Time is money, yet some many suck at time management. Why does it happen? How can you apply Mindful Planning™ to fix it?
You know you suck at time management when your days pass, you’re constantly busy, but productivity isn’t your cup of tea.
The good thing is that you aren’t alone.
Some people even claim they’re good with planning and productivity, yet, they still suck at time management.
It happens because they struggle prioritizing their tasks.
They do A LOT, but, they have a feeling there’s still a lot left undone.
The amount of hours worked and the number of completed to-dos don’t match.
If knowing you aren’t the only one who sucks at time management makes you feel more human, unfortunately, it doesn’t make your life any easier.
Some of the things you can’t do because of lack of time are:
- Eating warm meals
- Getting enough night sleep
- Going out in the weekend
- Attending an event
- Preparing yourself for an interview
- Rehearsal an important speech
I’m pretty sure you know how important they all are. Unfortunately, wanting them really bad doesn’t free slots in your schedule.
You must start to make the right choices about how you spend your time.
Otherwise, you’ll remain stressed, overwhelmed, and inefficient.
The blog series
This post is part of a series.
Through these articles, I help those who fear they’re never going to get things done because they “suck at” one or more aspects of productivity.
They’re blog posts for those who are close to losing (or who have already lost) hope of improving their planning and productivity skills.
Each month, I’ll share with you basic steps on how you can turn the table and become more productive one day at a time.
The method I use is The 5 Steps To Mindful Planning™. It’s the same basic principles of my online courses and coaching sessions.
My goal is to help you, little by little, remove all the chaos from your schedule and start focusing on what really matters to you.
Since there’s no magic pill and I don’t want to add even more stress to your life, we will advance slowly. Allowing you time to adapt your routine before moving forward.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What does it mean to suck at time management?
How many times have you wished the day had 48 hours instead of 24?
I know I said it many many times!
What I didn’t realize back then was that even if I had 72 hours in a single day, I’d still mess it up.
The issue wasn’t the amount of minutes available to me. The way I organized them was the cause of my mess!
While I was getting a lot done, my health was paying the price.
Me-time?!? What is it?
Eating was more like grabbing whatever was in front of me.
Running to catch a train would leave me breathless for longer than I wanted.
But the worst of all was the stress!
I was frequently stressed because I was:
- Always busy but not accomplishing enough.
- Tired all the time without being able to rest.
- Feeling overwhelmed by the open items in my to-do list.
- Sabotaging my personal growth for not investing in it.
Do any of these points mean something to you?
If yes, I urge you to start doing something about your time management.
Below, you find how I implement Mindful Planning™ so that I don’t suck at time management anymore.
How to avoid sucking at time management?
If you really want to stop sucking at time management, you’ll have to become aware of what is happening to your time.
In fact, it’s the basics of time management: awareness!
You can get yourself the coolest apps, the neatest planner, or develop the most incredible method ever! But, time management works only if you truly understand the big picture.
The first step of Mindful Planning™ is “Measure”.
If you haven’t started assessing your activities yet, stop postponing it.
[ninja-popup ID=11386]Grab my time-tracking sheet[/ninja-popup] and begin to list all your activities right away.
Now take the Eisenhower Matrix (I made this template specially for you), and go to the next step of Mindful Planning™: Analyze.
Don’t let yourself get attached to anything.
If this step feels too difficult, imagine you’re doing it for someone else. It helps a lot!
You might love ironing, but if delegating it to someone else in the family or a professional will save you precious time, just do it.
If you have a website, are you sure that doing everything on your own is the best option for you and your business?
The same can be said to any other activity you list as not important and not urgent.
Even if you’re an entrepreneur don’t underestimate the value of your time.
Interesting enough, employees value their hourly income more than most business owners. Mainly those who have just started!
While you may have opted not to set a fixed salary for yourself yet, it doesn’t mean you work for free.
In fact, think of how much you charge for your services.
Focus your time on the things that only you can do.
If you’re a coach, it means working with your clients, for example.
If hiring a VA right away to take care of your social media isn’t an option, make sure it’s one of your top priorities!
But above all, work on your important and urgent tasks first.
Don’t fall back to your old habits.
Make sure you have a system in place that supports your time management efforts.
If you hired someone to help you out, give them all the information necessary to do the work the same way as you do it.
Looking back at the way you generally act upon your tasks is great to give you an idea of your priorities and efficiency.
