But what if I had 30 hours in a day? 26 hours?
Well, truth be told…I’d figure out a way to need more somehow!
In the age of immediate gratification and “I need it NOW,” for the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to do it all. Then I realized the secret. Ready for your mind to be b-l-o-w-n? You can’t. Man, woman, Gen-Xer, Millennial….doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t. You won’t. You can’t.
And that’s ok.
But how you use the 24 hours you’ve given…well, there are some tricks I have stumbled on, researched or created to help with that.
Opportunity #1: Knowledge is Power
First, do you know where your time is going? The first step is knowledge. Make a spreadsheet or somehow track your time. I picked this tip up in Laura Vanderkam’s I Know How She Does It. She took a spreadsheet and tracked her time down to the half hour. A few years ago, in the days when I had two kids under five, I printed one out and [skeptically] went through the process. Between running my company, raising a young family and trying to prove my worth as a mom, wife and entrepreneur…do you know my biggest time waster?
Well, it wasn’t sleep!
It was social media. Facebook, in particular. A close second: email. It was not only sucking my time, but was infringing on critical family time I was fighting desperately to have.
Solution #1: Put Away the Phone
We created phone-free zones in our home. Dining room table during meals or family meeting were off limits for our phones. Bedtime with the kids. 30 minutes prior to going to bed. We’re not perfect, and there are slips, but overall, this has made our time with our kids and at home more impactful. It also set good boundaries with our association partners and leaders, as well as team members.
I mandated only certain times of the day that I could check my social media accounts during working hours years ago. This continues to help me focus on our association partners, while still having nuggets of FB time throughout the day. I don’t feel behind in the Pollyanna Facebook world, and I maximize my attention space on projects, our non-profit leaders, volunteers and our amazing team.
Opportunity #2: Become the Master of Your Schedule
Take control of your schedule or it will control you.
Solution #2: Take Back Control
My Friday routine always includes one key hour. I take my paper (yes! I still have one) planner and my electronic calendar and ensure they’re in sync. I check client deliverables the next two weeks, work schedules of team members, school-related items, sports and after school activities and my own workouts. I make a list of the top priorities I must get done that week – professionally and personally. I also plan all dinners and note them each night. I make sure it’s on the family’s shared electronic calendar so whomever is home (hubs or myself) can start dinner. And, you know, it works.
Opportunity #3: There is So Much “Noise.”
Is your to-do list 21 items deep? Do you feel at the end of the day you accomplished nothing? Do you write down things that come up during the day that weren’t on the list, but you need to check something off so you add it and immediately check it off? [me too!]
Solution #3: Keep a Separate List for the “Whenevers”
Keep the shorter tasks that are important, but not necessarily time sensitive tasks. on a list you can access anywhere. I use ToDoIst (link to it ) for my task management. It has a free and paid version. I can pull it up on my phone or computer. When I am coming to the close of my day and I have 20 minutes left, or I come to a gap between meetings or calls, I pull this up and knock out what I call the low hanging fruit. These are the things that aren’t necessarily as time sensitive and may include things like practice or jersey reminders to the soccer team, or a note of “good job” to a colleague. They have a purpose and are still worthy of my time, but these tasks are small in terms of time investment. I fit them in the cracks so they don’t take critical time from association partners, colleagues or family.
Opportunity #4: Big Projects Seem Impossible to Complete
Do you put off big, daunting projects? It could be a proposal…or a blog article. It could be cleaning out your closet. Do you find yourself procrastinating? Do you look at a project and not even know where to begin…so you don’t?
Solution #4: Prioritize, Take a Bite at a Time and Enlist Help
If you find yourself putting off a project – whether that’s starting it, or simply slogging your way through it – put it FIRST on the list for the day. Make a deal with yourself that you will get this done first, before you tackle anything else that day. If it helps – create a reward. “If I get this done, I get to do this.” Sometimes it’s all about mindset. For me, it’s visioning how I’ll feel once it’s complete.
Is the project just too daunting? Break it down, one piece at a time. What steps do you need to take to complete the project? Split it up and schedule it out. Oftentimes, a project seems impossible until it is taken apart. What is that saying about eating an elephant one bite at a time?
Finally, what other resources do you have to help you? Time or money? People? Tools? Identify if delegating a portion to a teammate is an option. Determine if there is a vendor that could be brought on to see the project to completion (budget allowing). Would a project plan assist in the project’s completion? Above all, avoid feeling like you’re on an island with no collaboration outlet. Many of us work better through verbal or written collaboration.
At the end of the day, time management comes down to spending time on what is most impactful and important to you in your world. It’s not about doing more with less. It’s about doing what creates value in your world, and those worlds you impact. Spend time focusing on opportunities for growth, to create efficiencies for yourself and those whose world you impact first. By looking at solutions and priorities, you create a better life for yourself, the ones you work with and the ones you work for.
I use for my kids’ spelling tests: I put the test dates on my calendar and the words in the notes. That way I can quiz them in the carpool lines or waiting for the sibling to get out of a practice. Great way to make productive use of our time together.
I keep NCG notecards in my bag. When I’m stuck in a carpool line by myself, I pull out a note card and write a note to a client, colleague or friend that I should spread a little sunshine and gratitude to in my life