Not a day goes by without there being another article on LinkedIn or one of the major business publications about time management activities. Many of these articles target an audience of managers who needs to figure out how to help their employees become better at personal time management.
However, what many of these articles miss is the importance of personal time management as the basis of all other time management pursuits. After all, if you can’t utilize time management activities, you’re never going to be able to help others manage theirs (even if you’re managing a small team of freelancers as you grow your business, instead of working in a more conventional office setting).
8 Time Management Activities to Start Today
That’s why we created the following list of time management activities. Each tip will help you get more out of the time you already have, helping you fit in all the things you want to accomplish.
1. Understand That You Can Learn Effective Time Management
Whatever your current or previous job, entrepreneurship is going to require you to learn a lot of new skills. This process can sometimes be frustrating, and it can be easy to believe that you’ll never learn certain skills because you’re not innately talented in all areas.
This is particularly true with time management activities. We live in a culture that perpetuates the idea that some people have good organization skills, and others don’t.
The truth, however, is different. You can learn to manage time effectively, no matter how naturally organized you are. You just need to develop a new conceptual mindset of both time management and the learning process itself, as well as the flexibility to change your normal ways of doing things. But it is possible, don’t worry!
2. Delegate, Automate or Eliminate Time Wasters
Once you have the right mindset, you can start dealing with time wasters from your schedule. These are activities that are not the best use of your time and skills. As an entrepreneur, you have three options with to deal with them:
- Delegate — If you have a team, you may be able to delegate certain activities in order to get them off your plate. For example, you can have your VA process your emails or schedule your meetings, leaving you free to do work that’s more suited to your unique skill set.
- Automate — There are many technologies out there that allow you to automate time wasting activities. For example, you can use email filters to help show you only the most important messages when you open your inbox.
- Eliminate — You only have 24 hours a day, and you must decide how you spend it wisely. Consequently, you will eventually have to choose certain activities to eliminate altogether. For example, do you really need to redesign your website (for the eighth time…this week)? Or are you just using that as a way to procrastinate on a more important activity, such as talking to prospective customers about your offer?
3. Start with the Big Picture
It’s easy to get so deep into the details of running your business that you lose sight of the larger “Why?” behind the work you’re doing. Stepping back and clarifying the big picture from time to time can help you regain focus and avoid wasting time on tasks that aren’t contributing to your larger goals.
We find that this an especially helpful tactic when you’re frustrated with a task you’re working on. Have you been hammering away at the draft of new website copy for hours without making progress? Step back and ask yourself, “How does this contribute to my larger business goals?” If you can’t provide a clear answer, then you should consider if the task is worth working on at all.
4. Find Your Most Productive Time of Day
We all have different times of day when we’re most productive. One of the advantages of working for yourself is that you can align when you work with the times of day when you have the highest levels of energy. This will, of course, vary from person to person. Some of us are more productive in the mornings, while others don’t get creative until late at night.
You’ll know from experience what works best for you, but the key step is to take those times and use them for your most important work. Don’t feel like you have to adhere to a 9 to 5 schedule just because “that’s how businesses work.” Do what works best for you, and don’t worry if that doesn’t align with convention.
5. Start with the Highest Value Activities
One of the greatest killers of productivity is to spend a lot of time on low value, administrative activities before you’ve done your most important work. It’s tempting to think that work such as checking email or reorganizing your task list is a good opener to help you warm up before the rest of your work. But if you’re not careful, what was supposed to be a few minutes of work can turn into hours, until before you know it the whole day has slipped away.
A more efficient way to manage your time is to start with the most difficult, highest value activities. Once you’ve completed those, you can move on to the low energy tasks if you still have time. If not, then you at least know you’ve managed to ace the important work first.
6. Understand Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the amount of time allotted for its completion. You’ve probably experienced this for yourself, like on those days where you spend all day drafting a simple proposal that should take only an hour…just because you have the time to waste. In contrast, if you have 5 proposals to write, you’ll manage to fit them into the same amount of time because you have no other choice.
You can apply this idea in order to trick yourself into doing more work, or to power through a task you’ve been procrastinating on. For example, you can set a timer for 45 minutes and challenge yourself to do as much of a task as possible during that time slot. You’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish when you set artificial constraints.
7. Optimize Your Routine Activities
There are a lot of day-to-day activities we do that take up valuable time better spent elsewhere. For example, how many hours per week do you spend grocery shopping? What about cleaning your house or cutting your grass? All of these daily activities are things that you could outsource to others, freeing up time for work on your business.
We understand that it can be difficult to get into this mindset at first, but once you give it a try you’ll wonder how you ever spent so much time doing work that isn’t helping you progress towards your larger goals.
8. Keep a Productivity Journal
A journal is a great processing tool to help you track your productivity and overall well-being. You can use it to give yourself a regular “debrief talk,” making note of what you planned to accomplish during a given day, week, month or quarter. Then, you can compare these goals to what you actually accomplished and set a plan for how you’ll close the gap (if any) in the future.
If you’re looking for a journal that will walk you through this process, we recommend checking out the SELF Journal. It’s got everything you need to track your goals and achieve more each day through time management activities, all while building habits that will improve your life.
Better Time Management Is Possible
The learning outcome we hope you take away from this post is that you can manage your time effectively through using the right time management activities. All you have to do is focus on what’s most important, eliminate what isn’t, and use the right tool to track your progress and keep yourself accountable. We wish you the best of luck!