Updated: Apr 13
"I ran out of time".
We've all said it, right? There were things you thought you might fit in, but you get to the end of the day, and you just didn't get time. This happens frequently, and not just in our business lives, but in our personal lives too.
It happens because we allow our schedules to be controlled on demand, we allow unplanned tasks to creep in, instead of saying, well, if they weren't already in my diary today, I'll plan them in for tomorrow instead. We don't block time out for breaks, our personal well-being or to do fun tasks that will boost our overall productivity. We think we can't do these things because work is so important. We have to put important work tasks first, we have to accept that calendar entry for the team dial-in at 9am, and we have to complete tasks that come in on the same day, that day.
We think these things because we've been conditioned to think them. It's been ingrained in us since our educational days. Days where despite the fact you might be trying to fit in dinner, spending time with your friends or parents, and attending that football club you loved so much, homework was the most important thing of all and you would be punished if you didn't finish it and hand it in on time.
It's time to change the narrative and shift your mindset. I'm going to give you a few very simple tools to change the pattern of your working day, and, you're going to try them out for a week and see how you get on. It takes 3 days to break a habit, according to scientists, so this should be more than enough time, to break the mould and give you back the time you deserve.
The first thing you need is an organised to-do list. This list is a bit more than just a to-do, it should contain absolutely everything you need to do daily, weekly, and monthly and should include your personal tasks as well as your business ones.
That might look like reminding yourself to pay for your child's gym class, booking a dentist appointment, or even planning which days you're going to the gym. If you're doing everything on the fly, this overall method of organising your time won't work. I use Asana. It's an amazing tool once you learn how to use it. I have sections for my personal work, my business, other projects, my own VAs tasks, and fun stuff like my travel blog.
Once you have everything organised, now the fun starts. Ideally, these tasks will have dates to do or when they need to be completed attached to them, there's no point in making a huge list without some sort of clarity on when they need to get done.
Now, at the end of every day, you want to set aside 30 minutes to look at what's coming up for the following day and organise it again. This isn't as difficult as it sounds. You're going to use a method called the Eisenhower Matrix.
Initially, using the Eisenhower Matrix will either be online or in paper form and will help you organise your tasks for the next day. But as long as you start listing your jobs in your organisational tool, in priority order, you can then start to filter those priorities, and plan them directly into your calendar, using the matrix method without having to actually write anything into it at all.
But for now, we'll use the Matrix. If you use Miro, they have a template built in. You're going to take the following days' tasks, objectively look at each one, and filter them into the quadrants. Place what absolutely has to get done, that just cannot wait, into the Do It box. Anything that's important and needs to be done, but could be scheduled for a later time or another day goes into the Decide box. For jobs that need to be done but aren't urgent and you don't necessarily need to do yourself, push into Delegate and make sure you get rid of them by delegating them there and then. And those jobs that keep popping up but you never have time for, the ones that aren't important at all and are more things you would like to do but aren't having an overall impact on your day, you want to Delete those.
Now that you have your day mapped out in this way, it's time to put them into your calendar. This is known as calendar blocking and is very effective. You can use your own daily calendar or a completely separate one. I use CoSchedule for this. You need to put all of those Do It tasks into your calendar by time blocks, giving yourself the appropriate amount of time for each one. In this calendar, you also want to plan breaks, even including time for taking a shower and eating breakfast. You should also plan things that are important to you, like going to the gym or taking your kids to school. Put it all in and you will see what you have left, for those Decide tasks.
Set a boundary around your day by what time you want to start and what time you want to finish and don't go over those boundaries. Only add in Decide tasks IF you have the time for them.
These tools combined, the Eisenhower Matrix and Calendar Blocking, can absolutely revolutionise your life. Please give it a try and let me know in the comments how you got on! I hope it helps.