My relationship with time is touch and go. It’s a tricky relationship because having a positive relationship with time is massively important in every aspect of life, not just working life. Any person who knows me well will tell you that effective time management does not come naturally to me and the concept of time often alludes me. I can’t deny it! It is something I have to put a lot of effort into. Managing time is invaluable for being an efficient, concise, and productive worker but it is also crucial for our personal lives. It is just as important to reserve time for the things and people in life that fill you up and bring you joy.
So, how do you get time on your side? For me, it’s creating a consistent plan, schedule, and method to the madness to handle what needs to get done and what I want to do. Below, I’m sharing a bit on my time management system and tips + tricks that I use to master goal setting and scheduling.
How To Schedule Your Time Wisely
Set a Routine
Setting a routine is a key component to scheduling time wisely for many people. There are definitely people that operate best on a day-to-day basis and thrive under deadlines and in chaos but I am not one of those people. No matter what stage of my life I’ve been in – being a student, working in an office, working as a teacher, or working from home – having some sort of routine has been a key factor in how much I get done and out of a day.
Right now, during COVID-19, many of you are probably struggling with your schedules being turned upside down. I highly suggest playing around and finding a routine that works for you. Try experimenting with your day for a week and create a schedule around what felt and worked best. When is the best time of day for you to exercise? Should you create buckets of time for email and your phone? Can you set aside buckets of time for personal or DIY projects? When do you need to be most focused and available for work? If you have kids, setting a routine for them around their at-home school schedule will be crucial for the mental and emotional well-being of everyone in your house. Paying attention to what works for you and your house will help you create a realistic and beneficial routine.
A few things that keep me more consistent with my routine are going to bed at a reasonable hour, getting enough sleep, creating a happy morning ritual to start the day off right, creating to-do lists for each day, and making personal vs. work priorities realistic. Set a routine and stick to it but also be comfortable with giving yourself grace because the world is full of curveballs (hello Coronavirus!).
Prioritize Your Time
Without a doubt, your priorities will change from day to day so it’s important to prioritize the time you have each day. Below, I talk about doing the most important task first. This is a big one for me when it comes to prioritizing my time! I also like the concept to bucketing time. It can be really helpful to create buckets of time for busy work like email, creative work like writing, and numbers work like tracking growth and analytics. These tasks require different energy levels, focus, and skills so I like to create buckets of time to do each in order to balance my priorities and maximize my time.
This is really the same concept as batching tasks (aka running all your errands one day of the week instead of randomly throughout the week) and the same as creating time chunks on your calendar! This might sound extreme or unrealistic but you can even set timers for “buckets” or “time chunks.” At first sticking to your timers will be jarring but I bet you will find it liberating after a bit.
P.S. I talk a bit more about prioritizing different “buckets” in my post on how to find balance when you’re busy.
Do the Most Important Task First
I fall victim to not completing the most important task first all the time. I definitely have the most motivation and mental clarity in the first part of the day. However, I can sometime neglect to use this energy to tackle the most important and urgent task, project, or to-do. Instead, I will plow through busy work, which makes me feel good and productive in the morning but then leaves me feeling drained in the afternoon when I have to start the big daunting task. Scheduling time wisely means using your energy in the most most efficient way possible and doing the most important tasks first.
Use Sunday to Plan for the Week Ahead
I love, love, love using time on Sunday to plan for the week ahead! Nothing makes me feel more prepared for Monday and the days that follow. This helps combat the Sunday scaries and decreases stress. I plan what nights I have commitments, when I’m exercising, big tasks for the week, etc. Doing this is life changing for me and honestly one of the most positive keystone habits I practice!
Determine Time Wasters
What are your time wasters? Constantly checking your email? Instagram or another form of social media? Texting? Phone calls? Multi-taking (yes this can be a big time waster)? Perusing Amazon? Showering for too long? I bet there are ways you can cut out wasted time to give yourself some time back in your day.
Hide your Phone
Yes, hide your phone or put it on airplane mode. Phones are a huge distraction and time waster. When I am working on a project or doing something like writing a blog post, I put my phone aside. In all honestly, after about a minute of turning my phone on airplane mode I forget about it anyways so it really doesn’t matter. There is just the benefit of not being distracted by it.
