Are you struggling with productivity? Have you started on this business venture, or heck! Maybe you’ve been rocking it for a few years, but you’re struggling with managing your time? Struggling to know how to prioritize? Struggling to know what to work on first? Let’s get real. Time management is HARD STUFF and when you feel like you’re always scrambling with a ton to do and no idea where to start, that’s one of the worst feelings out there! So today, we’re going to go over some tips on how to prioritize your projects and manage your time so that you aren’t feeling stressed, panicked, and left suffering from a big ol’ case of analysis paralysis.
Tip #1.) Create your To-Do list
The first thing to do when starting to establish an effective time management system is to write down all that you have to do and WANT to do. Now, I don’t care if lists aren’t your thing, because in order to manage your time effectively, you have to know what you have to do! Makes sense right? So write down what products, projects, and services you have to do or provide, and write down your other business to-do’s that you want to get done! Whether that’s updating your website, responding to e-mails, sending out contracts, catching up on blogging, scheduling social media posts- whatever you want to get done- write it down.
Don’t worry about the order at the moment. The goal here is to word vomit all that’s on your mental to-do list and we’re going to work from there.
Without knowing what we have to do, we can easily spend our days being “busy” but not necessarily productive. Remember, busy is NOT a badge of honor, being PRODUCTIVE is.
There are so many ways to create your to-do list! The key to success with this whole process, is knowing what kind of person you are! If you’re a sticky note person (like me) then do what works for you. You don’t want to be a sticky note person and then start trying some new app for organization. When you do things like that, that’s when you fall off the wagon and things are still left in a chaotic cloud of stress and disarray. You could use a journal, sticky notes, a planner, an app- whatever works for you. This is seriously not a one size fits all kinda deal here. So think about what method you prefer and stick with what works. Get your mental to-do list out of your head and somewhere where you can SEE it. That’s the key.
Tip #2.) Give it an ending
Now, I don’t know you personally, so I don’t know if you’re a service based, or product based business. Either way, I want you to set a deadline for your products or services. For example, I’m a photographer. For all weddings, I have a deadline to deliver wedding galleries in 60 days, and all other galleries (like engagement, maternity, family) in 30 days. This is not just a deadline in my head- this is something that I tell all of my clients during client meetings, in e-mails, and I remind them again at the end of each session or wedding. Sharing this deadline keeps me accountable.
I want you to set deadlines for your products or services. So when someone orders or books, how long until they receive a finished product or until their service is finished or shipped? Doing this helps keep you on a schedule and makes it 1000x easier to prioritize.
Not to mention, people LOVE knowing what to expect. As a photographer, I obviously love pictures, so I get mine taken a TON. When I have my pictures taken and I’m not given an estimated delivery date, I get so annoyed. I become this obsessive creature who checks her e-mail 5 times a day in case the photographer magically did them overnight. Why? Because I don’t know what to expect. It’s honestly maddening! Have any of you ever experienced anything like this or is it just crazy old me? I LOVE knowing what to expect. Because of that, I always let my clients know what they can expect from me. I personally feel like it’s good business!
So whatever it is you offer, give it a deadline. I don’t care how small, or how big the product or service is- start by setting a realistic deadline so that you can effectively start prioritizing your to-do list.
Before we go on to the next tip for managing time effectively- here’s a quick little tip for setting project deadlines. Make sure when you’re setting a deadline that you allow for a grace period in case anything every happens. Even though I have a 60 or 30 day deadline for pictures. I almost always deliver before the deadline is up. However, when unexpected things come up, like when we had our miscarriage, or you get sick, or someone in your family falls ill, you’re going to be happy you set a deadline that allowed for some grace time. So even if you feel like you can finish something in a week, it might be best to tell your clients or customers, that it will be done in TWO weeks. Not only does that give you a grace period, but it helps you practice the whole “undersell and overdeliver” philosophy. When they receive their product earlier than anticipated, they’re going to be thinking Wow that was fast! This is awesome! I would totally recommend them and use them again!” Versus if you cut yourself short and miss a deadline because life happens, they’re not going to be as happy waiting longer than expected.
Just something to consider when setting deadlines!
Tip #3.) Prioritize your List
Now that you have brain dumped your list, and you know how long it takes to complete an order or service through to completion, it’s time to prioritize your list. Obviously, time sensitive stuff comes first. If you’re having a slower period of business, then you can prioritize based on what you want to get done versus what you HAVE to get done. BUT if things are booming, it’s time to take a look at what needs to get done first. This may seem like a no brainer but things that are due first get worked on first, and projects with due dates get done before projects that you’re doing for “fun” or for business asthetic. The most powerful tool for your business is a happy customer, so if you have orders make sure you’re working on them everyday and the fun stuff like website design or business rebranding comes after.
So sit down and look at your projects. The ones you have active right now, you most likely haven’t communicated a deadline for, but think about who put the order in first and prioritize accordingly. In business, the goal is to keep customers waiting as little as possible so that’s what you should keep front of mind when starting to get everything in order. Do you see how having a deadline for your products and services helps in this department? It just makes it so much easier to know what needs to be done first.
For example, someone might have order or booked with you first, but depending on what service or product they purchased, maybe you have longer to work on it than someone else who purchased and product or service that doesn’t take as long. For me, I may have a wedding and then 3 engagement session within a week. Even though I had the wedding first, the three engagement session will be due first, so I try to bang those out as soon as possible and slowly chip away at the wedding in-between!
Tip #4.) Set Office Hours
Once we can visualize our list, give our service deadlines, and then prioritize accordingly- It’s time to get real. If you want to make this business thing work, you need to have some sort of structure. You also need to know how much time you have so you can know when to work on what. Now, we already know what we should be working on first because we’ve prioritized our to-do list, but now, we need to figure out how much time you can legitimately devote to your business daily- or weekly if you know you aren’t going to be working everyday. Again, the key here is to be realistic so we know what we’re actually working with.
