As women and moms, we naturally have a strong work ethic and ability to maintain a busy schedule. But the rising cohort of female entrepreneurs is trying to take things to the next level. Which can make anyone feel frazzled. Feeling like nothing is ever completely done.
Working 24/7/365 isn’t a sign of effective time management. In fact, it’s a sign of a lack of time management. You need time for sleeping, relaxing, family time, and socializing.
Thus, time management isn’t about quantity. You can’t measure success with the number of hours you worked. Instead, you need to start measuring how effective and impactful those hours were.
If you’re ready to start working smarter, consider incorporating these seven tips into your routine.
1 – Have a Plan A and a Plan B (and Even a Plan C)
There is no such thing as a normal week. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan.
Creating Plan A involves what you expect to complete for the week.
- Develop a list of priorities, schedule appointments and make note of events on your calendar.
- Plan everything. This helps you decide how to allot your time to each priority, appointment, and event. Don’t give more time to a task than you think it needs – work fills the available space.
But, things don’t always go as planned. So it helps to have a mental Plan B to give yourself permission to pivot without feeling guilty about the normal interruptions of life. To create a Plan B, remember:
- You don’t need to write it down because you may not need it, so you don’t want to spend all your time making various lists. Just think through your triage list – What absolutely needs to get done if your time for work gets significantly cut back.
- If something unexpected occurs, Plan B helps you shift your priority list to stay on track.
And, if something major comes up, pull Plan C up from the back of your mind where you keep your disaster planning list.
It may seem like a lot to write down or consider. But these lists keep you centered and calm even when the week appears to be going south.
2 – Work in Blocks Instead of Multitasking
Time management theory used to preach the benefits of multitasking. But, what happens when you multitask is you often spend a lot of time doing very little (and not so well).
You are splitting your attention and talent across two or more tasks. And that’s a recipe for mistakes. In the end, you may have to spend more time correcting those things.
Instead, use the Pomodoro Technique, also known as time blocking. Here’s how it works:
- Choose the first task on your priority list. Then, set the clock for 25 minutes and work within that time limit to get it done. That means no checking email, answering the phone, or sneaking a look at social media.
- When the timer goes off, stop that task, and take a short break.
- Either set the timer again to continue that task or go to the next item on your list.
That laser focus gets you to check items off faster and with more energy.
3 – Require Work-Life Balance
A popular school of thought puts work first and assumes everything else will fall into place around work. But it’s time to stop thinking of the personal parts of our lives are distractions.
Instead, put the personal first. Planning work around family, friend, and “me” time.
- Create a monthly family and social calendar. Post it in a central location. Or, sync each other’s online calendars to know what activities and events are coming up.
- Get these dates on your work calendar so your weekly plans can coordinate with Plan A.
- Rank things that benefit yourself, such as exercise, lunch with a friend, reading time, and even a nap!
Making self-care and relationships a non-negotiable part of our lives is a good way to strike that necessary balance. And give our brains time to recover from constant work so we can be more productive when we get back to it.
4 – Get an App For That (and Everything Else)
Replace multitasking with automation. Thanks to apps, you remove more time-consuming, busy work tasks from your plate. Not sure what to automate?
- Start with monthly bills and recurring expenses and invoices. Hurdlr can organize your business expenses and taxes to save you time and money.
- Use a calendar app that also automates appointments, meetings, and events. Meetingbird lets you skip the back and forth when trying to set a meeting by letting multiple parties put in available times and automatically scheduling at a time that works for everyone.
- Use Asana to keep track of all your projects and work more smoothly with employees or contractors.
- Add connected devices that help with supplies, grocery ordering, and other mundane tasks.
Visit the iTunes or Google Play store to see what other new automation apps can help optimize your time.
5 – Give Yourself a Break
Some entrepreneurs announce that they took their “lunch” at their desk to get more done. That’s not impressive.
No one should look down on you for stepping away from work. Everyone’s brain and body need an escape. That’s why breaks were created, among other reasons.
- Use the time for stretching or a quick walk. This movement increases blood flow to the brain so you think better. It’s hard to find any study that says sitting at your desk for hours on end achieves the same effect.
- Reflect and plan. You might also use these breaks to continue thinking about other aspects of life and work. When your brain focuses on other ideas and concepts, it helps develop solutions.
- Socialize and build relationships. Entrepreneurs can’t work in a vacuum. It’s important to interact with other people and nurture the social part of your life. It strengthens those important bonds we need in both work and personal lives.
If you’re struggling to take breaks, I highly recommend Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. It will change the way you work.
6 – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
We women can be hard on ourselves, thinking the Wonder Woman cape must be in place at all times. For many of us, it takes more than superpowers to ask for help or, even better, to delegate with confidence.
- Talk to your family. Get their input on what they’d like to do to shorten your list. Post assignments in a central location. Or, if you are tech-crazy family, use a cloud-based spreadsheet to track delegated tasks.
- Make room in the budget for service support. It’s okay to take something off your plate. If your family can’t help, it might make sense to pay someone to give you a hand. Measure the time it takes for you to do those things against the cost. It may be “cheaper” to hire a housecleaner than spend time on it yourself.
- Add talent that can assist with business-related work. Find freelancers for projects or part-time help to lighten your load.
- Always reward those that help you. Then, they know you appreciate their efforts and recognize their skill sets. That appreciation is likely to earn you more help in the future.
You don’t need to carry the world on your shoulders. Let your friends and family know how they can help you manage the burden. Even if it’s just watching the kids for 20 minutes so you can take a shower or finish a conference call in peace.
7 – Say “No” to Distractions and Time Suckers More Often
As superhero women, we are often cursed with the inability to say “no” to others.
It may be in our nature to want to help. Or, we are afraid someone will think we are rude for turning down work or cutting a call short. But for good time management, it’s essential that we practice saying “no.” Your time has value, and people will learn to respect you setting boundaries.
And in return, you may gain some much-needed time.
- Recognize time suckers. They may get to you on the phone or even through an instant messenger service. It could even be a client or an employee.
- Make discussions brief. Or, set an online status to “do not disturb” or “away.” Also, there’s nothing wrong with not answering the phone or waiting to respond to an email. Technology is there for your convenience, not as another distraction.
- Assess projects for their time-money value. You don’t want to accept projects that use up valuable time but don’t pay you for the effort.
Remember that you don’t require everyone to say “yes” to you all the time. So, don’t fall prey to the belief that others expect it of you.
Time is On Your Side
When it comes to time management, the number one thing to remember is that it’s your time. You own it. You decide how you spend it.
Good time management practices help you get the biggest return for your investment. Improving your business, your health, and your family life.
What is your favorite time management strategy? How do you get more done in less time? Share your tips in the comments!