Do you often look down at the clock at 2 p.m. wondering where the day went? If you’re having trouble keeping track of your time or find yourself wasting hours scheduling and tracking meetings, sending quick email responses, etc., then we have a few tricks up our sleeves for you.
Have you heard of hiring a VA? Delegating low-level tasks to a virtual assistant can really help get you out of the weeds in your calendar and inbox. Plus, an assistant can provide great accountability support.
Virtual assistants are an excellent tool to have in your arsenal. But if you’re not quite ready to invest in a VA, here are a few ways you may be able to save yourself a few hours each day.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Poma-what? I get it—you’ve probably tried some form of every time management trick by now, right? Humor me.
The Pomodoro Technique allows you to work in short but productive sprints with quick breaks in between. It helps you focus on accomplishing one small task for a short period of time instead of procrastinating when faced with analysis paralysis on a very big project.
You’ll set a time and work for about 25 minutes straight on one task. Then, when the timer goes off, you stop working and take a five-minute break. Repeat this three or four times, and then take a 15-minute break. When you break up a large chunk of time into smaller chunks with dedicated tasks like this, you can usually get more work accomplished.
Audit Your Time
The key to maximizing your time is by first understanding where it’s currently allocated. Facing the reality of your current schedule (as scary as that sounds) is the only true way to improve your time management in the future. You can do this on your own by simply writing down everything you do each day or utilizing a time-tracking tool and then analyzing your results, or you can enlist some help.
Jess outlines the way she audits her time for you to follow and recreate in her book, Panic Proof. If you’re looking for more guidance, we offer an Interactive Operations Audit designed to walk through the results of your audit with you to create an action plan for delegating, automating, and relegating your unnecessary tasks to make you more productive doing the things you’re uniquely qualified to do.
Create an Ideal Calendar
Last month I went in-depth on why creating an Ideal Work Week is so important. To summarize, creating a visual outline of where you want to spend your time in a perfect world can provide you with an outline to measure against your real-life schedule. Keeping that ideal structure in mind when you (or your assistant) book meetings and set up time for deep work will create boundaries around your schedule and cause you to place more value on your time.
Of course, sometimes we have to take meetings outside of our ideal timeframe, and so our reality might never be as clean as our ideal calendar. But having a visual representation of our goals often helps bring perspective to the inconvenient meetings we MUST take or the emergency tasks we can’t avoid, versus the ones that really can wait.
Utilize Batching Techniques and Blocks of Time (and Stick to Them!)
When analyzing your ideal schedule and thinking deeply about when you’re most productive, you should aim to schedule all of your meetings when you’re alert but not necessarily during the time when you could be most productive. Try to book them in a row (but don’t forget bathroom breaks!) rather than one meeting every 90 minutes.
With this method, you’ll end up with a larger chunk of time before or after your meetings to separate into different task blocks. For example, booking your meetings between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. allows you to have 1:00 p.m. through 5:00 p.m. (assuming you’re on a traditional work schedule and take a lunch break) to cross tasks off your list.
Maybe you need an hour of writing time and 90 minutes to sort through and respond to your email for the day. Then you need to review your employee’s work and send it off to a client and process payroll. If you batch your time and are generally more productive in the early afternoon, that might look like the schedule shown to the right.
Once you batch and block your time, stick to those blocks! If you don’t finish your blog post in one hour, stop and pick it back up during your next writing block. This will keep you on schedule to complete the rest of the items on your list and still make it home in time for dinner.
Feeling so buried in your schedule that it’s actually running you? Take the first step to freedom from the time constraints that have been holding you and your business back from reaching your full potential. Learn more.