Don’t Overbook your Calendar or Schedule
It can be really tempting to overbook your calendar or schedule because it’s so easy to think we can get it all done. In reality, it’s not possible. When I write too many things on a to-do list for one day instead of planning them out over the course of my week, I feel defeated when I end the day with a large list left. When I jam pack my social schedule, I don’t feel filled up by the joy I should be experiencing. Rather, I feel stressed about being crunched for time or stressed that I’m not getting other priorities done. It is so much healthier to be realistic about only having 24 hours in a day. Use the whole week and, in some cases, the whole month to your advantage when creating schedules and filling in your calendar. This promotes good time management!
There is no reason to feel badly about delegating and asking for help! I know it can be hard to let go for fear that things won’t be done your way. Money can also be a factor in delegating. Sometimes the silly or random tasks or the ones that you think you should be doing that cost money to delegate can be worth the mental freedom, relief, and sanity to delegate or spend money on. Delegating will give you time back to prioritize other things and help you manage your time wisely! Moral of the story, if someone asks you if they can pick up your kids, let them. Guaranteed you will return the favor one day.
Time Management Apps And Tools
I recently did an overhaul on my Dropbox and majorly reorganized it. It felt amazing! I’m now using Dropbox so much more efficiently as my main place for filing and archieving documents and photos. Edwin loves external hard drives but my brain works much better with Dropbox when everything is stored online. Dropbox is great for accessing and sharing large and important files easily from your computer and on the go on your phone.
I can’t imagine life without Google Docs. Haha that is a strong statement but I really love my Google Docs. I love being able to access them on my computer and on the fly on my phone. I use Google Docs for all sorts of things. On a daily basis, I use Google Docs for my blog for my editorial calendar and content creation/blog post ideas.
I use Google Calendar to manage everything. From Google Calendar, I write down daily to-do lists in my notebook. However, everything goes and lives in Google Calendar first and foremost. I don’t have a hard copy calendar because I love Google calendar so much.
Trello allows users to keep track of projects in a very visual way online. Essentially, with Trello, you create “cards” for each project, task, or client. You then move the cards across the Trello board into different columns that represent different levels of completion (examples: “outreach,” “in progress,” “follow up,” “completed”). I use Trello to track sponsored projects I do when I work with brands. It is immensely helpful!
I have a notebook that I use to create written to-do lists every day. However, I still use the app Wunderlist on my phone as my preferred tool for digital to-do lists. I create things like grocery lists on Wunderlist. I also often think of to-dos while out so I have a list on Wunderlist for those that I later transfer to my Google calendar or to my written to-do lists. It’s really the best resource for creating digital to-do lists and so user friendly!
I use Planoly to plan my Instagram feed, captions, and hashtags. It is an invaluable app for anyone who uses Instagram for business. It can also be used to schedule the posting of Instagram content and used for Instagram Stories.
VSCO is my preferred photo editing app on my phone. I love the filters it provides and all the ways I can tweak my iPhone photos quickly and on the go.
1Password allows you to store all your passwords in one encrypted database that is protected by one password. It saves time when I forget my passwords and need to access them quickly and on the spot without neglecting security.
For anyone who really needs to focus on time management and on how you’re spending your time, then Toggl might prove useful for you. It allows you to track the amount of time you spend on different projects. Toggl will help you determine how much time you actually spend on tasks and projects. It also analyzes how you can use your time more efficiently. Thus, it helps with creating realistic schedules and smart goals.
A Few More Time Management Apps/Tools
I don’t specifically use any of these so I can’t speak to them from personal experience but I have heard great things about them so I wanted to share them!
MyLifeOrganized is a management system that creates to-do lists with tasks that should take priority and require immediate attention to reach your goals and objectives. It allows you to work in a streamlined way.
Remember The Milk keeps you on track of all of your tasks by synching with your phone, computer, email, etc. so you never drop a ball.
Evernote allows you to keep every note of every type in one place. You can use it for voice recordings, meeting recordings, interviews, text notes, images, etc.
Slack is a messaging system that is made for teams. It allows teams to communicate in one singular place as well as share files and other tasks.
Todoist allows you to schedule in an organized way. You can flag items on your list, provide due dates for items, and add notes to each item.
RescueTime sends you weekly reports on how you are using your time.
I hope you enjoyed and found use in these time management tips! Time spent wisely is key to achieving your goals, managing stress, and getting the most out of your day. Worker smarter, not harder!
Photograph by Edwin Eversole in my sister’s old apartment in Atlanta (not our house).