Amazing Time Management Hacks That Will Change Your Life
I’d like to tell you that I’ve got my shit together when it comes to time management but by design… I’m basically a hot mess. Like time and I never sussed each other out, like we danced around each other and acknowledged we needed to exist but we had our own shit to do so we kind of went and did our own thing and never really bothered to connect.
I get it.
For the purposes of a useful post, I’m going to put my esoteric views on time as a human construct aside for another blog post: for now, for here, let’s just accept that in order to fit in with human society we do need to flow with the construct of time to some extent. Easy for some. Challenging for most. For the empaths, the creatives, the dreamers, the ones who tend to drift in our own world? Time management is something we’ve never quite seemed to figure out.
It’s a challenge I thought I had escaped when I started working from home and wasn’t working for The Man anymore. I was giddy with freedom to create my own schedule, to live in my own world. I did it, you guys. I Beat Time.
WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.
The first year of working for myself was a disaster.
Turns out, my Grade 6 teacher was totally right. I am an absent minded professor. Left to my own devices, without a boss on my back holding me accountable to lunch breaks, start and finish times and task deadlines, I am time’s bitch.
This wasn’t going to work.
Or so I thought.
I was NOT going back to working for The Man again. This entrepreneur’s here to stay. Which meant one thing: I had to suck it up, sort it out and get square with time management. I read all the books. Googled. Tried. Tripped over spectacularly. Cried. Gave up. Got up. Tried again, a different way. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Time and I, we still haven’t fully worked each other out but we’re tentatively eking out some sort of grudging common ground. I’m getting a groove. I’m flowing better. Life is easier. I could actually be #adulting and mastering #timemanagement. Here’s what I’ve learned:
I discovered the sacredness of good, deep, balanced sleep.
Without enough, I’m an angry bear at best and a zombie at worst. My thoughts are scattered. I make time sucking mistakes. My eyes burn. I move slower… if I move at all. I burst into tears if I drop a teaspoon on the floor. It takes me six goes to spell “teaspoon” correctly. On the flipside, oversleep does the same thing to my brain. Six hours of sleep seems to be my personal optimum level: a single hour more or less and the next day is a cluster fuck.
Going to bed at the right time and getting some good, high quality sleep = less likely to sleep through your alarm = not running around late all day playing catch up = better time management. Get to it, my friends.
I began finding “me time” in my work day again.
My old boss used to be a fan of breaks i.e. 52 minutes of solid work equalled 7 minutes of screen and sitting hiatus: nip to the loo, pop the kettle on and sip a hot and goosebumpy cup of green tea, curl up under the desk and rest those peepers for 5 minutes, do some desk yoga, or go outside for a brisk 5 minute walk.
I know, I know. It seems counterproductive and counterintuitive: 40 minutes sapped from your workday everyday. TRY it. It is genius and game changing. When I reintroduced this into my workday, I was smashing those 52 minute work chunks knowing I could get up and reinvigorate and stare at the vast green mountains surrounding my homestead instead of a computer screen. No more gazing at the clock with a sinking feeling knowing I was still 3 hours away from my lunchbreak at 1 pm. Chunking it down made everything more manageable and exciting.
I began finding “me time” in general again.
I’m especially looking at you, entrepreneurs. I’m looking at me, too. We tend to wed ourselves to our screens, our focus squashed beneath the pressure of our looming to do list. But without indulging in some “me” time, without making human connection that doesn’t involve cyberspace? We’re less productive in work time, we’re scattered and lost, we’re weakening our connections with friendships and spouses and life moments that ground us, uplift us, bring us joy. As an aside, joyful people are more focused, productive and motivated.
I got up earlier
Because I’m never thinking clearly when I wake up 5 minutes before I need to leave the house. What’s usually going on instead is running around, stubbing my toe, spilling my coffee, the ruthless disembowelment of my wardrobe trying to find an outfit, cussing so bad it would turn my nanna’s stomach: and that’s when I forget shit, make mistakes and kick off the day’s game of catch up. When I bite the bullet, get up with my alarm and put my feet on the floor before I can talk myself out of it: I’m calm. Focused. Everything is quieter. I am up before the devil knows about it. The air smells more beautiful. I am waking up with the world. There’s a breathtaking sacredness to it. I make better choices. I FEEL productive. What you focus on expands, right?
I started exercising daily
No excuses. Not for the supermodel body. Not to be able to run 20 km or lift my body weight. But because it makes me feel like a fucking goddess. Yes, it takes up an extra hour in my day which doesn’t seem to make any sense in a post about time management. But you have to spend it to make it, right? And it is the best spent hour in my day. This is science, y’all. It keeps you mentally sharp (better decisions), boosts energy (motivation fuel), stimulates the immune system (less sick days), increases blood flow to the brain (greater alertness), reduces anxiety and depression and increases stamina. Move lovingly and joyfully. Find what works for you. Forget the calories, the aesthetics or the trends. Do what you love because it feels good.