It works like a thermometer of our as-is productivity level.
But you don’t live in the past, do you?
What you did is gone and the time wasted with busy work won’t come back, unfortunately.
Whether the evening before or first thing in the morning, before you start your (professional) activities, fill in the Eisenhower Matrix with the items in your to-do list.
Your list should be realistic by now.
So at least on paper, you have more enough time to accomplish everything you wrote down.
To stop sucking at time management, you have to plan your day in a way you’ll be closer to your goal.
Repeat this exercise daily until you don’t need the visual cue anymore.
- Bring awareness to your planning.
- Remove guess work.
- Improve productivity.
- Eliminate stress.
There’s much more in time management, but with these Mindful Planning™ tips you’ll be on the right path to success in no time!
The next installment of this blog series is going to be about resolutions.
Even though it’s not a word I like to use, I want you to stop sucking at them once and for all.
Read the other posts in this series:
Create a schedule as part of you productivity plan. And if you think you don’t have time for that, check these tips.
You have to create a schedule to be able to follow up your productivity throughout the day.
Yes, you must have a (realistic) to-do list too.
Still, to set the best time to get things done, you need to check your schedule first.
When you don’t create a schedule, you go with flow.
You remember you have to do things such as:
- Take the kids to school.
- Do the groceries.
- Hand in a report to your manager.
- Attend a project meeting.
While you know very well what needs to be done, everything is in the air.
Time passes fast and suddenly you realize “it is time”!
But you’re in the middle of something else and the dilemma of having to choose stresses you.
If it’s relative to work, you know the answer.
But who hasn’t entered an important long meeting in a rush, forgetting papers or even without stopping by the restroom first?
When you have your own business or work from home, it’s then that you (again):
- Drop the gym.
- Grab some unhealthy snack instead of cooking a healthy meal.
- Stay awake for longer than you should.
Since you don’t have anyone waiting for you and you can always come up with a good excuse, you just do it.
It’s true that no one is coming after you to pull your ears, but these aren’t the best options for you in the long run.
If you don’t want it to keep on happening, you got to find time to create a schedule today.
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The importance of creating a schedule
Creating a schedule will indeed require time from you.
In the beginning, when you still need to build the habit and set your priorities, it’ll take you even longer.
But this isn’t reason for you to lose heart and give up.
On the contrary, it’ll only get better if you start creating a schedule.
Little by little, you’ll get accustomed to separating time to plan.
And as you progress, you’ll also:
- Improve your system.
- Become more efficient.
- See the results.
- Feel motivated to keep it up.
By giving, however, your days will continue to be chaotic. Nothing will change and you’ll still feel tired, stressed, overwhelmed and unaccomplished.
Give yourself time to get accustomed to creating a schedule.
Don’t set a due date for your effort, though.
While some people may already feel comfortable after a couple of weeks, the same process might take months to someone else.
No matter how long it takes you to feel comfortable to create a schedule, it’s still worth it.
If you fall short sometimes, just pick it up from where you started.
There’s no reason to feel guilty or stress about it. Let it go and move on.
To be sincere, it’s more a matter of making the time than finding it.
You’ll need to rearrange your planning.
Make sure you have at least 30 minutes to create a schedule in the beginning.
It isn’t going to stay this way.
As you progress and develop a process, you’ll be able to complete your weekly schedule in 15 minutes or less.
52 Things That Are Killing Your Productivity
If you’re too overwhelmed at the moment to even think about about blocking so much time in your calendar just for planning, I highly recommend you downloading my list [ninja-popup ID= 11356]52 Things That Are Killing Your Productivity[/ninja-popup].
This list contains time-wasters that might not be so obvious to you. Yet, chances are preventing you from finding time for things that really matter.
At the end of the list, I added questions to help you gain clarity about your own productivity killers. By answering them you can start work on them.
I also want to invite you to join my Facebook Group #PlanWithDebbie. There, you can share your struggles and brain storm about them.
Find time to create a schedule by working on your time-wasters.
You should also start tracking your daily activities to have more visibility of your schedule.
In times when we’re always connected, you’ll be surprised by the amount of time spent (read, wasted) with non-productivity tasks.
I understand that if you’re a blog or a solopreneur, social media plays a major role in your business.
If you’re a professional, you may also want to stay in touch with the influencers of your field to learn the latest from your industry.
