How do you manage your time? As solo PR pros, we have a lot to do — and not a lot of time to do it. If only there were more time in the day, the months, the years.
Unfortunately, unless someone invents a way to expand time, we’re stuck with what we’ve got. But perhaps we don’t need more of it, we just need to find a better way to manage it.
The good news? As small business owners, we have some control over how we spend the moments in our day. (It’s one of the biggest perks!)
In a recent episode of That Solo Life: The Solo PR Podcast, Karen Swim and Michelle Kane discuss the building blocks of time management and how they’ll allow you to create the best life possible.
3 steps to managing your time better
There are ample specific time management tips out there — time blocking, cutting down on screen time, the Pomodoro method and so forth — but Karen and Michelle believe there are a few things you should do first.
“No matter what your work style is, there’s a time management method for you,” says Karen. “But we definitely recommend taking these foundational steps first because they’ll add a lot of clarity, and you’ll find you can eliminate things. And just by eliminating some of these things, you already reclaim so much of your time.”
1. Get intentional—really intentional
Intentionality is key. You simply can’t excel at time management without it. Ask yourself: What really matters to you and your business? What’s your mission? Are you doing things that really serve your true purpose?
Ultimately, we want to spend our time doing things that fulfill us physically, mentally, socially, financially and so on. That means you shouldn’t be doing things just to do them, or doing them a certain way because you’ve done it that way before. If you find you’ve slipped into near-constant autopilot mode, it’s time to snap out of it and get clear on your purpose and the actions that will help you fulfill it.
These two exercises will help you get started.
- Map the path to your core element: On a blank piece of paper, write down the number one thing you’re consistently working toward — your core element. This could be, for example, paying the bills. Next, figure out what will help you achieve it. So, to pay the bills, you have to build your business. Building and maintaining your business requires serving your clients well. And to do that, you need to have enough energy and mind space to be creative.
This activity can help you figure out the things you really need to focus on to attain your end goal.
- Envision your ideal day: Set aside some quiet time and dedicate it to imagining what your optimal work day looks like. Consider the following (and more):
- Where are you?
- What time do you wake up?
- What are you spending your time on?
- What type of work are you doing?
- Who are you interacting with?
- How many hours do you work?
- Do you take breaks, and what do you do during them?
Next, compare your dream day to your reality. Why are there gaps between the two, and how can you bridge them? This activity can help you identify what might be holding you back from living the life you want to.
2. Make your calendar your best friend
Once you identify the things you truly need (and want) to focus on — your core element, what it takes to achieve it, and the way you want to live your life — you can start planning your days and weeks around those things. Grab your calendar and start blocking time off.
Put holds on your calendar solely to:
- Focus, think and be strategic
- Move your body
- Rest your body and your mind
And make sure you commit to those time blocks — they are just as important (if not more) as meetings with other people. Show up for yourself just like you’d show up for others.
In addition, Karen and Michelle also recommend marking down all the days for the upcoming year that you want to be completely out of office, even if you don’t have concrete plans yet.
“When you put these things in writing — whether it’s a real physical journal or your Google calendar — you’ll find that you will schedule around them,” says Karen. You’ll no longer have to “find time” for these things in your day or week because they’re already planned.
3. Start resisting meeting culture
Speaking of meetings, the often-ignored truth is that a lot of meetings simply don’t need to happen at all — or they can at least be a lot shorter. Be honest: How many calls truly require 30 minutes, let alone an entire hour? (Answer: Not many)
Eliminate any and all meetings that aren’t absolutely necessary or allot five to 10 minutes instead. You’ll be amazed how empty your calendar looks — and how much work you can get done!
As a solo PR pro, you may think you need to meet with your clients weekly. But that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Karen doesn’t meet with hers weekly or even bi-weekly. She tells clients about her agency’s meeting culture right from the start. And, as it turns out, her clients love it (because it gives them more time back, too!). Be flexible and kind
These foundational steps will help you manage your time better, but remember: Things change. You change. There are different seasons in life. Be kind to yourself and adjust as necessary.
Karen, for example, used to get up at 5 a.m. each day to crank out some work. These days, she rises around 8 a.m. It’s what her body needs. Some days, Michelle’s an early riser, and some days she’s not. “If I’m not at my best getting up with the birds, I’m not doing anyone any good,” Michelle says. Switching up your routine is just fine. “If you’re still accomplishing what needs to happen in your world, awesome,” says Michelle.
Change isn’t easy, but you’ve got this. Just focus on your journey and no one else’s. “Celebrate wherever you are,” says Karen. “Because the good thing is, as long as we’re breathing and alive, we have the opportunity to be better than we were in the last moment.”