11 Steps to take control of your time

I’m constantly battling with time.  There is never enough of it.  I always have multiple activities competing for it.  And once it is gone, I can never get it back again.

It is a constant challenge.  These are some of the strategies that I use to wrangle time…

Work to your natural rhythms

Figure out when you are most productive and then schedule your time accordingly. What this means for me is that I know I am most creative first thing in the morning.  So this is my natural writing time.

Identify which activities fit best with your energy levels and build your schedule around them.

If you try and do hard stuff when your energy is low, life and your business will always feel like a struggle, and nobody wants that!

I call this the energy dance.

Work with your natural daily energy cycle and move and flow through your day simply and easily.

If you are a lark, work hard in the morning.  If you are a night owl, sleep until 10 and work until late.  The great thing about running your own busienss is that you get to choose!

1. Plan before you begin

Decide what you are going to do and when you are going to get it done by. Know what your critical path is (the activities that need to be completed first) and put those milestones into a simple plan.

2. Use a list.

When you feel yourself getting distracted, refer back to the list of activities that you need to achieve that day and that week. This will keep you focused.

3. The Law of Three (a la Brian Tracy)

Write down a list of the activities that you need to accomplish in a week.  What are the most important things? What if you could only do three of those things? Ask yourself if those 3 activities will really move your business or your project forward.

Bin the stuff that doesn’t.

4. Chunk your time

Split your time into chunks. Decide how long you are going to spend on an activity and then work to that time. Turn off all distractions during this period so that the activity gets 100% of your attention.

5. Set deadlines (and stick to them)

The work will fill the amount of time that you give it. If you really want to achieve something fast, then give yourself a challenging deadline and put it out there. Tell other people that they can expect a result at a particular time and you are much more likely to deliver.

6. Create systems

If you have activities that you do over and over again, or need to have the same conversation with different people, then create systems that will make the work much simpler and easier. This will mean that you are not having to do the thinking each time. Systems can be as simple as having templates in place, scripts to work from or a simple mind map that lists out the key activities.

7. Keep track

Check in with yourself daily and weekly and track your progress. Did you do what you said you were going to do yesterday? Was it important? Does it need to be done today? How are you doing against your schedule? Are you staying on course or going off track. Learn from what you are doing and what you aren’t doing.

8. Create visual clues

Put up a poster where you can tick of each goal accomplished. Give yourself large scale visual reminders about what you have decided to do in your business. A friend of mine, Joanna Penn has a big chart on her wall to remind her that her main goal every day is to write 1000 words. She gives herself a big tick each day that she achieves this goal. And leaves it blank when she doesn’t. This shows her that she is keeping on track against her book writing target.

9. Create space for your work

It’s critical that you have a workspace that feels comfortable for you to work in. I’m not going to tell you that you need to carve out space in your house where none exists, but it’s really important that you have a place where you can work that is conducive to getting stuff done. Make sure that you have a place that you can put all your work stuff away at the end of the day so that you can truly relax.  It will free you up mentally to be more productive.

10. Take breaks regularly

Your brain and creativity will thank you. Working continuously without breaks is exhausting and your work will suffer. Go for a walk. Do some exercise. Meet a friend for a coffee. Make sure you time box it but build in downtime.

11. Learn to say no

Decide that you are going to take control of your time and you decide your agenda, not others. It’s not selfishness, it’s self-preservation.

Bonus tip

12. Set clear boundaries.

When 9:00am starts… stop doing laundry and the dishes and cleaning the house and doing the grocery shopping. Respect that your work takes priority during whatever work hours you set and don’t deviate.  I know it’s hard, and I know that you are probably good at multi-tasking but you would be surprised how much time those little things take up in your day and away from your business!

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