I love, developing systems to stay on task and on track mattered not only to my income, but also to be able to create a well lived life. The parameters of work are now so changed from the constructs of my childhood. In the sixties and seventies we had set hours for “business”, built in constraints for how often one could communicate via written expression or telephone. Time and costs required focused on a slower pace with defined end hours and identified “off” hours. News was available at two, maybe three times a day, and there was value placed on time with family daily as well as scheduled off hours and vacations.
Enter modern technology, 24/7 access to information resources and fluid work environments and time flows. You add in the multi talent level ability and the need for time management tools and boundaries takes on a whole new level of identification need.
How do you determine what you need to accomplish?
How do you prioritize what actions happen when?
How do you monitor the time you ACTUALLY spend doing what you do and the outcomes they bring?
Those three questions are three of the toughest ones most entrepreneurs and professionals face. The lists of need to do’s can overwhelm a forty hour work week. The overwhelming reality of not knowing what priority to do yourself, what should be outsourced or staff sourced often is the bottleneck of outcomes in business for solo preneurs, small business and enterpreneurs leadership.
Personally, I am a well able professional. No longer can I count on “If I am able, I should do it” mentality. My skills are vast as most business owners are, but the tasks that require me are best served by me, the ones that can be achieved by others need to focused to their realm so that the income and opportunities only I can bring to the business are MY focus.
Easier said than done.
Strategy involves knowing how you work, how you learn, what your strengths are and who you are NOT in business. Personally I am a highly disciplined tasker. However I also value completion of tasks at hand, so I must be focused on only putting in my space “to do” what is truly my task. As a content marketing strategist, WordPress specialist, and soft sells educator, it’s important that the content I write, the scripts I create and the blueprints for launches and campaigns be a priority for me. My method is to first, on paper, keep in front of me the time modules that need to exist each week. Time for health, time to write, time to just go have fun, time to work alone in developing products and time to engage with clients. For me the process involves predictable times scheduled each week to have some sense of “schedule” but also periods for flexibility so that when clients need support, or it would be more productive to work with my team, we can tag space for that to happen.
What are my personal five go to’s for time in space productivity?
- I use a good old fashioned timer. I set up for 15 minute increments and I reward myself for staying on task during writing time, web development time, and focused work time. I know the exact outcome I am setting up to achieve and if finished early, that time is MINE…not more of the same. I then learn next time to expect different outcomes for that time. (careful, hyper acceleration of your productivity leads to burn out) Play more, find more 5 minute joys than figure out how to do 10 things in the space of 2.
- I prioritize lists of “needed items” based on function for outcomes. I may have 7 things I want to do in my website because they delight me, or I can see how that would be advantageous, but that priority is down the list from the income producing opportunities that need to be accomplished FIRST. Tweaking can take on a life of its own and is better to be scheduled once a week, once a month, or once a quarter. Too many times, time management goes haywire when “flybys” on websites are engaged without proper planning, sites break, plugins break and then that “good idea” not only takes priority to “fix” but also wasted your productive writing or call back times. Keep an idea list to “brain dump” what you truly want to do, but keep prioritizing its value to the big picture goals you’ve set. When time unexpectedly presents itself I go to my “takes 10 minutes” “takes 1 hour” “needs an afternoon” lists and start in on the desired things!
- Turn on your ease. I personally have “work flow music” that puts me in a programming zone of relax and enjoy this tedious work. Others may need to turn off the phone, Facebook, Tabs on your computer or time of day that you won’t be interrupted. Personally I know exactly when I need to be uninterrupted so I turn on the ease by scheduling those activities when my staff doesn’t call, when my family doesn’t come trickling in to be with Mom, or I am needed elsewhere for supervision. I identify to my staff, my family, and my clients I am “off limits” during that Monday write time except for ambulance level emergencies. That protection of time allows me to be productive.
- Turn Off Interruptors. Your phone is not a switchboard you need to operate 24/7. Texts can wait, emails can be checked on predictable periods throughout the day. Communicate your system to those that matter. (I check mail at 7, 11:45 and 2:30) Turn off Facebook, Turn off Skype, Turn off Notifications on your screen. Do what you can do to stop the interruptors to your progress. Emergencies happen but few happen every single work flow day. If you are teaching your clients and potentials you are an amblance chaser, heaven help you, for its a really tough life to consistently do well in. Exhaustion happens when we try to be all things to all people. Ask me how hard that lesson was to learn. Find your lane, do what you do, and allow “no” to be your friend when offers “near” your space but not IN your space come up.
- Monitor actions to outcomes. Personally I love checking off lists, drawing lines through completions. However I know given an option my lists would be 120 items long per day. Your formula for personal and professional success has to succinctly identify what makes you money, how that process begins, engages, and ends and where your actions are priority and where your directives to other processes are necessary. My best skill is problem solving, strategically identifying what is needed, and educating well able people how to enact their desired goals. If I am personally doing those skill actions, my income and my client’s income raises measureably. If I am working on software that I do not teach clients to use, if I am problem solving a solution in areas I do not work I am most likely going to see in my weekly and monthly measures of outcome goals to outcome realities a good bit of non productive or wasted hours with little return that is measureable. Sometimes you need a coach to help you realize where you’re wasting your time and talents. You only need the prescription, then monitor your ability to follow it, if you are truly lacking skills, then hire an educator to get you ready to succeed at the level you are able.
My last time management go to is perhaps my most important one. Do you monitor your own body clock? Are you working at your best time of day? Are you monitoring how your physical diet and activities affect your ability to stay on task. Many of us are greatly affected by sugar, by carbs, by the quality of food and exertion we have in our daily program. Personally I need high levels of protein to power out the level of work I do, I also need breaks with exertion and play to do my best work throughout the week. Play and creating are not simply breaks, they are fuel for my success!
What’s on your schedule? Whatever you put there and choose to focus on as a priority in your life! My goal is to create daily a well-lived life personally, professionally, and relationally. What’s your goal for this 24 hours of your life? Time is indeed our most valuable commodity.