There’s nothing wrong with social media, but the way you use it might be harming your productivity.
Try an experiment, install a tool like RescueTime on your computer and check your social media time at the end of the day.
If you opt for their Premium plan, my personal favorite, you can also track time away from the computer.
What it does is prompting a screen in which you can input what you have done while you were away from the computer.
You pick the name of your main categories and add a specific description of your activity.
I separate my social media time away from my computer into “Other Work” or “Personal”.
The first one is productive time (interaction with my followers, posting for the IBA, etc). The second, not productive (checking my feeds for the fun).
At the end of the week, I have a good idea of how well (or not) I spent my time.
This gives me a realistic insight of my productivity and helps me create a schedule for the next week.
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Create a Schedule
Don’t take time-tracking for granted. It’s the best way you can find time to create a schedule and to do the things you love.
Start by making a weekly schedule. Create a dump list, I love Evernote for that, and use it as your reference when creating a schedule.
Make sure you stick to your schedule to be success with your planning efforts.
And if you need help with finding time to create a schedule, don’t hesitate to stop by #PlanWithDebbie and ask your questions.
Read the other posts in this series:
Start to track time today with the right tools to measure your productivity level as-is and start improving it.
Let’s continue with the series about how to become more productive. Today, we’ll look into time-tracking as a tool to achieve more.
It’s not the first time I touch the subject, though.
By keeping your schedule in sight, you can find time to:
But it doesn’t work only in your private life.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or work for someone else, you can also start to track time to become more productive.
Why is it necessary to track time?
If you’re a freelancer, you know the importance of time-tracking very well.
Virtual Assistants, for instance, generally bill per hour. So not only they must be able to provide feedback to their clients about how they used their time, but they also need to make sure they don’t end up working for free.
However, if you earn a fixed salary at the end of the month or you’re your own boss, time is still money in the business world.
And just like money, you don’t want to waste it.
You want to use your minutes mindfully to avoid misspending them or burning yourself out.
My favorite tools to track time
I use different tools to track time depending on my goal and availability.
Here’s my top 5 favorite ones.
One of these tools is RescueTime.
It’s an app you install on your computer and let it do the work for you.
Yes, it is this simple.
If you find it difficult to manually input your hours, RescueTime is the app for you.
All you have to do is install it and edit the settings.
For more options, I recommend its paid version. However, it does have a free alternative that works as fine.
RescueTime is excellent to [ninja-popup ID=11356]spot productivity killers[/ninja-popup].
If you have an iPhone, I highly recommend Atracker.
Even if you opt for RescueTime on your desktop, you may need to be more specific about your time tracking.
For example, there’s a huge difference if I’m on Instagram:
- Just browsing my feed.
- Interacting with my followers.
- Sharing a post for the IBA.
The first one is fun. The second is part of my work. The third is one of my responsibilities as a member of the IBA Board of Directors.
While one is not productive, the other 2 are highly productive to me.
Therefore, to track time on a deeper level, I use Atracker.
If you use a paper planner or a bullet journal, you may want to track time on it, as well.
I use an Erin Condren Hourly Life Planner for that.
Most of my work is indeed online, but not everything.
I have calls and appointments I don’t want to use Atracker for, but yet, I don’t lose sight of the time spent with them either.
Maybe I was less productive on a day because I spent more time on the phone with my mom than planned or received an unexpected call. But since I write down everything, they didn’t get lost.
If you’re brand new to time tracking, have no clue where to start or don’t know which tool to use,[ninja-popup ID=11386]I created a time-tracking sheet for you[/ninja-popup].
You can [ninja-popup ID=11386]download it for FREE here[/ninja-popup].
With this sheet, you can not only track time on a daily basis, but it contains a guide for your weekly review as well.
Tracking time is a very important step in productivity, however, it doesn’t end here.
Unless you analyze the data collected and start working on it, you can’t become more productive.
If you’re already a member of my Tribe, you can access this sheet in my library.
Finally, I also created a Google Sheet for a monthly review of your progress.
Weekly reviews are ideal for spotting issues soon so that you can work on them without delay.
When you take a look back at the month as a whole, though, you can evaluate the big picture.
It gives you an idea of your energy levels throughout the period, helping you plan your projects more mindfully.
You can get the Google Sheet here. You’ll be prompted to save a copy of it on your Google Drive.
Further instructions on how to use it are available on the sheet itself.
