3 Ways to Get More Time in Your Day

I need more time!

Sole traders and small business owners – i.e. my clients! – often bemoan the fact that their to-do lists are miles long and they wish they had more time in the day to get all their tasks done. Add in the number of clients or customers you serve during the week and the stress can become overwhelming. Stack extended lockdowns and remote learning with young kids on top and nobody would blame you for refusing to get out of bed!

Even though we all only have 24 hours in each day, there are useful strategies out there for working more efficiently so it feels like we’re gaining extra time. Here are a few practical tips to help in this area:

1. Use the Time Blocking Method on Your Calendar

Time blocking simply means assigning a block of time to one particular client, project, or type of task. For instance, if you have back-to-back client appointments, block that time off on your calendar and focus on those clients. If you need time to create a new signature product, block off 2-3 hours on your calendar. If you need to support your child with homework (or home-learning!), block out time for that as well.

If you’re a visual learner, use Google Calendar or Asana to make colourful time blocks, using a different colour for each client or project. The Structured app is another great tool for planning out your day and staying on track.  While you’re sussing out these helpful tools you can also go ahead and ditch the whole idea of multitasking; studies have proven that people are more efficient when they focus on a single project or task at a time. If you struggle with maintaining focus for a long stretch, try the Pomodoro Technique to break it up, just be wary about what activities you allow yourself during the break!

I advise my clients to make a habit of taking time each morning to do a daily “Start Up” where they get clear on their priorities, must dos and calendar commitments. Do this before you check email or start anything else so you can focus more easily on what you want to achieve. Where possible you should also aim to end your day with a 5-10 minute “Wind Down” procedure where you look ahead to the following day’s priorities before you finish up. This helps to not only assess where you are with things, but to prime your brain for the next day’s start up, getting you off to a quicker start. 

2. Track Your Hours and Tasks to Determine Your Distractions

Distractions are everywhere, especially if you work in a home office. But even necessary tasks, like social media posts, can become a distraction if you start to meander through your newsfeed, take silly quizzes, or watch funny cat videos. If you’re not sure where you’re losing time or what your distractions are, try using the My Hours or Toggl Track apps. Start the timer at the beginning of each task and at the end to see how long it takes you to complete.

Even if your mum or best mate call during the day, start the timer. You can see at the end of the day what you accomplished and how much time you spent on these tasks. Then you can tell your mum not to call during business hours and you can save your social media distractions for the evening hours, too. 

Tracking your hours and tasks isn’t just useful in identifying distractions either – it’s the ideal first step in building your awareness around where you spend the most of your time. With that data on hand it is easier to see which activities you’re engaging in that are not a good use of your time. This includes stuff that is:

  • wearing you out as a result of an energy mismatch (behavioural profiling helps with this too!).
  • in the not important/not urgent quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix.
  • best done by someone else who isn’t you.
  • easily delegated. 
  • below your pay-grade, i.e. stuff you could pay someone else to do for less money than you could make in the time you save by not doing it yourself. 

Gaining insight into how you’re really using your time can be a little confronting but it also opens up a conversation into where your time is best spent, what you really value and how to better manage your time to fit in those things that really matter. 

So much of our small business “busy-ness” is caused by a lack of focus and a lack of clarity around the most important priorities. Once we have the hard facts we can start having the next level conversations that provide the space to process things and ultimately change the story.  

3. Don’t Overestimate How Much You Can Do in One Day

This is an ongoing theme with my regular clients, and as a parent whose workday is mostly confined to school hours I can totally relate! When we always have too much to do, or more things we want to achieve,  it’s easy to become over-ambitious about how long it will all take. 

We get sucked into thinking we can just barrel through our lengthy to-do list in one day. We want it all done so we can start the next day with a clean slate. But we still only have 24 hours in a day so at some point we have to get real! 

Instead of becoming stressed about all the tasks, try implementing the 1-3-5 rule. Choose 1 large task and get started on that first thing in the morning (or as early as possible). Choose 3 medium sized tasks and up to 5 smaller tasks. As you finish each one, cross it off your list for a visual representation of your productivity. Try melding this method with the time block method for ultimate productivity. 

If you are meeting with clients or working on a project, make sure you include these in the 1-3-5 rather than ignoring them and overloading! The idea here is not to add more to your plate. Rather it is to provide a sense of your key priorities for the day, so you aren’t flying blind and ending up focused on the minutiae (that might be easy and will keep you feeling busy) but won’t actually help you progress toward your bigger goals. 

Remember, there will be days when even the best laid plans are thrown out the window and that’s ok. We aren’t machines, we’re human beings in a world with other humans so things are bound to get crazy sometimes. A growth mindset and behavioural flexibility are key to not losing your shit when those times inevitably happen! Work on cultivating those traits and get a coach to help if you need! 

One More Time-Gaining Solution: Hire!

As I touched on in point 2, delegating (if you haven’t already) your small, mundane, behind-the-scenes tasks to someone else, like an assistant, is another way to gain more time in your day. It frees up time so you can focus on the bigger, money-making tasks while they focus on the smaller tasks. Ideally you should be spending as much of your time as possible on the things that are in your Zone of Genius and delegating, automating or eliminating the rest. 

The key to saving time with an assistant is being clear on exactly what you would have them do and having solid systems in place to support that so you aren’t having to spend a lot of time training and liaising with them, or worse, taking time each day to plan out both of your days. Our Next Level Intensive program promises to have you ready to make your first (or next) hire in 20 weeks – a great option if you are feeling ready to make some big changes fast!

If you provide a service to other business owners it might feel strange to outsource that same service for your own business, but it can be very freeing. If you’re a digital marketing specialist for instance, you might believe you should be doing all of your own digital marketing, yet feel totally unmotivated to actually do it. So don’t! Hire someone, brief them and let them work their magic for you while you concentrate on working your magic for your own clients.

It might not be in the cards to hire or outsource right now, but if you’re serious about growing and uplevelling your business it’s something you must keep in mind and work toward. As a first step, start recording somewhere (e.g. a notebook or a note in your phone) the kinds of things you wish you could delegate. The things that make you go “ugh”. Don’t forget to include at home responsibilities – like cleaning, child-care or meal delivery – that are usually easy to hire out without a long term commitment. 

If you want to find more time in your day book a complimentary Intro Call to find out how we might be able to help. There’s no obligation – or pressure – it’s just a conversation and a chance to see whether the value we bring is a good fit for you. 

Until next time,

 

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