When you run your own business, productive time management habits are key to staying focused and growing your business. However, if you have developed poor time management habits it can be a real source of frustration. After the working day, you can be left wondering why you didn’t complete the tasks on your todo list or not knowing where your time went.
It is helpful to first perform a simple time audit so you can see where you spend your time. Then you can identify what your poor time management habits are and how you can fix them.
Complete a time audit
There are a number of free time tracking apps you can download or simply use a piece of paper broken up into half an hour slots.
1. Over a couple of days, record what you did every half an hour.
2. Colour code the activities.
3. Work out the total amount of working hours.
4. Work out the total amount of revenue-generating work.
5. Work out the total amount of non-revenue generating work.
If the time audit clearly shows you are spending too much time on non-revenue generating work such as administration if could be a sign that you’ve picked up some poor time management habits.
It helps with habit development if you set yourself a measurable and achievable goal. So for example, I want to free up 5 non-revenue hours per work which I can spend on revenue-generating work or to spend with my family.
So how can you turn poor time management habits into productive ones?
Once you have the information about how you spend your time and have set yourself a goal about how you want to better manage your time, it starts with a mindset shift.
VISION > SCHEDULE, PLANS & PROCESSES > HABITS
Not let’s look at some of those poor time management habits and how to shift them to productive time management habits.
Lack of focus
This can stem from failing to plan. When you have many things on the to-do list (which truthfully we all do), not knowing what the priority is or knowing what needs to be done now, can make it hard to focus. A good tip is to specify what are the most important tasks (the ones that move you closer to your goals) and choose just one or two of them to complete each day.
You might just struggle to turn your focus on every day, to actually get working. Especially if you are working from home on your own and don’t have the impetus to start just by seeing others working. You go to the office, that signifies work. One tool you could try is the Pomodoro method. Set a timer or download an app. You work for a set amount of time & take a break. Start on the beep. Take a break on the beep. And keep going.
In our current world, distractions are everywhere. Google browsing, social media, emails, phones alerting us of every update, multiple things on the go at the same time.
There are numerous online distractions and one of the simplest things to do is it turn off notifications. For example, turn off or mute notifications on your phone for social media updates and switch off the new email notification on your computer. You could also redirect all calls to answerphone or simply put your phone out of sight. Allocate a time to check social media, emails and reply to calls. But don’t let them distract you when you need to concentrate on other work.
I know I fall into this trap! It’s very tempting to try to make sure you get everything perfected but this can often stop you from finishing a task or getting it completed in the required amount of time. The thing to keep in mind is that nothing needs to be 100% perfect. It needs to serve whatever purpose you’re doing it for and remember you can always come back in the future to review or update it.
It is also helpful to remember the 80/20 rule. 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. You can pretty much apply it to every aspect of life. So think about posting on social media, which I know is a time-sapper for so many people. Don’t sweat it if you don’t create the picture-perfect image or are using all the emojis correctly. You just need to make sure it’s relevant to your audience and that the social media post is going to create some engagement with those people.
I don’t know when this became a thing. But whoever thought it up, was so wrong. Multitasking is not a productive way to work. Your brain cannot properly work on two things at the same time and it is so tiring for it to keep switching. So be kind to your brain and don’t do it!
A better way of working is to batch tasks. So looking at all your todos, can you set a day when you just create content, can you set aside a few hours to create social media graphics, can you just check & reply to emails 2 times a day for 20 minutes each time? This will help your brain work much better. It’s also important to give yourself a break before moving onto a completely different task.
Ha, another one I’m guilty of! Now, this annoying poor time management habit could have a whole blog series dedicated to it. There are so many reasons why we procrastinate. From not really knowing how to do something to just finding it boring. Knowing why you procrastinate is helpful to be able to address the problem properly. For now here are a couple of things you can try to overcome procrastination.
There is a well-known productivity method called “eat the frog”. It’s simple to do. Every day you commit to doing the most important & toughest task first thing before you do anything else. You eat that frog. If the task is really big, break down it into a number of smaller frogs and then commit to eating one every day. Another method to try is to gamify a task and challenge yourself. For example, set yourself a time to get it completed and try and beat the timer.
Overcommitting or not allowing enough time
It’s a known fact that we overestimate how long something takes us to complete. This can result in us taking on too much or adding too many items to the daily todo list. Resulting in potential overwhelm and annoyance that we didn’t achieve all we said we would.
By completing a time audit, hopefully, it’s given you a picture of how long something takes to complete. Be realistic about how much you can achieve in a day. Give yourself a time buffer. And don’t be afraid to say no if you can’t take on any more. Set your own time boundaries.
Lack of sleep & rest
This may not be something you’d immediately think about as being a productive time management habit, but not getting enough sleep or not giving your self enough time to rest seriously impacts your effectiveness.
The recommendation is to get 7-8 hours of sleep a day, but I know that everyone’s requirements are different. But don’t pretend you only need 5 hours, when you really need 7, because you’re only cheating yourself. Create a night-time ritual to make sure you feel rested before falling in between the bed covers. Also, make sure you schedule “me-time” into your calendar every week. You need to give your body & brain time to recharge. This time isn’t negotiable.
I hope this has been encouraging for you to create productive time management habits. Have you decided which ones you are going to try? You might also benefit from downloading my Productivity Tool Guide where I will share with you a number of systems and software tools to help you save time on various business tasks. Click here to download your copy.