“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
The Internet is littered with definitions of time-management, however, none defined more astutely than Abe Lincoln. It seems he had profoundly grasped the essence of planning and time-management, both very important factors when executing one’s goals and ambition.
Every night, before I catch a couple zzz’s, I plan the next day. Maybe not to the extent as the 16th President of the United States, but nonetheless, I consider myself the President of my own life and career. Being in business for yourself requires a distinct vision of where you are headed, and with what map you are using to get there. But here’s the “catch”, time-management is as much about planning your professional life, as it is about planning your personal life.
For example; my list often includes life’s mundane tasks such as; “do the groceries”, “pay the Hydro bill”, or “call mom”… as well as tasks such as; “brainstorm logo ideas” or “increase website traffic”, “consult with new client”. Without a list, I lack a clear definition of my day, and risk the chance of losing valuable time for myself, and with my loved ones. Neglecting your inner circle while building your business tends to be the biggest mistake we make, and although it can translate into success, what is success if it cannot be shared with those you love?
Here are 5 key principles I personally use to improve my time-management skills and increase productivity.
1 | Plan the next day
Try this: Before going to bed, plan 3 things you want to accomplish the following day, as well as 3 major goals you want to accomplish that week. As President Obama puts it “Get a head start on tomorrow, tonight” (I promise my last US Presidential reference). The major benefit of having a plan of action completed the night before, is to go to bed with a sense of certainty and control about the next day. Oh, and don’t just think about your tasks…WRITE THEM DOWN! Pen and paper works wonders.
2 | Prioritize your list
Go through the list and label tasks based on priority. Tackle the important and urgent tasks first, followed by the unimportant/mundane tasks. There are many ways to prioritize your list, however I find this system creates an order for items on your to-do list instead of completing them at random.
3 | Time blocking
Here’s the challenge; In the morning, over a cup of coffee or tea, take some time to plan your day in your DAILY PLANNER before you check your Facebook or Instagram. Set a challenging yet obtainable time limit for each task before being inundated with social data. By setting a time frame for each task, you prevent meetings, projects and activities from dragging on and potentially losing too much momentum.
4 | Avoid distractions……sometimes
Death, taxes, and distractions. Three certainties in life. The key point is how well you manage them. Checking your Facebook, personal email, or surfing the web are all distractions we impose on ourselves, yet can also be a good thing. Research shows that taking a break and focusing on something else other than work can boost productivity. The key is to limit those distractions or reserve time specifically to lolly gag online.
5 | Work in short bursts of 2 hours
Productivity makes my heart happy. Working for 8 hours straight, not so much. That’s why part of my regiment at home is to work harder in short bursts of time. Focus is the essential ingredient when working on a deadline or a large task, however stepping back for a minute and returning to work with a fresh pair of eyes really helps spot imperfections you would otherwise not have noticed. Remember the Pareto principle, a.k.a. the 80/20 law: 80 percent of outputs come from 20 percent of inputs. So stay focused, and you’ll do more in less time.
Time management takes some time to get used to, however is an essential part of a well balanced lifestyle. Use your time wisely throughout the day so you can enjoy your free time with the people and activities that matter most to you. After all, how we spend our time is how we spend our lives.
Instead of wishing for more hours in the day, lets be more mindful of how we use those 24 hours.
Want help getting started?
Download my FREE DAILY PLANNER insert to organize your day. It has hourly time slots, a section to plan your dinner, an area for top priorities, a section to write out a to-do list, and a notes and brainstorming section.
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