Two Little Time Management Tips

Being self employed very quickly becomes extremely sucky if the whole question of time management is not brought under control. For me,the quest to manage my time well is ongoing and I expect I will never arrive at an ideal place. Lots of people are on hand with plenty of advice but I think time management strategies need to be as unique as every individual so: I take what I can from others and learn by trying and adapting things.

Here’s a couple of things that work for me:

Do One Thing at a Time

Staying on one task in a discrete time period is more likely to get it finished. I have tried multitasking as a strategy and I have drifted into multitasking as an effect of not having a clear idea about what I want to do – neither were very productive. As a great philosopher once said, “if you do this, you can’t do that.” When I am writing, that’s what I need to be doing, not writing and … answering emails, baking bread and tweeting. To achieve this it really helps to have an egg timer. While that timer is ticking, I’m doing this one thing, be it for 20 minutes or 45 minutes. Only when the buzzer goes, to tell me the time is up, can I change my activity.

Egg Timer
Timed discrete tasks

Hint (for writers): Separate “writing” from “research”. Do all your research and take notes, then do the writing, then go back and plug in more research if needed but if the lines between writing and research get blurry so does everything else in your life – you have been warned!

Get a timer and experiment with different ways to use it. You can check out the “Pomodoro Technique” for one approach, but I am indebted to Mark Forster’s book “Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play” for introducing me to a great system based on timers that I have adapted for myself.

Plan the Following Day Before you Sleep

When I wake up there is a pretty direct correlation between how soon I start productive work and how focussed and useful the rest of the day is. I started out by having a board meeting with myself every morning to plan the goals for the day but this could get into a lot of cups of coffee and daydreaming that might go on until lunch time.

It is better to wake up and have your marching orders straight away to get going with. Make a list each evening of the priorities for the following day. This works better for me because:

  • Usually I have a better idea come the end of the day of what needs to be the priority tomorrow which will include stuff I didn’t finish today or other stuff that came up during the day’s work.
  • Thinking about what to do tomorrow will be less likely to keep me awake because it is already written down.
  • Actually being vaguely aware of what is planned for tomorrow is great because my mind quietly turns it over and works on it while I am asleep so I am more mentally prepared for it on waking and my brain is ahead of me already.
  • I can start work pretty much as soon as I’m up so there’s less chance of driving the day into a wall of time wasting and writing it off in the first hour or so.

I think these two simple things have gone a long way to helping me. Anyone else have any suggestions?