Now for me, I’m a boss babe, but also a full time stay at home momma. So my business runs around nap times and bedtime. At this point in my life, I know I have 4 hours a day I can devote to my business. I leave the first nap free for me to clean, shower, nap myself if I need to, and do “me things,” like binge watch the office! But second nap and after bedtime is when I work.
So what does that look like for you? Are you juggling multiple kids and maybe you can only devote an hour or two after bedtime? Do you work a traditional 9 to 5 still and know that you don’t want to be working all day everyday so you’ll commit to 2 hours three times a week, like 6-8p M, W, F? What is realistic for you so that you don’t get burned out, and so that you can still have a life? That’s what you need to figure out. Once we know how much time we’re working with, that’s when we can start getting productive.
Tip #5.) Schedule it out
Now we know our prioritized to do list, we know our deadlines, and we know how many hours we have to work with. So all that’s left to do is to schedule it out! Let’s go back to my previous example of have a wedding followed by three engagement session in one week. Let’s also be real and throw in how I have a podcast episode, blog post, e-mail, and social media to get out weekly. Knowing I only have 4 hours a day to work, I might divvy it up something like this: 2 hours editing (what I edit would be based on what will be due first), 1 hour podcast episode (scripting/interviews/editing/and corresponding blog posts), 30 minutes social media planning (this could rotate based on the day of the week, like maybe Monday I plan out instagram, Tuesday I plan out Pinterest, etc) and then, 30 minutes working on weekly emails.
So I look at how much time I have to work based on the office hours I set for myself, I look at my list and see what I have to do and what needs to be done by when, and I schedule around that. It’s actually really easy! You just have to take the time to set project deadlines (which REALLY helps with time management) and you have to have some set structure as to when you work! When you do those two things, everything becomes so much clearer!
Now, I kinda told you how I might break up my four hour slot but there are a few other things that can help to make sure you stay on track, and that you keep managing your time to the best of your ability.
First, USE A TIMER! No shame here. If you’re someone who gets so absorbed into one project- set a timer so you know when you’re allotted time is up and it’s time to switch gears! Multitasking can be hard so if you need to juggle multiple projects, schedule them out and set a timer!
Second, leave your phone somewhere NOT where you are. It can be so easy to start answering texts, getting side tracked, wanting to check social media, or your e-mail. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. The best thing you can do is to leave your phone somewhere else- in another room, on silent, so it can’t distract you. Plus, if you only have a few hours a day to work on your business, you want them to be as productive as possible.
Lastly, don’t OVER do it. This applies in two ways. First, do over schedule your time. I like to only schedule 3-4 things a day and that way if I’m really on a roll with something a go over my time a little, I still have time to finish my other tasks. By not over scheduling my time, I’m giving myself a cushion! That way if you’re feeling super productive, roll with it!
The second point, is to not multi-task too much. Focus the majority of your time on your most important task, and then add maybe 2-3 other small things you can work on for a short period of time! Again, multi-tasking is hard and sometimes juggling too many projects at once can result in us dropping or forgetting small details which we don’t want. So again, check your list and focus on what is the most important priority and organize your time accordingly.
Tip # 6.) BATCH IT UP!
Batching is a beautiful thing. Now you might be wondering what I mean when I say batching so let me break it down for you: if you schedule out a chunk of time for blogging, or social media, don’t just focus on what you’re going to post that day. If you can, block a larger chunk of time and batch a whole weeks worth of social media posts/captions. Or draft as many blog posts as you can. Or plan out an e-mail series. They say By concentrating on one task for a longer period of time instead of swapping from this to that and back to this, you are scientifically more productive and focused, which is why I said to make sure you don’t OVER schedule yourself. Work on a max of ¾ things a day and focus on one task at a time! During your time slot bang out as much work as you can. Batching is wonderful and can save you so much time and brainpower.
Tip #7.) REDUCE, REUSE, REPURPOSE!
Reduce your stress, reuse what you’ve got, and repurpose your content! I cannot stress this enough! If you’re someone who is crunched for time and wondering how you’re going to “do it all” start repurposing your content. Did you write a blog post recently? Instead of spending minutes thinking of a caption, pull a few lines from your blog post! Did you write a killer caption last year? Reuse it. Did you have an awesome post on FB last week? Share it on instagram this week. Seriously. No one will notice and you will start saving yourself a TON of time. When you start thinking of everything you put out there as reusable content, everything feels 1000x easier. Did you write a killer caption that got a ton of engagement? Maybe write a blog post about the same topic and just go a little deeper! I mean you already know it’s a hit! If you want to start managing your time better, start looking at what you’ve already done and repurpose it. No need to reinvent the wheel everyday, for every platform.
Time management is a tricky sticky subject because it’s definitely different for everyone. You need to find what works best for you and the best way to do that is to be real about how much time you have to devote to your business, and to make sure you’re clear on your deadline. All the rest if I’m being honest, is going to be you figuring out what works for you!
To wrap it up let’s go over three action items we can do today to move the needle forward:
- Action step #1: Brain dump your mental to-do list. Let it allll out. From actual paid projects/services to things that you want to do for your business like marketing, blogging, website work, etc. Write down what it is you want to get done so you can start managing your time appropriately.
- Action step #2: Give your products and services a deadline. How long until you deliver a final product? Start sharing your deadlines with your customers so they know what to expect and you’re held accountable.
- Action step #3: Figure out your office hours. Sit down and figure out how much time you have to truly commit to your business on a regular basis.
Want to check out other biz tips? You can do so right here!