We all have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé, so they say. Except where Beyoncé has a huge team behind her, as solo consultants, we are the ones wearing many of the hats in our businesses.
So, what’s a solo to do? Maximizing our time is directly connected to growing our income. Many of us delegate to virtual assistants, which helps us accomplish more than when we try to do it all. Whether you're forging ahead on your own, have a little help, or have assembled a team, we can all benefit from taking the time to assess and realign how we manage our time.
Why does time management matter?
Aside from ensuring you're not glued to your desk and devices 24/7, managing our time well is good for your health and your bottom line. Taking what might feel like a wasteful hour to plan your month, week, and day will help you avoid procrastination (unless, of course, that’s a positive motivator for you), overwhelm, confusion, and stress. All of these factors can have a negative impact on your clarity of thought and productivity. Conversely, practicing good time management can alleviate these negatives, clearing the way for greater focus, confidence, and productivity.
Time Management for Solos
The beauty of working for ourselves is that, within the parameters of deadlines and events, we dictate what we work on and when. That freedom can get the best of us, and it’s on us to keep ourselves motivated and on track. Here are some methods to try, many of which aren’t:
Group Similar Tasks
We all know that when you’re constantly moving between tasks, it takes 15-20 minutes to refocus. Do your best to group similar tasks. Set aside distinct times to create client social media content, set another time to draft blogs, to pitch media, etc. The nature of our business does not always allow for such a tidy approach but see what you can manage and notice how that feels.
This is a time management system that could be helpful with grouping tasks or keeping you on point when writing or planning a strategy. It dictates that you work solely on one item for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. Here is a list of browser apps to help you use this technique.
Timeline Larger Projects
Working backward from key dates (due dates, launch dates), plot out a deadline for each portion of a project, making sure to allow a window for schedule changes or unforeseen delays.
Protect Your Mornings
Or, your afternoons, or… Determine the time of day where you have the most energy and focus and plan your important to-dos during that time. This serves to maximize your time and, perhaps even more importantly, your energy.
Keep a Schedule
Staying on track can be as simple as scheduling out your day according to what you want, or need, to accomplish. Create events on your paper or online calendar for each item. This allows you to view your day at a glance and gives the satisfaction of having a record of what you’ve accomplished each day.
Create a Playlist
Attach music to a particular task or project. You’ll be propelled forward while also judging the time you’re spending based on the length of each song.
The Ivy Lee Method
This productivity routine dates back to 1918, when productivity expert Ivy Lee presented this method to Charles Schwab, then president of Bethlehem Steel. Schwab saw marked improvement in the performance of Bethlehem Steel’s executives after only three months of following these steps:
- At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
- Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
- When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
- Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
- Repeat this process every working day.
It’s true, the nature of our work doesn’t allow for 100% foolproof use of this method, but it’s worth a try.
Making it Stick
Did you start the new year with a fresh new planner, knowing that by February you’ll be ignoring it? Yes, we’ve been there, too. Similarly, how can we take the time management advice provided here and make sure we stick to it?
- Rein in time wasted on social media channels and the Internet. It’s easy to develop the online version of “Why did I come into this room?” since, for many of us, our work requires us to be on these channels throughout the day. Use a product or app like RescueTime to track how much time you’re spending where online.
- Schedule a staff meeting of one. Set a regular appointment with yourself on your calendar to evaluate your weekly to do’s and make any changes needed to stay on track.
- Set rewards for yourself. Maybe put a few dollars into your vacation fund for every adherence to your new time management plan. It could be the promise of a walk, a coffee meet-up, whatever lights you up and gives energy and inspiration. Make it a tangible appointment on your calendar.
- Think about how better use of your time will further your business, providing extra opportunity for professional development, networking, and lead nurturing. Put this time on your calendar, too, to hold you accountable.
- Speaking of accountability, get an accountability partner. We’ve had quite a few of our fellow Solo PR Pros connect on a consistent basis to help grow each other’s business. Why not do the same to keep each other on track with time management?
Whatever you choose, know that little steps add up to significant progress. Start with this overview from organizational psychologist, Benjamin P. Hardy: If You're Too Busy for These 5 Things, Your Life Is More Off Course Than You Think. The title makes it sound like a heavy read, but it’s a great place to begin resetting your days, bit by bit.
We’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite ways to make the best use of your time?
This post was written by Michelle Kane, head honcho at Voice Matters.