One of the biggest challenges I have had since starting my creative business (and looking after two small children!) is TIME. It didn’t seem to be that important when I was working in the corporate world or before children, I had time to work, time to go out and have fun and time to relax and read, but oh my, time seems to be coming in much smaller chunks these days.
So for today’s post I have invited Natalie Meyer to give us some important tips about managing our time, efficiently and effectively. You can read all about it here.
You want to build a creative business however, there is one small but…
… your days are already full so you really can’t see how on earth you are going to find the time.
If I could wave a magic wand and squeeze an extra 2 hours into your day then I would. In the absence of a magic wand, there are some practical steps that you can take to free up the space you need to make your plans a reality.
It isn’t a matter of finding time. You have to make the time.
Step One – Evaluate how you spend your time
You aren’t going to walk away from the life that you have now in order to pursue your idea. You want the idea to be an addition to your current life. However at the moment your life is already pretty much full to bursting. So how are you going to squeeze in yet another thing?
There are 2 key ways achieve this:
- Efficiency: doing things as quickly as possible
- Effectiveness: choosing the tasks that are going to make the biggest impact.
Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.
Over the next few days actively watch where your time goes, keep a time log. Every 15 minutes make a note of what you have just spent your time on (in a notebook, in a spreadsheet, in an app like Toggl). Don’t get too hung up about super specific categories. After a few days you will have clear, accurate picture of where your time goes.
You can then make decisions to improve both your efficiency and effectiveness.
Efficiency: Different tasks require different mindsets, different locations, different tools. What similar tasks can you batch together to make you more efficient?
Effectiveness: Take care to distinguish between urgent and important. Very often our days are sucked up by tasks that demand our attention (ie urgent). However just because a task is attracting your attention doesn’t mean that it deserves it (ie important).
- Ask yourself: ‘Will this task move me closer to an outcome that I value?’
- Consider what would be the downside if you didn’t do the task – you would be surprised how often you aren’t that fussed about the downside – it really wouldn’t be the end of the world if it didn’t get done.
Ditch items that are urgent but not important. Focus your time on those that are important before they become urgent.
Things that can happen at any time often happen at no time.
Step Two – Schedule
If you have been telling yourself that you will start your creative project ‘When you have the time’ then I have some bad news… you probably won’t ever have the time.
Your big idea is just that… BIG. It can’t be squeezed into whatever time happens to be leftover at the end of the day. You won’t be able to complete it one sitting. You will need to break it down into smaller component parts.
Your big idea is important to you. It deserves more than 20 minutes here and there. 20 minutes isn’t enough time to get into the flow. You will have just got started and then you will need to finish.
Schedule time in your calendar
Get out your diary:
- Look at what fixed commitments you have that can’t be moved. Take care not to assume that just because something is in there that it has to stay – go back and revisit effectiveness if necessary, is this commitment important to you?
- Decide how much time you would like to be able to allocate to your new venture.
- Where could you create blocks of time in your calendar? What do you need to move around to make this happen?
This will create an ‘ideal week’.
Real life will happen and plans may need to be amended. However if you have a vague plan then you will be unclear whether you are on track or slowly slipping behind. On the other hand, if you schedule Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 7 – 9pm then if something clashes with these times you will be more thorough in assessing whether they are important enough to take over your planned schedule. It also signals to you that if you choose the alternative that you need to re-schedule that time to somewhere else in your calendar.
Step Three – Find your Focus
If you only have a few hours each week to make progress then you will need to be focused during the time that you have available.
You want to be working in that zone where you are in the flow, where you move seamlessly through a task, where you can follow a thought through to its conclusions and have your big, exciting breakthroughs.
- Eliminate distractions: turn off notifications, close down email, tidy up any clutter, take yourself off to a quiet room.
- Be Clear about your Outcomes: know exactly what you want to get done in the time available. If you say that you are going to work for an hour then it is easy to get sucked into busyness however you are looking to be productive. Be specific about what is going to be the best use of your time for the next hour… then get on with that one thing.
Step Four – Review & Refine
Your first pass through each of these steps will bring you to a place where you will have the time to successfully pursue your creative ambitions. It will, of course, be a juggling act – but then that’s what makes life interesting. Each week you will learn more about your craft, you will see your business progress, the rest of your life will move through different seasons. However you can go back through each of the steps to refine how your week looks. You will change and adapt it over time so that as you keeping growing you continue to keep the right balance for you in your life.
To get more ideas for how to free up the time you need to make your big ideas happen then check out the ’10 Top Tips to Save an Hour each Day’ at www.allingoodtime.uk.com.
Natalie Meyer, at All in Good Time, helps women business owners juggle work, family and home (and, who knows, even find a bit of time for themselves!). She helps them to overcome overwhelm, beat procrastination and find focus. In short, she helps them to up their productivity and actually get stuff done so they can achieve their goals and create the work/life balance that they are looking for.by