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Day 25: Improve Time Management

TODAY'S PROMPT:

n. tomorrow - a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, and achievement is stored.

Buy a journal or planner, start a free account with a service like Trello, find a sticky note pad lying around the house – whichever of these methods you choose or whatever method you come up with on your own – and begin a time management system.

Share any of your practices with our online community or at the next local meeting!

To start, I (Casey) am going to come clean about an addiction I have – color-coordinated organization. I was one of those students in grade school that relished a new packet of different-colored markers that I could use to assign myself homework in my perfect color-coordinated planner system (red for math, blue for history, purple for science...you get the idea). Not much has changed now. You'll find random sticky notes around my flat with "Today's 'Must Do' Tasks; Today's 'Can Do' Tasks" that make my husband's eyes roll to the back of his head. So it's fitting that I'm the one writing this prompt, because these habits probably make Kyle's eyes roll as well.

Even with a small, fledgling business, it's going to be very easy for tasks to get away from you. Whether you're producing and selling one simple product or starting a multi-person company with many links in your business chain from you to the customer, you will be multi-tasking, and things can easily get out of control.

We all know that very tempting thought that lingers in the back of our minds – "I can just do it tomorrow." Tomorrow is that promise land where things never actually have to get done. I am certainly not perfect and do not manage to tick off every item on my to-do list on time, but I thought I'd share some of my habits that have helped me stay on track when things feel like they're getting out of hand.

  1. Go to bed slightly earlier, and wake up slightly earlier. You may not be a morning person like me, but there is something serene in the early hours of the morning. A whole day is ahead of you, ready to be seized. Getting up without pressing the snooze button, making your bed, having a coffee, and writing in your journal will make you feel significantly more productive than if you sleep in and rush out the door.
  2. On Sunday evening or Monday morning, map out your tasks for the week. Identify which tasks must be done on time and which can have future deadlines. Learning to identify urgent vs. important tasks is a key skill when managing yourself. We suggest spreading important tasks out over the whole week and completing urgent tasks as quickly as possible.
  3. DO. This may sound incredibly oversimplified, but we recently read a book that emphasized the importance of Instead of thinking, "Oh, I'll just send that email to that customer in a couple of days, there's no rush," spend the five minutes while you're thinking of it to write the customer back. You'll find that all of these looming things in your brain that you say you'll do later are taking up space and causing subliminal stress. The more you can do things as you think of them, the more time you have to accomplish other things as they come up.
  4. Communicate with your employees or partners (if you have them) and with your customers. Managing other people's expectations about your time frame for tasks is key. This will also help you continuously perfect your understanding of your production time, and everyone around you will be happier because you are communicating your priorities with them.
  5. Don't waste too much time with email, if you can get away with it. Perhaps, designate a time in the morning and the late afternoon when you read and respond to emails. Of course, if your business is email-based and inquiries require an immediate response, that's different. But if you're a craftsperson, you can easily waste hours reading through and responding to emails and inevitably get distracted by something else on social media or the web. Allotting specific times to email will ensure that you always respond to customers on time and that you don't get sidetracked.

We could go on about time management for much longer, but those are a few suggested practices that should help you get organized!

Leo Baubata's Zen Habits guide[1] is also good external resource on the subject, along with Paolo Cardini’s TED Talk about monotasking.[2]

[1] Baubata, Leo. The Essential Time Saving Guide for Busy People.  https://zenhabits.net/the-essential-time-saving-guide-for-busy-people. 27 Jan 2017

[2] Cardini, Paolo. Video: Forget Multitasking, Try Monotasking.  https://www.ted.com/talks/paolo_cardini_forget_multitasking_try_monotasking 27 Jan 2017

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