Why would I talk about Time Management? I’m a psychologist right! But like so many of my fellow women entrepreneurs I thought I needed to learn this skill too. I went in search of many YouTube videos, free courses, planners (diaries) etc. The list went on & on & on. The only thing I realized was, that no one size fits all. But one thing became very clear, I needed to tailor my time management system to suit me and my business. (Heads up this is a long blog post and remember to take what you like and leave the rest)
Let me be honest I’m at a different time in my life to some of my fellow women entrepreneurs, my children are now all adults and I have two wonderful grandchildren I love spending time with. I don’t have the constraints of fitting my business around my children anymore. For a long time, I did just that. I worked when they went to school, I worked after they went to bed at night. I was lucky I was running a branch of a charity I had set up so I could be flexible most days. So for me, it wasn’t so much a time management schedule I had, but time blocking I used. I would focus on one thing at a time during that time block -when the kids were at the school for instance and get at least one task off my To Do list. Yes, it didn’t always go to plan but more often than not I got what I needed to be done in the timeframe needed. I’ve now incorporated a Not To Do List which helps me remember to hand things back that are not my responsibility.
Why would I need a planning system in the first place?
Well to me and you the first reason might seem obvious, I have clients I need to fit in but I also have other stuff I needed to get done too, which I hate doing (I use a power hour for stuff I hate), but I needed to stay focused on those too to keep my business working properly. I am very guilty of going down the rabbit hole on days I don’t have planned out better. Distractions from social media, TV shows and books, all of which I’d much rather be reading or watching than getting some – of the more what I consider dreadful – tasks completed. I also want to have balance in my life. I want time off for me (first thing I schedule each week) my children, my grandchildren, meditation, my hobbies etc, not just work!
But where do I start?
I needed to take into consideration some key points and questions to ask myself when I set up a time management system suitable for my life and business.
- You need a calendar planner online or paper. It doesn’t matter which but get one, you need one especially if you have children anyway. I always kept a calendar by the phone plus a planner in which I recorded what needed to be done for my children first and then business/volunteer work. It kept me on schedule and up to date in getting things I needed to be done (great suggestions below).
- Ask yourself “What way does my business impact my life now?” and “What way do I want it to impact my life?” Could those two questions be at odds with your life’s goals and your business goals? What stage am I at in my life right now? A woman with children is going to have different needs and time constraints than one who doesn’t. Think about what you really want in life but I would suggest you look at it from the basis of life/work, not work/life.
- What is the hardest thing about prioritizing in your day or week? Be honest with yourself.
- What is your overall brand or mission statement about? Are you staying on track with this right now? Will my time management system keep me on track with this?
- Does my business goals for this year fit in with my mission/brand statement? How can I break these down into quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals/priorities?
- What phase is your business in right now? e.g growth stage, brand awareness etc. So what do you need to be focused on in that phase right now?
- What are you struggling with in business right now? Pick one method below that suits you and try it for a few months, you’ll be better able to work out what suits you best and what to tweak after that. Remember this may be a learning curve for you so it may take longer to implement or get the right system working.
- Check you actual time allocation on projects – use time tracking for a week or so to record what you’re actually spending time on. Get real about where you’re spending your time – as you sit down to write a blog post are you getting distracted by social media from your phone? You need to block out other distractions while focusing on one task at a time. ( you can use Toggl, Hours, apps to check this or just record you start and finish time).
Which of these 3 Time Management systems will work for you?
- Be flexible in planning – allow enough time to complete the project and a bit over. Think about what stage you are at in your life too – you need to be more flexible with your time if your children are younger, so rigid time scales won’t work for you (Appointments 10 till 12, paperwork 12 till 1, lunch – you get it the idea, know this won’t work when you have small kids at home all day) you need to allocate time blocks or time batching for work instead. You decide which task you will complete that day and focus on getting it done. Such as a power hour in which you take one hour to get accounts updated. This method also looks very similar to Pomodoro which I talk about next but usually, you use this method when you have shorter time available to get stuff done.
- You also need to think about what type of personality you have does strict rigid planning even work for you or your type of business? Sometimes we need to use something like the Pomodoro method instead. Pomodoro works basically like this: you focus on something for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break, then work again for 25 minutes. After 2 hours (including the breaks) you take a 30-minute break. This method does allow you to be more focused on what you’re doing as you allocate your time to getting one specific task done e.g answer emails in 25 minutes. It’s a good method to use as your brain can only focus for so long anyway before it needs a break. Plus it’s a great brain training method if you need to learn how to stay focused and be more clear in getting your business brand out there to clients.
