Picture an average day at work. You’re intent on getting task ‘A’ completed, if only it weren’t for the constant emails, the phone calls, the texts, the meetings, the appointments… It’s a constant battle between trying to stay focused, productive and managing your time and all the interruptions that get in the way.
Time management is one of the key struggles amongst my clients, and I’m often asked for improvement strategies. So, here are my top 7 time management tips to give you back your time.
Why do we need time management?
Way back in 1955, Northcote Parkinson observed (later to become known as Parkinson’s Law) that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, and never has this been more true than in the modern, digital age.
If you have ever found yourself distractedly scrolling when posting a status update on your social media or considering the “right” way to respond to a text message, you’ll know that often, time just runs away, and a task that should have taken a few minutes has suddenly cost considerably more. Distractions are everywhere, and if we don’t manage our time, we run the risk of time managing us!
But, in terms of business productivity, lack of time management can lead to overwhelm, as the backlog of uncompleted tasks mounts up. We get caught in the minutiae, rather than adopting a “big picture” view and as managers and leaders, we communicate to our teams that lack of time management is an acceptable trait.
So, what can you do to reclaim time? Here are my top 7 time management tips.
Set Healthy Boundaries.
An open-door policy within your organisation may be great for employee engagement, but it can lead to you being drawn into every minor issue within your workforce. Instead, limit your bookable time to specific hours of the day. This will condition staff to only involve you when absolutely necessary.
It’s also fairly common for business owners to experience “FOMO”, feeling they have to say yes to every opportunity or request. Having clear boundaries isn’t about shutting the door on every opportunity that comes your way, it’s about discernment – deciding and being clear on what works for you and brings you value.
If something doesn’t align with your goals and aims, then politely and respectfully take a raincheck, but don’t be guilt-tripped into changing your mind. Your boundaries are there for a reason. If you find saying no difficult, then creating a template email response or having various “default responses” ready can be helpful.
Structure Your Day.
Another common mistake that we, as business owners, often make is confusing “busyness” with productivity. We feel we need to “justify” our time spent, and consequently cram multiple tasks into one day.
Instead, identify three key tasks that you want to achieve each day. This allows you to focus much more on the task in hand and limits the feelings of overwhelm experienced by a never-ending to-do list.
Next, write the tasks down, to solidify them in your mind. Multitasking can seem like the obvious answer, but research suggests it leads to more mistakes and less information retention. Instead, it may be possible to schedule in “theme days”, for your working week, so that Monday, for example, is when you focus on marketing, Tuesday on strategy, and so on.
Whilst this doesn’t mean that you don’t do these tasks at other times during the week, it does allow you to focus on a particular type of activity and batch tasks accordingly.
Time blocking can also be useful. Try scheduling a meeting with yourself to complete a project and to give yourself uninterrupted time to schedule social media, for example, or to work on a specific task. If you have a team, it also signifies to them the times when you are (and aren’t) available.
Take Control of Your Diary.
Whilst it can be tempting to fill every space in your calendar with activity, allow a buffer between meetings to give yourself time to regroup, grab a coffee, or prepare for your next meeting.
When our diaries are open to others, the danger is that we operate on a “treadmill” of meeting, followed by meeting, and others may grab any available, unfilled. Space. Instead, schedule downtime, even if it is only ten minutes between calls.
We’ve all heard the expression, “Do what you love and outsource the rest” but delegation isn’t always easy. It may feel that in delegating, you are losing control, or lacking ownership in the day-to-day activities of running your business. But, trying to hold onto every single aspect can not only lead to burnout, but disengagement with your team, who perceive you as “micromanaging” them.
Instead, consider where your energy is best spent and where you are most effective. Equip and empower your team with the know-how to complete tasks.
This might be through the creation of standard operating procedures, or through training. It might also involve setting a clear outcome and allowing your team to find their own way in achieving it. Remember, their way may not be your way, but often an outside perspective can lead to further time-efficiency, as your team comes up with new ways of achieving goals.
Don’t just delegate and run – Schedule a review to ensure goals are being met and for any necessary tweaks to be made.
Check in with yourself.
Ensure your goals are SMART, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time anchored. By doing this, you keep yourself accountable for the time devoted to the activity.
Any task should be approached with intention. Often, we spend too long on a single task, wanting it to be perfect before sign-off. Instead, ask yourself what “good enough” looks like and stick to that.
Also, ask yourself if and how any particular task is going to take you closer to your long-term goals; often we get swept away in “doing” and forget to check our direction and if we are still on target. This will also ensure that you don’t procrastinate on important tasks by substituting them for less important ones (we’ve all done it!)
Manage your emails.
Or, better still, outsource your inbox management to a VA or virtual PA. Instead of passively responding to emails throughout the day, spend a few minutes in the morning clearing junk. Unsubscribe from any that you no longer wish to receive. Next, consider whether a reply is necessary. Have you been cc’d into a group email? Does it require your response? If a response is urgent, consider picking up the phone and calling instead.
It goes without saying that lack of energy can lead to less clarity, lack of focus, and productivity. Ensure that you build in wellness practices centred around diet, fitness, relaxation, mindfulness, and rest to ensure that you’re at your best for as much of the day as possible.
Time Management Tips in summary
We all know those who seem to accomplish everything they set out to without even breaking a sweat. Contrary to what you might hope is true, this isn’t because they possess some superpower, simply that they have mastered the art of time management. By following these 7 time management tips, it is possible to improve your time management, boost your energy levels and focus on the tasks that will support you in growing your business.
If now is the time to invest in your business growth, there are several ways that we can work together.
1. With 1:1 coaching. With monthly or weekly sessions available, we’ll work together to create a sustainable, resilient, and successful business, banish the overwhelm and create success on your terms. Find out more here.
2. If you’re starting out or have a young business then my Startup to Success coaching programme is for you. You’ll learn all the steps to creating strong foundations upon which to grow your business. Click this link to discover more.
3. For those “quick wins” my Coaching Power Hour is a must. You’ll receive actionable steps to help you move past your blocks, gain clarity, and gain the momentum to grow your business. Book your Power Hour here.
4. You can also download my FREE resources, designed to help you start and grow your business by clicking here