When I first started out as a freelance designer, it was much easier to time block parts of my day to work because I didn’t yet have any big commitments in my life. Three children later, my home life is now my center focal point and priority, and work fits in when it can. I have learned so much about diligent time management thanks to some nasty lessons in procrastination or under estimation of time. I should prelude this post by confessing that I filed my taxes this year on tax day….so procrastination is not lost on me to this day. I also have a messy art mind, so you I once thought the organized and effective work and home life wore a hopeless cause. I now beg to differ. No matter your personality or organizational strengths, it IS possible to take steps towards a four-hour work week ( an interesting read by the way). Our schedules shift with little ones every few months, but these are some things that have worked for me in trying to seek a more balanced life.
Set weekly goals – I try to set aside a time each week to just set goals. I always live by the same priorities, and the goals for business, family, friends, and spiritual life are written out accordingly. I remember they are goals however, and make sure to remind myself that all of them may not happen, and that is ok. However, writing and re-structuring goals each week doubles the chances of them actually happening!
Breakdown your goals into tasks – For business, my goals are broken down into tasks. The daily task list supports my weekly and monthly goals, and those monthly goals are set out to work towards the bigger dream goals. If you don’t have the big dreams broken down into bite sized portions, you may always feel like you are reaching rather than achieving. How do I goal set? Write them down in my planner for me to see easily each day which brings me to…
A heck of a good planner – I put off getting a Day Designer for a few years because I didn’t want to pay the price tag. Meanwhile, I missed important blog deadlines or double booked appointments because I was relying on my memory and scattered jotted notes. Somehow I was lucky enough to receive on as a gift (along with everyone else in the audience at the Hope Spoken conference), and after I died of happiness, I immediately started to pour through the pages and write down every detail of the next month. It is divided in sections that break down your days by hour as well as provides an overall monthly calendar. Since it is larger there is a to-do list section and priority section on each day’s page. Alas! I have been looking for this feature forever since I am an avid list writer. This has significantly freed up my own mental storage data friends. Do yourself a favor, and get on that wait list.
Google Calendar – I keep my blog and Brand Market editorial and social calendars in google calendar in addition to my physical planner. It allows you to color code your events and sends you an alert to your iphone every time one of your scheduled items is about to come up. It helps when I am working with companies to see the overall picture when I am on a call or working in email format.
Time Blocking – I learned early on that time segmenting drastically cuts down on distractions and dare I say improves your attention span:) It is not ever easy to stick with set aside times, but the more I see how much time is saved in this method, the easier it is to be loyal to it. For instance, I have set aside times for social media and emails. I don’t want to be a mother on her phone all the time, so I have check point times and posting times where I will share and respond to IHOD social channels and emails. This is also why you see the majority of my instagram posts at night after my little ones are in bed or you may receive an email from me at 7am. I have set aside days for meal planning (Sundays), laundry (Mondays and Thursdays), and deep cleaning (Fridays). This way, when I can put those things out of sight and mind in between. When my little ones take a nap during the day is when I do my photography, photo editing, blog writing, phone calls, etc. It has to be a very packed two hours of time, and I know I cannot get distracted with my phone or computer or even netflix (don’t worry – there is always bed time). I dive in nose first and swim hard until the time is up. This allows me to spend the mornings with my children and be focused for carpool, dinner, and bedtime. Needless to say, there are often hiccups and compromising throughout the week. Gabe and I tag team everything and sometimes Gabe will make dinner so I can finish a deadline, or we will forget the meal plan and pick up take out. Life is a one day at a time adventure around here.
Put a value number on your time. If it helps, put a value amount on how much your time is worth. I know I only have those few hours a day to fit in any work related items, so if I ultimately believe my time is worth x amount, I become more acutely aware of time eaters and where I can cut back on the unnecessary. I made so many mistakes throughout my various creative jobs, but my most common being committing to projects that don’t pay and eat up time I already didn’t have to give. I am not good at saying no, and I had to learn that even if there were fun perks or opportunities involved, EVERY yes = time. Time I could be spending working towards priorities or time I could be using to spend with my family or catch up on rest. A plate is easier to fill than to keep minimal. Gabe is my wingman now for helping me keep on track in this regard. You need someone to remind you that it’s okay to say no in order to give your best yes. (Highly suggest this book.) This applies for every circumstance in life I believe!
Apps for Time Management – I still lean towards pen and paper for calendars, but there are some really helpful apps available for keeping you on track.
RescueTime – Want to know whats eating away at your time on the computer? This plugin for your browser tracks productivity and where you are spending your time and sends you a weekly report.
Wunderlist – Easy to-do list app that you can check off as you go through, and allows you to share to-do lists with anyone you choose who has the app.
Toggle – A fantastic alternative to timesheets if you need to keep track of time spent on projects.
MyLifeOrganized – Task and Goal management app.
Dropbox – Keeps all your files in one place to access and share online.
GMAIL & Google Apps – I sing the praises of gmail and google apps for business. I have three separate email addresses (one for my IHOD assistant) that I was able to set up in gmail and access easily without having to login and out. There are folders, color coding options, and sections that separate priority mail. I don’t even have to look at all the subscription emails that come through each day because they are in a separate tab. Saving mental distractions one email at a time;)
Since I don’t tend to want to follow schedules, (and sometimes my kids don’t either) spontaneity and flexibility are just as important in keeping a well paced life. These are just guidelines I aim for that have helped me drastically throughout the past months/years. I hope they get your wheels grooving. I’d love to hear any of your time management hacks or tips you want to add! More biz tips here.