I de-cluttered and organised my desk space
Because the inner world reflects the outer world just as much as the outer world reflects the inner world. It’s a tautology: the sky is blue because it reflects the ocean and the ocean is blue because it reflects the sky. If your desk is chaotic your mind probably is too. A disorganised, messy, cluttered desk = a disorganised, messy, cluttered mind, unable to focus or make good snap decisions. (Plus, you can’t find that client contract when it’s hidden beneath a mound of filing and the plate your morning avocado toast was on.) Do a quick purge of the stuff that doesn’t need to be there daily: right before you leave the office. Make it a goodnight ritual. If it’s not used once a day, it has no business being on your desk.
I ditched perfectionism and it felt so good
This Virgo got stuck in “perfectionism paralysis” daily. I didn’t get The Thing done because it wasn’t “perfect” yet. You know what I accomplished doing this? Exactly NOTHING.
So, I ditched perfectionism. I didn’t ditch pride in the quality of my work. I didn’t begin half assing. This conversation isn’t about that. This is about the life altering realisation that there comes a time where for the sake of productivity you do the utmost, very best you can with the time you have and you move on.
I work hard. I do my absolute, very best that I can do in that moment. I’m present, I’m focused, I’m mindful, I’m attentive, I’m dedicated. If I finish a job with space left over in that deadline, I’ll go back in and proof read and tidy and fuss and fluff. Then, as soon as that deadline clicks over, I submit and I move on. In just a few short days of doing this I doubled my productivity and boosted my hourly rate.
I set three tasks every day that are an absolute priority
These badboys get done first, before anything else. Out of those three, I pick one that is an absolute non-negotiable and I get it out of the way FIRST = I feel instantly more productive, accomplished and focused… and to beat that old drum again, what you focus on expands.
I write my to-do list on Post-It Notes
I stick them to the top of my computer so that I always know my top priority in every moment. Through the day, I look at my row of Post-Its whenever Facebook or Google whisper in my ear, begging me to pay attention to them. Whenever my priorities change, I rearrange the Post-Its. Finally, as I finish each task, I throw the relevant Post-It away. If I get inspired to Google something, before that beautiful spider lures me into her web I write my question on a Post-It so I won’t forget and add it to the list. Beautiful. Simple. Genius. Best time management hack I ever received.
I plan ahead
On Sunday night, I sit down with my journal and a mug of green tea and I do a weekly planning session. First, I review what got done and I pat myself on the back. I carry across missed to-dos, prepare for events and pencil in new one. Then I do a weekly projection of how I want my week to go down. This is subconscious rocket fuel, programming it to look for ways to make it happen.
I say “no” a lot
I spend a tremendous amount of time in my work day verbally or figuratively saying “no” to things. Ringing mobile phones. People wanting to pop in for a “quick coffee” during work hours because “I’m only at home anyway”. Email and Messenger pop ups flicking up on my desktop, begging for my instantaneous acknowledgement and attention. Running errands. Helping out when I know it’s going to stress me out, involve multitasking or leave no white space in my schedule. (I’m a dreadful juggler.) I say “no” to things that will suck my time for little payoff.
Now, I get it. It’s hard. Society hates the word “no” and I hate saying no, so I practice in my mirror. I enunciate and even vary my tone. “No, no, no, no.” (I learned this after watching my 3-year-old niece do this very thing with “no” in the mirror. She’s a genius.) I don’t say “no” to everything, but I do say “no” a lot – so I have more space in my life for the things I genuinely can do and want to do and I can show up and be present for myself and others more fully. Being able to master the art of learning when to say no is the cornerstone of good time management.
I put a dollar value on my time and I guard it jealously
If I only have an hour to get a job done because I’ll only make my hourly rate doing that job, I’ll only take an hour. However, if I can’t possibly get it done to a quality standard in that time, it’s no longer commercially viable and I don’t take it on. Numbingly basic, right? Well, it took me a year and a half in business to figure that out. I’d take on any job and earn my hourly rate on something that would take me half a day to do. That way of doing business was causing me to haemohrage money daily and give away free time – the one resource I can’t earn back later. If Richard Branson wouldn’t waste his time on it, I won’t either, cos baby, you can go broke sitting on the beach all day.
I check my emails twice a day
That’s IT. Inboxes and instant messengers are sneaky time suckers. Put a lid on them stat. I allocate half an hour midmorning and half an hour at the end of my work day to check and deal with my email and instant messages. Although I still pop my head in and address my inbox regularly, I don’t live there anymore.
I found my own flow
Ninety-five percent of all the time management things I tried backfired in my face spectacularly. I’m a creative. I don’t like boxes, I rebel against fences and I thrash about in cages. Read everything. Google everything. Try everything on. If it works, keep it. If it doesn’t, toss it aside and try something else. When you live in your own little world, chances are you need to bring your own brand to time management. You’ll get there.
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