Simple Habits to Get Your Time Back (Tips from a former procrastinator)
Ever feel like there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done? Or like you blink and it’s time to make supper?
My name is Denise, and I’m a recovering procrastinator. I can remember a time just a few years ago, where I’d spend all morning cooking oatmeal and watching Pretty Little Liars. Suddenly it was past noon, and I’d gotten nothing achieved yet. I had to take control of my time if I wanted to get everything done. It meant and giving up the following:
- Mindlessly scrolling through Facebook posts that I do not care about whatsoever;
- Signing up for half a dozen e-mail lists;
- Ignoring all the e-mails I receive from various e-mail lists;
- Searching my inbox for that e-mail I actually need for something;
- Making multiple pots of coffee;
- Creeping an old friend on Facebook.
But now I’m a business owner. A “solopreneur” you might call me. It is up to me to do everything; completing all projects and working with clients. But, it’s also my job to work ON the business, which includes getting new customers, marketing, writing copy, creating blog images and new programs, promoting myself through social media, bookkeeping, attending networking events, and the list goes on.
Even once I gave up my procrastinator habits, there were still so many things taking up my time. I am lucky enough to work with passionate small business owners. Many of them face the same challenge as I do. Here are my simple habits to get your time back!
Actions to Free Up Your Time I used to spend tons of time on the road delivering workshops and meeting with clients. This was a huge time suck. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in a room filled with entrepreneurs delivering a workshop, and I also love hearing about their businesses in more detail. It’s also great to be able to meet your clients face to face. But during all this time, I never felt on top of things, and getting a day to focus on my business and getting things done was rare. It really limited my available time to work on projects and create content.
The obvious solution was to limit that type of activity. I no longer wanted to travel all around delivering workshops or to meet with clients. Although I loved the actual activity, the travelling all around and driving for 8 hours just couldn’t continue. My work would have to be done at a distance. So, I created processes to be able to deliver workshops and programs virtually. Is it the same as being in a room with my client? No. But we both benefit from this method! I can spend more time working with them, instead of sitting in a car. Now the hours I dedicate to them are all productive!
Consider what actions you can take to free up your valuable time and have more time available to focus on what’s important to you!
It’s all about planning. When you have tons of stuff to do, it’s important to budget your time so that you can get the important things done. Winging it day to day won’t accomplish much. You will feel overwhelmed and as if there is never enough time! The best strategy is to block your time so that you can focus on one thing at a time and get it done right! Here are my strategies for getting it all done.
Blocking Your Time
Morning:I am most productive and creative in the morning, so I block this time to get creative things and anything requiring serious attention done. Every day I know that I have this time to focus on the important things.
- If you are an artist, use this time to create pieces;
- if you provide training, use this time to create your courses;
- if you are a writer, use this time to write;
- I think you get the picture.
The important thing is to focus on one thing at a time (for bigger projects, you might want to focus on one thing a day). Giving yourself time and space to accomplish the big things is essential! The creative process can’t be rushed and takes time to get right. Give yourself the time to get into the zone. In my case, this means I am usually working on a project for a client, or creating content. Turn your phone to silent and do not check e-mails or social media during this time. Protect this time, and do your best not schedule meetings or other activities during this time.
Afternoons: After I spend all morning creating and being productive, it’s time to get other stuff done. In my case, I schedule meetings or calls in the afternoon. If I have any errands to run, I do them in the afternoon. Any other tasks I have to accomplish, such as accounting, website maintenance, posting to social media etc., when do I do them? You got it: in the afternoon.
Plan a time to check and respond to e-mail: I could spend my entire day responding to e-mails and not actually accomplishing anything. Often, we get an e-mail and feel as if it’s urgent to respond immediately. To limit this distraction, turn off the notification on your screen and don’t check your inbox every 5 minutes. Before you refuse, realize that in most cases, you do not need to send and instant reply. As long as you get back to the sender within a day it should be adequate. Check your e-mail after your productive morning, and again towards the end of your work day.
Social media notifications: How many of you get a Facebook notification and then fall into a warp zone of checking all your notifications, seeing what’s new in your groups, checking your newsfeed, watching cat videos, and other non-productive things? It can’t only be me. My solution is to declutter your notifications. I went in and left a bunch of groups – you know, the ones where there are a billion posts a day and nothing that you really care about. So, leave those groups! I also unfollowed a handful of other groups; ones I want to stay connected with, but don’t need hourly notifications from. I only kept the notifications on for my favorite groups. It’s far less distracting this way!
Set your phone to silent: Again, there are so many distractions that come with a smartphone. Texts, Facebook, tweets, messages, game notifications, your fitness app telling you to get moving and drink more water, Pokémon congregating, oh and calls!
Guess what? It is very rare that a client calls me out of the blue. The majority set up a specific time if they want to talk by phone. This means I can turn off my phone or set it to silent for a couple of hours and there is a very low chance of me missing out on something. The benefits of blocking out all the noise outweigh the off chance that someone calls. If by chance someone important does call – that’s what voicemail is for.
Plan your week: Plan your week in advance. It’s so much easier to know where to focus your time if you know what you are trying to accomplish. At the beginning of every week, take a look at your big picture goals and decide what needs to be accomplished. Then make an action plan for the week. At the end of every day I like to make a list of what I need to accomplish the following day, that way when I wake up, I know where to focus. I am also a big believer in a content calendar for blogs and social media. Having fixed dates on these things makes you use your time wisely and help you stick to deadlines. I usually set reminders for myself in Google Calendar. (Actually, my entire life is scheduled in there. Hopefully Google doesn’t go out of business.)
While multitasking might make us feel as if we are getting a lot done, constantly changing tasks too often makes you much less productive. Can you be 100% productive everyday? Of course not. But by scheduling your time and reducing distractions, you will get way more done! Knowing that you have the time to get things done will relieve the pressure and let you concentrate on the task at hand. The important thing is to focus on one thing at a time and get the most important things done. Use these tips to get your time back!
Denise Alison is a Business Coach + Strategist who works with passionate small business owners. She lives in a small fishing village in Nova Scotia, Canada. She loves working with her fellow entrepreneurs and hearing their stories about what motivated them to start their business. Her biggest fear is not having enough water, and her second biggest fear is not having coffee cream. When she’s no working, she can most often be seen walking with her Beagle, Tulo, pulling him away from various fragrant objects.
Contact info: Stratigro Business Consulting Ltd.