It’s not true that we all have the same amount of time in a day as Beyoncé, but how we use the time that we DO have really matters
For most people, time management is a learnt skill that needs to be continually refined and trained. It’s almost like a muscle, and the more you work at it, the stronger it will get. When you’re working as part of a team for a company, time management is sort of handled for you in some ways – you’ll have designated meeting times and deadlines, and natural pauses in your day when colleagues start going for coffee or for lunch.
But how do you keep that focus when you’re self-employed? How do you manage your time when you simultaneously feel you have none of it, and loads of it? Here are 4 tips to make it all a little easier…
Identify your most energetic / peak times of the day
Everyone is at their most productive at a different time of the day. For some, it’s right after their morning coffee, whereas others struggle to pay attention until after lunch or are on FIRE with their productivity between 11pm and 3am. Figure out when your peak is, and concentrate on completing the bulk of your most labour-intensive work during that time. Outside of this time you can reply to emails and do the less labour intensive tasks on your to-do list, but save this productivity peak for gnarly, complex tasks like editing, pitching or strategising. Work smart, basically.
Do the worst thing first
Mark Twain called this ‘eating the frog’: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” the frog refers t the job/s on your list that seem awful, difficult, and that you’ll take up a new hobby in a different city in order to avoid doing. As tempting as it is to put off the frog, it’ll just linger in the back of your mind all day and hamper your concentration. Always do the thing you least want to do first – nine times out of ten it’s nowhere near as bad as you think, and even if it does mean you have to have an uncomfortable conversation, once it’s done, it’s done, and you don’t have it hanging over you anymore. Eat the damn frog.
Find your distraction triggers
Everyone has them. Is it mindlessly refreshing Twitter? Geting sucked into group chat nonsense? Maybe it’s a “productive” distraction like housework. Whatever it is, figure out where you’re tempted to stray from working, and make it harder to be distracted by this particular thing. If it’s social media, there are browser extensions that can stop you going on those sites at certain times of the day. If it’s texting, put your phone on Airplane Mode or Do Not Disturb, or maybe try a concentration playlist on Spotify. If all else fails, work in chunks of thirty minutes and tell yourself you can have 5 minutes of the distraction once each 30 minutes are done – and set timers or alarms to ensure you stick to your plan.
Overestimate where possible
Always overestimate how long things are going to take you, or you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed very quickly. Be generous when you’re allotting time for tasks – it’s far better to be ahead of schedule than behind, so always give yourself that wiggle room in your schedule for any unexpected blockers that may arise. That way, if one job does overrun, you’re unlikely to feel harried. This is especially true with meetings and travel time to and from appointments, which people often forget to schedule in.
When working, always allow breaks
Breaks are SO important, and if you don’t allow yourself any, you’re going to struggle to concentrate. Even if it’s a five minute screen breather, a walk around the block or a quick social media scroll, you need to take breaks and take them often. Don’t feel that you’re wasting time, as breaks are key to maintaining consistent productivity.