How to Get More Done in Less Time
Or How to Get S**t Done
Being your own boss is great. Except it usually means also being your own assistant too. Or even if you have support, you probably don’t yet have enough of it to outsource all of your needs. But even if you did, it’s still your job to manage ALL THE THINGS. But how?
TIME IS NOT ELASTIC
So what’s the key to getting more done in less time?
Well, is it really less time? We all have the same time don’t we? Time is not elastic, but what you put into that time is what matters.
There are seven days in a week, 24 hours in day and apparently there is a need for sleep, family and down time. Who knew? But seriously, you have to factor and plan it all in otherwise work will leak into every element of your life and that is a recipe for burnout or worse.
My experience of working with small business owners is that they either overestimate what they can get done in any given week or underestimate the energy required for any specific task, which means they are left with lots unfinished jobs and feel quite deflated and unfocused. That’s pretty demoralising and can have a negative effect going forward and become very counterproductive. Being realistic and flexible is key. But so is being focused and determined.
FOUR-STEP TIME MANAGEMENT STRATEGY
Here’s my four-step time-management strategy, and it may surprise you to know that it’s ALL analogue. In the fast-paced world of digital sales and marketing, the pen and paper rules!
Step One: Post-in Note Tasks
If you have ever had a Marketing Power Hour with me, or spoken with someone who has, then you will know that post-it notes are the essential tool that we use.
Getting stuff out of your head and onto a post-it is both cathartic (ever have that ‘too many thoughts whizzing around’ syndrome?) and practical – seeing stuff written down is the first step of getting it done.
So what I recommend is putting ONE single task onto ONE single post-it note. You might just have a brain dump and out write dozens of tasks and that’s ok – this is something you will add to daily. Don’t be overwhelmed – we are going to make it into a strategic plan next.
Next group your post-it notes into themes or projects. So it may be that you have written down a list of tasks that relate to a new product launch. Find a space on a wall or cupboard door that is titled “XX product launch” then put all of your post it notes relating to this on that space. I use large rolls of brown paper and hang them around my office wall. And if you have more than one project on the go then that gets its own space and corresponding batch of post-it notes.
You may perhaps find it easier to start with theme first then list every task you can think of onto post-it notes. It doesn’t matter. The beauty of the post-it note system is that it can be moved around, removed, new ones added later etc. It’s very flexible.
Step Two: Create a Weekly Schedule
This is when you need to be strategic and realistic. You need to start planning out these tasks into your weekly work schedule and that includes blocking off time that is required for family or personal activities.
You also need to think about how you work and if you are the sort of person that finds (for example) scheduling all your social media posts or blog writing in one go quite helpful. In which case by looking at each of your different projects can you see if there are similar tasks within each one that you could batch and do together? Or do you prefer to focus on several tasks within a single project in one day so that your brain is thinking about only that project? That’s up to you and depends on how your brain works best. I like to to batch my time into ‘client days’ and do several tasks relating to each client in one day because I need to have my mind quite focused on their business and audience.
So, you decide what might work best for you then decided grab your post-it note tasks and stick them on to a weekly schedule or calendar. Simples.
Important to note that over scheduling isn’t helpful here – it’s counterproductive and sets you up to fail. The point is to be strategic and give each task a sense of importance and space to breath.
You may find my batch planner helpful here. It’s designed to help you plan tasks that relate to each other without over scheduling. You will see that there are not too many ‘slots’ for tasks in each day. But if you do find you have time left over, you can bring something forward. Flexibility is the key and that is why post-it notes are so great! They stick and unstick!
Note: I use mini post-it notes for this A4 batch calendar, but you could draw out a bigger template for your wall and use full size ones. Yes, you have permission to spend half a day geeking out on getting your stationary and calendar in order for the benefit of all your future planning needs!
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Step Three: Focus
This one is so simple. Take your calendar and attack the first task and NOTHING MORE. A deep concentrated focus for (recommended) 20 minutes at a time before you get up and take a short break and dive back in.
And if something isn’t jiving with the task in hand, move it around. I’ve written a whole blog post on picking low hanging fruit when you just aren’t feeling capable of pushing through the big stuff. It’s ok to be flexible with your plan. Getting anything done on your schedule is a step forward and will give you momentum so don’t agonize over doing everything in the right order if it isn’t working on that day. It is YOUR system it has to work for you. But you have to be systematic with it to be successful.
Step Four: Revise and Restart
The last step is to do a quick analysis of how it’s going. Revising your schedule mid-week is not a bad idea to ensure you are on track.
If there are tasks that take longer than the allocated slot on your calendar then split them on to two post-it notes and call it Part 1 and Part 2. Like most things you will need a little time to get into a system of your own and understand how you work best.
I also recommend doing this in advance of the start of your week. So for me, this is a Sunday so I start Monday with a good plan of the week and the ability to revise it mid-week as required.
That’s it. A seriously simple but focused strategy for getting s**t done which really works if you work it.