- Task scheduling method is one you’re probably most familiar with. This one starts with setting goals for the year, then the quarter, moving on to the month, week, and day. Your aim here is like “eating the elephant” one bite-size chunk at a time. If you do a lot of project work you will be most familiar with this method too. It’s where something like Trello can come in handy as well. With this method, you can prioritize what’s important each quarter to your business and break it down into daily To Dos. I would recommend making that no more than 3 main tasks to be completed daily. It can also like the other methods show you how quickly progress can be made quickly on your workload.
What else do I need to consider?
- If you decide to rejig your working methods and implement a stronger time management system then I suggest getting someone on board with you. A buddy system works well for accountability, a friend who is in business and is at a similar life stage as you. They’ll understand better if you don’t get something done when the baby keeps you up all night if they have a small child too. (Yes before anyone else says it I do remember what it was like to raise 5 kids and not get enough sleep, but time has eased those memories somewhat).
- With all of the above in mind, you also want to be perceived as efficient, consistent and effective at what you do. Proper time management will allow you time for this and more importantly, allow you to have a life outside of work. It allows you to see you day physically laid out with all the business goals for that year, quarter, month, week and day outlined. It keeps your business on track and professional, this is a business, not a hobby so treat it like that and others will also take you seriously.
- Speaking of taking yourself and your business more seriously. You need to believe in you. Doing visualizations and affirmations are brilliant for this. Dolores Andrew-Gavin (@irishhealthhour) has a great Visualization about empowering yourself (Celebrating Lughnasa) and Mary K Anderson (@vibeinstitute) has a beautiful mindfulness section at the top of her program every Monday at 7 pm for #mindfulmonday on twitter and live on Charityradio.ie A great affirmation I heard from Denise Duffield Thomas “It’s my time and I’m ready for the next step” this could be in your business or life you choose.
Paper Planner Suggestions
Sage Grayson business planner has been great this year for me She goes into so much detail about creating a foundation each and every week that ties beautifully in with your life not just your work, as well as helping you do a review of your business in detail. The only downside for me was that it doesn’t give you enough daily space to plan out your day. Monthly and quarterly reviews are included, so this has kept me on track with my overall business goals this year.
The Get Up and Go Diary for Busy Women 2018 this looks like a very motivational and positive diary. So if you need or love a little daily motivation along side your planning I’d use this. I recommend keeping a daily gratitude list of 3 things and a motivational quote in your planner anyway no matter the planner you use. Also, don’t forget to keep a record of all your achievements big and small to look back over when you feel like things aren’t going your way.
Paper Ink Planners Ok, I admit it, I’m a planner junkie! So these products are all me. I love the Carpe Diem planners (similar to Filofax don’t ask how many planners I have) and stickers/coloured pens. I haven’t bought one of these yet but it’s on top of my to buy list.
Free paper planners are all over the internet just check out Pinterest to get links. But remember they are not “free” you still have to print them yourself. And if you know your way around Canva you can always create your own and sell them too. One for Filofax lovers is Philofaxy or for Filofax, Midori and other planners My Life All In One Place
Suggested Online Planners
Trello plus Google Calendar (they can be combined I believe, article here) Both free and will have pop-up reminders to take a break etc, which are very important. I’m afraid that is my limit when it comes to online planners as I prefer paper and pen. But I’m sure you can get some great free options out there by asking your mentor or support group (I hope you have both of these as the biggest thing most business owners talk about with me is the isolation and loneliness of being an entrepreneur).
Summary ( for those of you who skipped)
- Review your business – have a mission statement and goals for the year.
- Get a planner(diary) paper or online which ever suits you.
- Pick a method of time management that suits you, your lifestyle and your business. Time management is a system, a tool for your business. So how can it best serve you and your business?
- Work out your goals and break down into bite size pieces -year, quarter, month, week, day – make sure these fit with your brand and mission statement. (So make sure the method you choose ties in with your business goals/needs. Don’t be afraid to try until you find one that suits you)
- Get a buddy to help you -do it together for accountability
- Get a mentor &/or support group (Women’s Inspire Network is one such group. They are a great bunch of women in business who are very supportive of each other. They have a facebook group & a twitter hour among a lot of other things)
- Most importantly remember this about your life not just your business. Have balance in all you do, at the end of the day your children, partner, family, and friends are more important so make scheduling time off each week your first priority)
I hope you got something out of this blog. If you have any questions about this or anything else I’m always happy to answer them. Leave your comments below or you can DM me on my twitter page.
(Please note I’m not an affiliate of any groups, individuals, businesses or apps linked above.)
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