One thing I learned pretty fast after having my son (who is now almost 3) was how important it was to manage my time and make it work for me (not the other way around). Before having my son I was doing a lot already, and suddenly, when he came into our world, it seemed as though I didn’t have time for anything other than caring for my new little beautiful human and catching the Zzzz’s when I could, which was also rare. I remember feeling so many different emotions! My heart was so full and happy, but at the same time I just wanted a moment of silence and rest. Instead, I was constantly pumping (he was a preemie and wouldn’t take the nipple), caring for him while my husband was on deployment, working over full-time at a demanding job, starting a business, helping a family member launch their business, trying to get back into a workout routine…ok you get the picture. We ALLLL have a laundry list of things on our plates and sometimes it feels like we will never catch up.
Yet somehow, we get it all done- at least the things that need to be done. Our laundry baskets may be overflowing and we may be low on groceries, but…(and an important ‘but’) we show up to life. Our babies get fed and changed, our boss gets their weekly report, we let our dog outside, we call a potential client, we tell our S/O we love them, and if we are lucky, we get a workout in.
Too much to do, so little time.
The truth is, everyone has the same amount of time in our day. We can’t create more, and we can’t lose any. We can, however, manage how we use our time. It was important to me after having my son to find ways to get things done quickly and efficiently, and spend the majority of my time on things that mattered most: like spending time with him and my husband, staying active, and working on my business.
Life isn’t perfect, and there are still times that I want to escape, but I’ve learned to manage my time in a way that lessens the load and eases up the stress of having a million things going on at once. While I do think just a little stress helps me maximize productivity, too much stress paralyzes me and keeps me from accomplishing anything. Everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you. But, I am hoping to give you at least one solution that will!
10+ Tips to Manage Time & Increase Productivity
1. Organize the mess (but, you don’t have to clean).
When my living spaces or work spaces are unorganized, my stress levels go through the roof and I find myself scrambling to get get ready, get things done and feel less confident in what I am doing. I spend extra time looking for my son’s shoes among his sea of toys, looking for his favorite blue cup, searching for important work documents that I need for a presentation that day, flipping through my notes for my to-do list, etc. But, when I wake up to a picked-up house, or walk into an organized office, I immediately feel good and confident about the day. When my physical space is in order, my brain is in order, and my day is in order.
I’m not saying you need to clean. I’m just suggesting that you try organizing the mess to help your mind feel less cluttered. Separate clean clothes from dirty clothes into laundry baskets instead of having them spread across the bedroom floor and bed; put the scattered dishes around the house in the sink (makes it easy to find your travel mug and clean it quick); make folders on your computer for photos, work files, and personal files and use accordingly; consolidate your notes, etc. I promise you will feel more confident and save you a lot of time.
2. Prioritize your “One Thing”.
I’m referring to your ‘list’ of things you are trying to get done day after day that you feel like you’ve been running circles around for the last couple weeks. The list that keeps getting longer and not shorter. It could be a list of things you need to get done at home, in your business, on your blog, or in your full time job. Regardless, you need to prioritize the tasks that will actually move the needle forward.
This is so important and yet so difficult to do, especially when you feel like everything on your list is a priority. However, this isn’t necessarily deciding what it a priority and what isn’t (because they all need to get done, right?!). Instead, it’s about making one thing a priority at a time. Focus on the one thing, and don’t move onto (or even dwell on) the next thing until the first is complete.
I recommend looking at your full list of to-dos each morning, and picking 3 or less to complete that day. Decide which 3 are most urgent, most important in helping you reach your goals and moving the needle forward, and/or take precedence over everything else. That will help you focus on what truly matters for that particular day and you won’t be bogged down and stressed with the full list of tasks. Don’t worry about what one you should complete first, just pick one, work on it until it’s complete, and move on to the next.
This means you will need to say no to some things, and that’s ok. When you are clear on your priorities, it should be easier to do. Of course there is one caveat here, especially for parents. Your “to-do” list priorities will get thrown out of whack, because life happens. Your kids will get sick, you’ll have to attend events, etc. But, if you stick to this general rule of thumb every day, you will start getting the things done that matter.
3. Say “no”.
Seriously, you can and should say no to the things that don’t serve you, your family, your faith, your work/business, etc. You’ll likely feel a ton of guilt (totally natural), but it will also help you focus on the things that matter (not to mention reduce your stress levels). Below are some questions you can ask yourself when contemplating taking on another task or continuing with a current one. If your answer is no to all the below, I recommend kicking it to the dust and moving on:
- Is it necessary and/or important to the well-being of myself and my family (mentally or physically)?
- Will it help me reach my end goals?
- Will it add significant value or make a significant positive difference to my current life?
4. Break bigger goals into small tasks.
Having a huge goal on your list is just a huge goal. You need a plan and roadmap to take the action steps that will move you closer. I do this by breaking the larger goal into smaller, more attainable goals or tasks that I can knock out in a shorter time frame. I keep them on my to-do list so I see them every day. Not only will breaking up the goal into digestible parts put a plan in place, it can also put some strategy and a timeline behind the goal. You will definitely be more likely to reach that goal!
5. Reduce digital interruptions.
We all know that social media, TV, web surfing, etc. can tie up our time in ways we will never get back. I recommend using tools like RescueTime to track your time usage on certain websites and StayFocused or SelfControl to block your use of certain sites for a specified time frame. If you spend over an hour on social media or browsing a day, try using that time for self-improvement or business development. That’s 28 hours a month. Imagine the things you could learn, cross of that ‘list’ and accomplish!
