🕒 My Ultimate Guide to Time Management Tools, Tips, and Tricks!
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
In honor of this month's theme (Time Management!), I am giving you my ULTIMATE list of Time Management tools, tips, and tricks. Save this list to refer back to whenever you are feeling overwhelmed and like you can't get a handle on your time.
Time Management Tips
1. Create Rock. Solid. Boundaries.
Let me share with you a few of my favorite phrases that I use to protect my time.
"Let me check my calendar and get back to you!"
This little phrase is a MUST every time someone requests some of your time. If you struggle with protecting your time, the MUST is in a much bigger font. This simple phrase allows you to not only check and see if you actually have time - it also gives you time to pause. Ask yourself:
Do I have time for this?
Do I have the energy for this?
Do I actually want to commit to this????
If you for whatever reason you decide the answer to any of these questions is NO, you can pull out this fantastic phrase:
"This month is full for me, can we circle back?"
99% of the time the other person completely forgets to follow up with you. It's such an easy out that saves face for everyone.
In a perfect world, we would all just say NO when we needed to. However, I understand that polite society does not always give us that benefit. This is a really polite way of saying no.
Now obviously, sometimes this statement is actually true - in which case you can create a task or add a note in your calendar to follow up next month. But if this is perhaps a little white lie and you just don't actually want to commit to yet another pointless "networking" coffee meeting - this phrase is perfect.
2. Remember: Things don't just take time. They take energy too.
How often have you calculated the amount of time you will need to complete a series of tasks, only to find yourself totally wiped after the first or second one? Maybe you had to have a difficult meeting with a client. Perhaps you are putting off making dinner. These things might take a short amount of time - so why do they feel so big?
Time is just one factor that you should consider when planning your time. Tasks also take different levels of emotional energy, mental effort, decision fatigue, and sometimes just a bad case of the I-don't-really-want-to-do-its.
So if you know a task is going to take more than just time - block off more time to do it. For example, my therapy appointments are 50 minutes long - but I have the hour before and the hour after completely blocked off. I want to make sure I have enough time to arrive early. I want time to take a few breaths in the waiting room. And most importantly, I want ample time afterward to process and digest my session.
The bottom line is this: don't beat yourself up if you are left feeling exhausted after a short task. Give yourself space when you need it.
Tools for Time Management
Time Tracking » Toggl
I started using Toggl to easily track the time I spent working on client projects, but now I use it to track all of my time on the computer. It comes with a handy report feature so you can regularly review where your time was spent. Knowing where your time is going is critical to learning good time management habits. Knowledge is power, people!
Everyone should have some form of a calendar! What I love about Google Calendar is that I can color code and easily move things around. Google calendar has all sorts of additional tricks and hacks, but the most important aspect is that events can be digested visually.
Scheduling » Acuity
Acuity changed my LIFE! I cannot even FATHOM how much time and headache I have saved by using this scheduling software. Instead of emailing back and forth and back and forth, desperately trying to track down forgetful clients for payment, manually texting and emailing reminders, sending over separate emails with links to important information, etc, etc, etc - Acuity does it ALL!
I also feel like Acuity is my bouncer or my secretary - someone to say no to folks so I don't have to. Since Acuity syncs directly to my Google calendar, I don't have to tell someone I don't have time to meet with them this week. I can just send them a link and they can just see that I don't have time! ::chef's kiss::
The Pomodoro method is a great tool if you are studying or learning. The concept is 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off for a break. After three rounds of that, you get a 15-minute break. This is nice for your body and your eyes, but experiment with what types of tasks you use it with. Sometimes the breaks can really break your flow state.
A Body Double
I learned about the concept of a Body Double first while working with children, and then again while working with adults with ADHD. The idea is to find someone who is naturally very focused and have them work quietly beside you. You will be surprised how much more focused you are when the person next to you can silently hold you accountable.
If I am co-working with a friend this way, sometimes we will agree to a certain amount of focused work time (about 45 minutes) and then a break to chat (about 15 minutes). We put timers on our phones to make sure we stick to it!
Note: do NOT try this with another easily distracted person 🙃
There is actually not very much proof or science behind Binaural Beats. However, many people swear by them - myself included!
The idea is that the wavelengths of the sounds coming out of your headphones (headphones are important for this one) match the brainwaves you want. For example, you want Gamma waves for studying and Theta waves for sleeping.
It may be just the placebo effect, but the sounds are soothing and they don't NOT work!
This might just be me, but I am a huge fan of wearing a good ole fashion watch. This accomplishes a few things:
During a meeting, it's easier to sneak a peek at your wrist than your phone. Checking your phone during a meeting is rude, y'all!
Checking your phone for the time also means checking for notifications. Now you are sucked into phone-land instead of whatever else you are supposed to be doing.
I like to check the time CONSTANTLY. I am obsessed with knowing what time it is at all moments of the day. This helps me to always be on time.
The Eisenhower matrix
I used to write all of my to-do lists in the form of an Eisenhower Matrix. I highly recommend giving it a try!
Tasks are always some mixture of Urgent and Important. Sometimes they are both, just one, or neither. Getting a feel for which is which can be incredibly helpful when prioritizing your time. Visit Eisenhower.me to learn more about the Eisenhower Matrix and how to create your own!
You know how sometimes you have so much to do that you just end up doing nothing??? Big open spaces in our calendar can leave us spinning in infinite possibilities. It leaves us paralyzed! Do yourself a favor and block your calendar out ahead of time.
Calendar blocking accomplishes two things:
It gives you enough space and time to get into the flow
It allows your brain to focus on just one thing at a time.
Jordan Page explains it best - click here to watch her video on the topic.
This one is so simple and easy! If you think a task will take less than 2 minutes to complete - do it right then and there! If you think it will take longer - immediately add it to your task list to do later. This is a great one for email!
Eat That Frog!
This idea comes from Brian Tracy. If you have a frog on your to-do list (something you don't really want to do) - eat that frog first! If you have TWO frogs - eat the uglier one first! Getting your "froggy" tasks out of the way first thing leaves you feeling accomplished and ready for the rest of the day.
Self Care = Time Management
This comes straight from the book When by Daniel Pink. Taking restorative breaks is non-negotiable. Trying to muscle through the day without stopping will lead to burnout. Here are the rules for a true restorative break:
Something beats nothing
Moving beats stationary
Social beats solo
Detach completely from your work
When you work for yourself, it can be very difficult to clock out and take some actual time off. This causes your brain to melt and the world to become... fuzzy. Even if you LOVE your business, burnout is at some point going to come for you.
A few years ago I read the book An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life
by Marilyn Paul and it really DID change my life. For about a year after I read this book, I committed to taking Sundays completely off. I wasn't allowed to do anything productive and I even turned my phone and computer OFF.
The pandemic definitely through a wrench in this, but I am proud to say that I have started my Oasis days up again. All of my friends and family know they won't be able to contact me on that day, but they are more than welcome to show up at my house to see if I am there.
Taking care of myself this way on Sunday leaves me feeling refreshed for the week. It also leaves me feeling incredibly happy.