When you have a busy lifestyle, you find yourself in a constant state of doing – or thinking about the next thing to do. The dishes need to be cleaned, bills need to be paid, paperwork needs to be completed, and another email needs to be sent.
It’s at this point that you find yourself praying to dear baby Jesus to lighten your load and 30-year old Jesus to take the wheel before you smack [insert the name of your choice] for not picking up the precious sock that they left in the living room.
All jokes aside, it ain’t Johnny’s sock that has your emotions in a tizzy. It’s the fact that your schedule has mastered you vs. you mastering your schedule. You’re overwhelmed, burned out, and possibly on the brink of a breakdown.
As a business owner or leader, you’ve likely found yourself here often. However, this is a place you cannot remain. You have to find a way to be in control of your schedule – as much as possible – and then let the remaining chips fall where they may.
1. Set aside time for planning.
We live in a results-driven society. Thus, we’re programmed to see results. Therefore, being intentional about planning isn’t something that comes naturally. I set aside time either on Sunday night or Monday to plan for the week or month (if it’s the beginning of the month).
- Monthly Planning: Document important dates and times, write monthly goals, and do a brain dump. (A brain dump is essentially a list of anything you know you know you need to work on during the month) Once you’ve completed your brain dump, add priority levels to them. If you have something that is super important, you may want to highlight with a specific color to bring even more attention to it. It’s hard to
- Weekly Planning: 1) Familiarize yourself with your appointments for the week. 2) Write a weekly to-do list. 3) Then break that to-do list into days.
- Daily Planning: Go back to your list and make adjustments daily.
2. Be realistic.
This article in the Huffington Post states that people don’t complete 41% of the tasks that they have on their to-do list.
Here’s the why: We put too much stuff on my list, we don’t account for distractions and interruptions, and I didn’t account for the time I would be spending in meetings. Setting time aside to plan as outlined above creates a great framework to develop a realistic roadmap.
3. Leave time for distractions, changes, and additions.
Though I do the bulk of my planning on Sunday nights or Monday, I leave room for changes. After noticing that I left out of my Tuesday morning one-on-one with my manager on with more work, I realized that I had to leave space in my calendar for stuff that came up. Also, depending on your role, you have tons of work that will come up during the week.
4. Use multiple time management systems.
Computer calendar. iPhone calendar. Apple Watch. Bullet journal. Happy planner. Whiteboard.
These are all the tools I use to manage my time.
Computer, iPhone and apple watch manage and notify me of scheduled appointments. The whiteboard displays the big picture of the weeks, upcoming events, and projects. Bullet journal is where I break do the monthly and weekly planning for the day job. Happy Planner = RRP Marketing and personal items.
5. Be clever with blocking time on your calendar for desk work/tasks.
During my tenure at a well-known retailer, I noticed that the vice president of our department often had chunks of time blocked off on his schedule. This made it very difficult to schedule time with him. One day, I mentioned the blocks of time on his schedule and he let me in on a little time management secret. The letters were a code that he used instead of “block.” People don’t respect “blocked,” but they’re less likely to schedule over something that looks like a real meeting.
When I have things to do, I am a master at disappearing. Whether it’s working from home, going to an off-site coffee shop, or a secluded (or not so trafficked) space in the office, I’ve been known for being going incognito. 1) I’m too much of a social butterfly to be around people when I really have things that need to get done. 2) It’s a good way to avoid unwanted distractions.
7. DO NOT ACCEPT REQUESTS ON-THE-FLY
Hallway conversations that turn into hallway requests. We all know this one. It’s one of the most convenient ways for a person to ask you to do something. It’s also one of the best ways for something to not get done. When someone asks you to do something on the fly, ask them to send you an email, text message or calendar notice. If your place of work has a way for fielding requests, reiterate the system and process in a friendly manner by letting them know this how you can best serve them.
8. Say no
This includes saying no to tasks and declining meetings. People often work in a vacuum. They don’t care about your time. Your time and mental well-being is valuable. They know what they need accomplished and when they desire to have it accomplished. It’s your job to be just as bull-headed about making sure your time is managed properly. If a last minute meeting pops up, ask if it can be rescheduled. If you have to move hell and high water to make it work, decline it. Can the discussion take place via email vs. in a meeting? If yes, decline, baby, decline.
9. Don’t check your email
People often say to turn off your email and technology when you need to focus. I say to take it a step further. A great time management tool is to only check your email at certain times of the day. Most of the items that come through email are not urgent, yet, according to this article, we check our email 15 times a day. (Frankly, this is quite low for me.) Instead, check your email only twice during the workday – once in the morning and once in the afternoon. You can even include in your signature that those are the only times you’ll be checking your email. Be sure that the people who may REALLY need to get in touch with you know how to reach you.
10. Remember the work will be there tomorrow.
The best piece of advice for time management and balance that I received from a seasoned worker was that the work would be there tomorrow. In the world we’re in, we’re never done. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t ignore deadlines. There are times when you’re going to have to spend long hours on getting things done. On the other hand, don’t break your neck working on something that’s not associated with a hard deadline. Instead, be okay with leaving it incomplete or even a place where you feel uncomfortable. It’s true, the work will be there tomorrow. In fact, once you finish this task, you’ll notice something else for you to accomplish.
11. Remember elephants are eaten one bite at a time.
It’s easy for small business owners to work an insane amount of hours. From exciting new projects to the mundane tasks that keep us going, we’re not short of things to do. With a goal of success sooner than later or continued growth married with the flood of inspiration and motivation flowing on our social channels, it’s easy to get go, go, go. You have to give yourself a rest otherwise you’ll burn out. Instead, hang out with friends and family, give yourself a day of rest, and turn off at night. Your baby will be here tomorrow and hopefully for another 20-40 years to come. Your business deserves the best you that it can get.