Time management tends to be a crux with most small business owners and entrepreneurs. We ask ourselves: Where did the time go? How is it 8 p.m. already? What did I actually do all day?
Between the 984937 emails, countless Facebook messages, sales and collaborative phone calls, and sometimes useful app notifications, I found myself constantly distracted by everything – except of course by what was on my to-do list. As my to-do lists went untouched for days, I realize that these distractions were becoming increasingly frustrating. My lack of time management skills was hurting the growth of my new business, my day-to-day productivity, and my overall enjoyment of each day.
Because of this realization, I knew it was time to seriously reevaluate how I was choosing to spend my time.
I decided to take a 360-degree view of my business and figure out how to make smarter choices. With a sobering dose of reality, some research, and ironing out a few kinks, I narrowed it down to five actionable time-saving tips that I implemented into my life, which have significantly reduced the amount of distractions and granted me my life of productivity and happiness.
And here they are:
1. Create A Game Plan. No, this Game Plan is not just a simple to-do list. This Game Plan lists out everything that is required to be completed through your entire week. Each step in this game plan is an actionable item that was previously identified and defined at the beginning of the week. Each step is assigned to a specific date when it should be completed.
By doing this, you will avoid being overwhelmed with a 25+ to-do list that continues to grow each day. Instead, this will break out your list into the five things to accomplish Monday through Friday, and will provide small celebratory wins throughout the week.
In particular, my Game Plan includes what I actually need to get done for my business and the personal items that are necessary to keep my life in order. As the week goes by, I strike out the completed items with the satisfaction that things are actually getting done.
Then, at the end of each week, I review my Game Plan to make sure nothing fell through the cracks. This comprehensive review provides the spotlight for me to reflect on my week and actually feel accomplished knowing exactly how I choose to spend my time.
2. Break Down The Small Tasks. When you are working through your Game Plan, it can feel as if you are not getting anything done if you have things like “Create a 30-Page Sales Proposal” writing on one line. If your list includes some overwhelming items, break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks.
For example, break up your original sales proposal task into three different tasks (Create 10 pages each of the sales proposal). Then, spread out the three unique tasks throughout the week (Maybe Monday, Wednesday, Friday) to help you feel accomplished and take back control of your time.
3. Keep An Eye On Your Time. Last week, I came across an article on Medium depicting this step preciously. To be more productive, the author suggested that you should allocate 25-minute time period intervals to a single task to help rid you from any distractions. This method is called the Pomodoro Technique and it includes the following steps:
- Choose a task
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Begin working on your task for the 25-minute interval
- If the timer goes off and you are not finished, take a 5 minute break only
- Then, set a timer again for the next 25-minute interval and get back to work
I decided to try and implement this technique and became enamored by my willingness to stick to the 25-minute intervals. It became a game for me. Can I get this task done in 25 minutes without any distractions? I was shocked to see how productive I was in just those 25 minutes and began feeling quite productive throughout my week.
4. Turn Your Phone On Airplane Mode. I am being serious here. Your phone is nothing but one big, expensive distraction. We all gravitate towards our phone as soon as it buzzes. Whether it’s an new email notification, incoming call from a co-worker, or just a reminder that you have to say “Happy Birthday” to an acquaintance on Facebook, the truth is that every time your phone makes a sound, you are distracted.
To avoid these distractions, I propose switching it to airplane mode for 45 minutes out of every hour you are working. Then, turn it on for 15 minutes, which is enough time to scroll through those emails and call back those who left voicemails. It’s 15 minutes of chaos versus 45 minutes of complete work silence – a tradeoff that has significantly reduced my stress levels and allowed me to understand how to work smarter, not harder.
5. Hire A Virtual Assistant (VA). I originally heard about this idea from reading Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek. At the time, I thought hiring a VA is expensive for the amount of time I would have to take for training, let alone review their work to make sure it is correct. Sounds like an anti-time savings tip, right?
But, the truth of the matter is that if you land upon a good VA – and there are plenty of them out there – they can significantly reduce the amount of work you had on your plate with just a few minutes of providing some guidance and direction.
Virtual assistants come in handy specifically with the mundane daily tasks like email, bookkeeping, scheduling, and research. They also can help with personal tasks such as researching Amazon potential holiday gifts and sending out birthday cards for each one of your extended family members. You name it, and if it can be done remotely, they can do it. Consider getting yourself some extra hands to help alleviate your workload. Your stress levels will thank you for it.
Remember that you have the capability to be in control of your time. With implementing these simple techniques, you can delegate the “busy work” and transform your time into a productive and enjoyable experience. Good luck!