As we head into summer and become busy with BBQs, the beach, and some much-deserved time off, we can also get a little stressed thinking about everything that needs to get done…even when we’d rather be out playing and having fun. The key, of course, is working smarter, not harder and learning to manage our time better (instead of it managing us). Here are some strategies that will help you do just that.
1. Delegate, delegate, delegate. This can be hard—at first!—for business owners who feel especially close to every aspect of their business. But in order to reclaim some time for yourself (and, by extension, for your friends and family), it’s important to let go. Consider outsourcing certain tasks, giving your employees more responsibilities, or implementing a summer internship program. One important note: when you delegate, it’s critical to let people do the task at hand, even if they complete the task in a different manner than you would have done it. As long as it’s not wrong, let it go and don’t interfere.
2. Create a summer schedule. Maybe you close at noon on Fridays or you don’t come in until 10 on Mondays. Even if you don’t use this new-found time to play hooky, you could use the time to complete the projects you normally struggle to finish and that spill over into your weekends.
3. Stay organized. Today’s smart phones, of course, include calendar options, but there’s still something special about a physical personal organizer and custom calendars (like the one pictured) that you can open, touch, and see (and take pleasure crossing off tasks and blocking off times for fun activities).
4. Designate work time and stick to it. You have to complete Project ABC, and you’ve designated a healthy chunk of time to get it done. So you sit down to get started, but since you have plenty of time to get it done, you check your email first. Then you hop onto Facebook to see what people are up to and to play your moves in Scrabble. Then you check out news sites and get caught up reading the latest articles on this and that. Next thing you know, that chunk of time you had has dwindled away to nothing and now you need to move Project ABC into some other time slot, like after dinner or early in the morning. Sound familiar? It’s amazing how much time we waste when we sit down to be productive, which is why it helps to employ some techniques that keep your butt in the chair and your mind on the task at hand. Here are two strategies:
- Use the Pomodoro Technique. Set a kitchen timer for 25 minutes, do nothing but the task at hand, and then stop. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in short 25-minute bursts. The technique involves six objectives to help you master time management, which you can read about here.
- Install social media blockers. Known as “Internet restriction programs,” these apps can help make sure you remain focused and that you don’t lose half a day watching videos of adorable cats on YouTube.
5. Be realistic with your time and learn to say no. OK, so maybe this strategy isn’t easy, but once you master it, you’ll be amazed that you once allowed time to control you rather than the other way around. There are just so many hours in a day, and there’s just so much time you should earmark for work. By understanding exactly how much time specific tasks take (see the link to the Pomodoro Technique above, which will guide you in calculating this), you can figure out what you can say yes to and what you should say no to. (And remember that some of the items that YOU say no to could be delegated to someone else.)
6. Rinse, lather, repeat. In other words, create systems, templates, agendas, and documents that you can use over and over again. This is also known as “don’t re-invent the wheel.” So, for that weekly Monday morning meeting, create a template with the sections you cover at each meeting and then simply update that document. These shortcuts help save time (and will help you delegate since you can say to an employee, “Hey, can you run the Monday morning meetings…here’s a document for the agenda, which outlines what we typically cover”).
7. Don’t let “perfection” be the enemy of “good enough.” Some projects require more time and energy than others. You know what those projects are: they’re the ones that have to be closer to perfect. But there are plenty of other projects where perfect is the enemy of good enough. Know the difference, and learn to live with good enough.
What time management strategies do you use? Are you a fan of kitchen timers, Internet blockers, and learning how to say “no”? Share your tips in the comments!