6. Use direct and specific to-the-point questions and responses.
I used to spend so much time crafting the perfect email response to my boss, explaining my exact thinking in detail. Over time, I realized he responded much better and quicker to shorter, direct questions and responses. I also realized how much time I was saving and how much more quickly I could find answers and get approval for projects.
7. Outsource and delegate, if you can.
This can be really hard for some people, especially if you’ve been doing everything yourself for a long time. Having someone else step in and do things their way can be frustrating. But, if you can learn to leave the tasks you either aren’t an expert in or don’t have the time for to someone who is and does, you will be so happy you did. This lets you focus on what you are good at and continue to grow in your own areas of expertise. This is true for running a business, working for a company, or at home with the family. Help is ok when you need it, and if you are able to get someone to take some things off your hands, I recommend taking it.
8. Be creative with the down time and small tasks.
When my son is eating breakfast, I sweep and mop the floors, do the dishes and do a quick clean of the kitchen. When I am commuting, I use the time to either take business calls, or listen to my favorite podcasts (of course, if you do this, make sure you set it up before you start driving or use voice commands). I use these types of situations for my tasks that need to be done but don’t necessarily bring me to my big goals and accomplishments.
I am try using 5 minute or 10 minute intervals of down time during the day to be productive. Usually, if I had 5 minutes here and there during the day, I would scroll social media. I now try to use this time to work on my larger tasks, knowing I only have a few minutes. It might seem like you can’t get much done in 10 minutes, but 10 minutes a day adds up to over an hour a week!
9. But, don’t multitask the important things.
I’ve tried so many times to give my attention to two important things at once, and I’ve almost always ended up wasting more time by having to go back and fix my mistakes, or not fully being present when I need to be. Give all your attention to one thing at a time. Be present. Whether it’s going to your daughter’s recital, working on a high priority report for your boss, or listening to your spouse’s story he/she’s been waiting all day to tell you…try your best to focus on one thing at a time.
10. Develop weekly planning sessions.
Maybe this means sitting down with your family every Sunday to discuss what activities are going on for the week- who needs to be at what place at what time on which day. Or, maybe this means getting on a weekly call with your team at work to talk about what each person needs help on during the upcoming week. Maybe this means sitting down to plan your content for your business over the next few weeks. Regardless of the situation, planning for the week ahead helps get everyone on the same page and eliminates questions and wasted time figuring out everything as it comes up.
11. Lastly, and most importantly, take breaks and give yourself time to rest!
I could say this over and over, and yet, it is so hard to do. Especially when we are juggling all the things we have going on. We are trying to find time to do these things, so how could we possible find time to not to anything? It is tough. Trust me, I know.
But, taking even an hour a week for yourself to relax, reflect, and focus on you is so important for your wellbeing and will help you be more productive and present when you jump back in. Getting burnt out and stressed doesn’t help anyone. Go for a walk, get a massage, go to the gym, get together with your girls, or just sit in a cafe and read.
It’s also important to have time together as family. If you own a business or work during the day, try taking some time each year (or multiple times a year) to get away with the family and completely disconnect. It’s important for you, and it’s important for them. Trust me, your work will still be there when you return.
Some Bonus Tips to Manage Time
- Clear your inbox every night. Having an inbox full of mail can be daunting and intimidating, and yes, increase your stress levels. You will find it much easier to go through when it’s clear of all the junk emails.
- Schedule your social media and emails ahead of time. You can spend about an hour to write and schedule out a week’s worth of social media posts. This will save you so much time over finding and curating content throughout the week.
- Use meetings/get-togethers/dinners wisely. Get as much done during work meetings and calls as possible, and if you need to touch base with someone on a list of items, use the end of the meeting to do so. If you need to discuss some important matters with your spouse, use some time after dinner to discuss them before you start your other nightly activities.
- Work in 30-minute increments. Working in increments helps a lot of people remain extremely productive each work session. Take a 5-10 minute break to silently sip coffee, close your eyes, dance, or stretch. You can try using apps like Focus Booster which sets timers for 25 minute work sessions with 5 minute breaks.
- Calendar Reminders/Blocks. I’ve used calendar reminders for everything, even for simple reminders to pay our babysitter, or go grocery shopping. I also use calendar blocks to block off a specific time to do specific work. For example, you could block off every Monday from Noon-2 while the kids are napping, strictly for writing content for your website.
- Biggest task in the morning. Completing your biggest task in the morning can make you feel so much more productive during the day. Many people swear this works for them. Others will check emails for any urgent fires they need to put out and then do the most important task. Whatever works for you, do it.
Everyone is different, and some of the things I mentioned above won’t work for you. Try some out and decide which ones do and which ones don’t. At the end of the day, a lot of it comes down to mindset and learning to focus on what matters and always remembering your end goal and your “why”. Once you can master that, you’ll be well on your way!
So, I’m curious and would love to hear your thoughts! What helps you manage your time and be productive in the short timeframes you have available to get things done?If you are a mama or business owner, I would love for you to message me and say ‘hello’ in my DM’s.
Jessalyn helps small businesses build and execute content marketing strategies that elevate their brand, reach and expand their ideal audience, grow their business and make a lasting impact in the lives of those they serve. She is an educator, speaker, coach, and runs a local mastermind. Jessalyn lives in beautiful Oconomowoc with her hunky husband, always-on-the-move toddler son, and perhaps the cutest goldendoodle, Riley. Her favorite things to do in Lake Country: running around Fowler Lake, visiting the farmers market in the summer, sitting in a cute cafe with coffee in hand, playing at the parks with her son, or visiting trendy restaurants and wine bars with her husband. // Follow her on Website/ Facebook / LinkedIn /Instagram / Pinterest/ Twitter