Chances are, there’s been a day (or two) where you weren’t as productive as you wanted to be. Too many interruptions? Busy putting out fires all day? Just couldn’t get your focus right for the task at hand?
I’ve been there too.
When you’re running your own business, you’re not just juggling work—you’re juggling the two biggest priorities: tending to clients while simultaneously trying to find new business.
Time management is elusive and let’s face it, it’s a challenge that many of us face. If we didn’t, then there wouldn’t be a plethora of apps and gadgets out there trying to help us all out.
I’ve talked about the Pomodoro technique and using digital blocks before but this post is going to cover the self-sabotaging habits we so often do and how to course correct. Below are some time management tips that every business owner should have in their arsenal:
Make a Schedule
Captain Obvious here, I know. But if you don’t make a schedule and set deadlines against tasks, you’ll never get things done. They’ll perpetually be on your to-do list, which will deflate your productivity and on the slippery slope you go.
Working for yourself may mean flexible work hours, but that doesn’t mean winging it. The easiest way to stay on top of your priorities is to schedule specific work times for each step of your projects.
Learning to set a schedule, and keep it, won’t happen overnight. Don’t feel ashamed about using a calendar app to help keep you organized and accountable. Asana is my personal favourite, since it’s the one I’ve had the most experience with. Don’t take my word for it though—here’s a comprehensive list of project management apps to check out.
Match Like with Like
Have you heard that multitasking is the ultimate productivity buzzkill? When you’re constantly splitting your time between tasks, you actually lose traction and get less done. That feeling you get when you just have too many tabs open? That’s your brain telling you to stop.
Compartmentalize your time. Only focus on the scheduled task at hand, and if possible, schedule similar work on the same day.
For example, ff Monday has been dubbed your day to plan content, then scheduling the major tasks that comes with planning content—like curating content, brainstorming new posts and content programming—can become Monday tasks.
Batch all of your research on Tuesday, outline writing on Wednesday, and so forth. Streamlining your efforts will save you considerable time and energy. Especially when the cost of switching tasks is so high. Which brings me to my next point…
This might seem like a repeat of the previous tip but it deserves its own notable mention.
Multitasking is just not good. Say it with me now.
We’re all busy and it’s tempting to try and get so much done at once. But you know what happens when you multitask? Your productivity is shot, your IQ decreases and your brain shrinks.
Enough said, no?
It will be hard to ‘single-task’ but it’s an adjustment that you’ll be grateful for.. And your constantly growing to-do list will start shrinking, not your brain.
Give Yourself a Buffer
When you’re running a business, solo or part of a team, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. Tackling a new project area can mean a whole new set of roadblocks—so make sure time is on your side.
If you’re venturing into completely new territory, assume that Murphy’s Law will come into play. Every extra minute planned is worth its weight in gold. If you don’t end up needing the buffer time, then you can use the free minutes for the next tip…
Always Take Your Breaks
Part of scheduling means including time for nutrition and brain breaks. You need to stop thinking that you’re too damn busy to take a break.
Your schedule probably is jam-packed but science says taking a break can make you happier, more focused and more productive.
When you’ve got a flow going, it’s hard to break away, I get it. But the thing about managing time is that once you push past the productivity zone and stretch yourself, even just a little bit, you lose focus. Our brains aren’t built for the extended focus we demand of it these days.
That’s why taking a break, even 10 minutes, can help us regain focus.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Time is a precious asset. Working for yourself doesn’t mean you get more it, it just means you’re in control of how your time is managed. While the advice here might seem obvious, you’d be surprised at how often we sabotage our schedules with bad habits.
True productivity isn’t measured by the amount of time you appear busy—in order to move the needle forward on things that actually matter, make sure you:
- Set a Schedule
- Batch Your Tasks
- Don’t Multitask, ever
- Give Yourself a Buffer
- Always Take Your Breaks
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