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Time management tips that you can use TODAY

Blog Audio: Read/listen time: 8 minutes

If you run a small business, are self employed or work on your own you may be asking yourself:

How can I stay productive and make the most out of every day, regardless of my state of mind?

Fortunately the answer to your question is pretty straight forward and in this article I discuss some time management tips, techniques and give you links to some resources that you can start using today.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room.

Task Management

It doesn’t matter if you work on your own or as part of a team, managing your tasks is critical to getting the most out of your time.

Task management is a massive subject with as many differing oppinions as there are stars in the sky. So, let me save you some time. Read ‘Getting things done’ by David Allen. This is a great starting point for creating and managing lists and will help you manage your email, tasks lists and more in some very simple steps.

As a book, there is quite a bit of waffle but when you cut through that the principles are sound. You can buy it online here or you can sign up for audible.co.uk trial account and download a free audiobook. Audio ebooks are great to listen to while you work or as you commute and if you can get it for free by signup up for a trial then even better.

Free templates to help creatives stay focused and productive

Part of managing tasks, which is the subject of the book suggestion above, is using lists to compile and prioritise the things that you need to do. You may want to make your own lists just like I have for years, until recently.

Why have I stopped creating my own list templates?

Quite simply I found a resource which includes some wonderful list templates which are of very high quality and which are free to download and use. It is so much quicker when setting up a new system for managing your time to be able to use some genuine high quality, useful templates.

I both use and recommend using the tempates available at Productive Flourishing. This website has some great templates and I am sure that you will find some that compliment the GTD way of working. With a few minor tweeks I found that some of these templates match my workflow perfectly.

In particular I recommend the monthly, weekly and daily momentum planner, the individual project planner, the action item catcher and the handoff holder. With the addition of an incubate list (see Getting things done) you have an easy to manage yet comprehensive information workflow.

How to take your information workflow ‘mobile’ (using lists on your mobile phone/tablet/computer)

Whether you work at home, from a shared workspace or your local cafe, having a your information workflow available on any of your mobile devices is pretty important.

But, why would I need my ‘to do lists’ available on my mobile phone or tablet I hear you ask?

I have lost count of the number of times that I have been away from my PC and needed access to some information from my lists. My favorite respository of information is Microsoft Onenote. Not only is is intuitive, very versatile and hugely capable, it is free and multi-platform and works on Mac, PC, Android and iphone. It will sync between all your devices and is a great place for digital to do lists if that works for you.

I use it for storing information, research, sales ideas, blog posts, work in progress and my ‘to do’ lists and much more. It would be a great area for pasting screenshots, text, links and more for each of your clients and help you organise your research for your estimates etc.

Inspiration can come to us anywhere, a good note taking app can make all the difference.

There are of course lots of apps availalbe other than Onenote, such as Evernote and Google Docs.

Email management:

Lets face it, email is where most of our tasks are going to originate, be discussed and where tasks accumulate and sometimes get forgotten.

Avoid missing tasks and deadlines by mirroring your information workflow from ‘Getting things done’ in your email folders. So for example consider having your email address as a ‘catch all’, the emails are then immediately either moved to an ‘action folder’, ‘incubate folder’ or ‘waiting/pending’ folder at the times you choose to review your mail.

Splitting your email in this manner allows you to sort and action your emails quickly and easily without building up a large mess of disorganised emails. Every bit of information which is stored in these locations and/or in your lists will reduce your stress and allow you to focus on tasks with more productivity without the need to try and keep tab of things in your head.

Task (time) management:

Having dedicated lists isn’t enough for me. I use something called the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ which essentially uses a kitchen timer to set blocks of 25 minutes where you work without interuption. Each task is split into ‘pomodoros’. Keeping track of these helps you not only realise how long work really takes you but helps you estimate tasks in the future.

Read more about the Pomodoro Technique here.

Goals:

Write them down and nail a quantity, figure and date to every single one of them. In every decision you make and action you carry out, think: “how can I use this to move one step towards my goal”. Review these goals frequently, if not daily, to keep your activity ‘on-point’.

Fine tune your goals:

  • Be clear about each goal
  • Make sure your goals are specific
  • Check that your goals are genuinely achievable
  • If your goals dont make you slightly nervous, they may not be challenging enough
  • Make sure your goals align to where you want to get to

Contacts:

Group your contacts online, email, linkedin, twitter etc by the type of client they are. Prioritise those by importance to you and your 5 year goal. Within each of those groups then prioritise into 3 layers of importance in terms of how much you want to work with them.

Using these groups and layers of importance you can then tailor your contact with them accordingly. Tier 1 in a group may mean you call them weekly, or organise face to face meetings. Tier 2 you may call monthly. Tier 3 you may just add to a mailing list. Just examples, you will of course have your own marketing channels and you can prioritise accordingly.

Essentially only those most important to your goals will take significant amount of your time. Review this frequently as people may move group or tier as they change or as your goals change. This is all organic and change is welcome.

Automate or outsource repetitive tasks

We all have those tasks that we repeat endlessly, which we don’t find interesting and which cumulatively eat a lot of our time. Time which could be spent making sales. Keep a ‘handoff list’ of any task that you think you wouldn’t have to do yourself.

Here are some tasks that you could handoff or automate:

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Paul Edwards
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Paul Edwards

Web consultant and Front end developer at ICW Digital
12 Years designing, building and maintaining websites and ecommerce. I am so much more than a web designer, I am an enabler. I provide strategy, direction, mentoring and websites that make a difference.
Paul Edwards
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