This Article was contributed by Melanie Yost, LCSW. Author, Speaker and Business Mentor
Time Management is an oxymoron. I’ve always said that we can’t manage time…we are in charge of what, when and how we use our time every day. Distractions are unavoidable, and how we gather ourselves up from the dust and continue onto the next obstacle will dictate our progress. My good friend, mentor and business coach just wrote this article yesterday and I just had to share her words of wisdom. It’s nice to hear her take on the topic so I had to share.
Time management is a hot topic! There are all kinds of tools, techniques and trainings to help you take control and manage your time. The funny thing is, I really don’t believe that you can manage time. Albert Einstein proved with his theory of relativity that time as we think of it doesn’t really exist and that we have the ability to expand or contract our perception of time with where we focus our thoughts and energy.
So, instead of talking about time management to help us be more productive, I think the real issues are actually self management and schedule management.
When you are a business owner, you are the one who establishes priorities, determines deadlines and sets your schedule. Because you have to wear so many hats every day, it is very easy to become distracted by the people, tasks and priorities competing for your attention. In order to be productive and feel accomplished at the end of the day, you need to exercise some self management and schedule management strategies.
Identify your time wasters. What are the things you do that eat up a lot of your time? For the next week, carry a note book around and keep track of everything you do and how much time you spend doing it during your work day. This will only work if you are willing to be really honest with yourself.
Remove distractions. Once you have identified your time wasters, eliminate them from your work day. If there are things that are necessary to your business but end up eating up a lot of your time (social media, email), then plan them into your schedule for specific amounts of time and use a timer to indicate it’s time to move on. During times when you really need to focus on a task, turn off your email, silence your phone and text alerts and close out your social media pages.
Know what works best for your personality. Are you someone who needs large chunks of time to complete projects and tasks all at once or do you do better breaking the project into bite sized chunks and completing it in multiple small increments of time? I personally do better with large chunks of time so I can really focus on a task or project. When I am transitioning between tasks, I can end up getting distracted and wasting a lot of time. Other people get overwhelmed with too much time and allow themselves to be distracted because they think they have plenty of time and end feeling frustrated and non-productive.
Cluster your activities. This is a tactic I have used for many years to manage my schedule. Because I know I waste a lot of time during transitions, I group similar activities together. When I have phone appointments, I do my best to schedule them around each other. On days when I have a meeting or appointment out of the office, I schedule all my other out of office meetings on that day if possible. As much as possible, I schedule meetings and appointments back to back. I always leave one day a week with no scheduled appointments so that I can take care of the creative and administrative tasks of my business (newsletter, copy writing, content creation, marketing strategies).
Make a list of tasks you need to complete during the week and plan them into your schedule. I still keep a paper schedule (yes, I’m old fashioned) so after I have clustered my appointments and meetings, I estimate how much time my creative and administrative tasks are going to take me and I write them into my schedule. If you find yourself spending hours managing your email, schedule time to check it twice a day for ½ hour each time. When the time allotted for the task is over, move on to the next task.
Schedule mini breaks into your day so that you can refocus and re-energize. Every 90 minutes, take a 10 minute break to stretch, get some tea, step outside, get a snack . . . whatever it takes to refresh yourself.
By managing myself and my schedule in these ways, I was able to build my coaching business from the ground up while running my full time therapy practice and being a hands-on mom to my young daughter. I would love to hear what you are able to accomplish with using these tools and techniques.