What you can achieve if you track time
To be able to solve your productivity block, you must be able to know what it is.
If you don’t tell the doctor what you’re feeling, they can’t prescribe you the required treatment to heal you.
Among other signs, you aren’t productive when, on a regular basis, you:
- Leave tasks undone at the end of the day.
- Cannot keep up with your responsibilities.
- Deliver your work late and miss deadlines.
- Feel frustrated and overwhelmed by your to-do list.
You feel stressed and maybe hopeless, but it doesn’t help you become more productive. The solution is working on what is causing to produce under the expectations.
One of the ways to find out what your main issue is by tracking time.
To be able to start managing your schedule, you’ll have to measure it first.
Test the tools I mentioned above and pick the one(s) you prefer.
You may find it cumbersome in the beginning until you make it a habit.
Don’t sweat if you forget to log something in the beginning. Just make sure you do it as soon as possible.
Keep the process simple and automate as much as you can (if that’s your thing, of course).
Ideally, time tracking has to become second nature to you.
You don’t have fewer hours in your day than those who live the lifestyle of your dreams. You’re just not using your time as mindfully.
And if you consider yourself quite organized, but still struggle here and there to get all your tasks done without having long days, time tracking is also the answer for you.
Unless your to-do lists aren’t realistic, you’re wasting time somewhere and need to figure out where.
Start to track time today and take a step towards a more productive lifestyle.
Read the other posts in this series:
Disclosure: Some of the links above are “affiliate links.” It means if you click on the link and subscribe or purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Thank you, in advance for your support!
It’s honorable to develop new skills and want to improve oneself. But how can you make time to implement everything that you learn?
It’s necessary that you make time for yourself if you want to achieve your goals.
Because we’re motivated about improving ourselves, we create room in our packed schedule to learn the required skills.
For example: if you’re a blogger, you probably have already signed up for more (free) courses you could take in one lifetime.
Enthusiast graduate students can sometimes join more activities and disciplines they can handle.
In a desire to climb the corporate ladder as fast as possible, you may apply for way too many projects without realizing it.
Even though all these initiatives are honorable, they tend to lead us to burnout and stress.
And there’s another side-effect that isn’t always taken into consideration: having no time to put things into practice.
I’m the first one to support your efforts to learn something new to become a better version of yourself.
Yet, all the knowledge will be for nothing if you don’t do anything with it.
So how can you make time to implement everything you know or learn?
The 3-stage plan
There’s a lot of information out there! In fact, we’re overloaded by it.
Every single day we discover a new system and new technologies.
We learn different ways to things to have better results and become more productive.
These are excellent times to be alive, but too much of a good thing is still too much.
In the struggle between staying in the dark and keeping up with everything, we must develop a reasonable approach to our schedule.
Otherwise, we risk investing in skills we’ll never be able to use just because we don’t make time for them.
How can you start using your knowledge when you already struggle to make time for your current activities?
Before touching the issue of making time, let’s begin with the basics: planning knowledge acquisition in 3 stages:
- Be selective
- Be cautious
- Be smart
When you subscribe to a newsletter or join a new course, what do you want to achieve with it?
It has nothing to do with the quality of the content.
It makes no difference if it’s a free challenge or an expensive in-person training.
However, unless you plan to implement the content you’ll learn, it’ll be a waste of time, money and energy.
Before signing up for a new venture, mainly if you already struggle with your time management and productivity, ask yourself:
- How this new activity will benefit you.
- How it’ll bring you closer to your goals.
- How you’ll put it into practice.
- How much time you’ll need on a regular basis.
If this exercise already overwhelms you, maybe you should think again before hitting the enrollment button.
That course you have seen might be excellent, but the timing may not be the best for you.
Many classes and courses offer an estimate completion time in advance.
It’s helpful because it allows you to plan your days until its end.
If you need to cancel or postpone some existing appointments, you get more than enough time to do so.
But we all know life isn’t perfect, don’t we?
Are you still leaving space in your schedule for the unexpected?
You can call it your Plan B or Contingency Plan.
Whether it’s one or 2 hours or even an entire day each week, leave some empty slots in your calendar, just in case.
When your agenda is packed just by adding the new activity itself, are you sure you’ll have time to implement what you’ll learn?
Think of things such as:
- traffic jams
- sick kids (or yourself)
- overtime at work
- weather conditions
Taking hours away from your sleep may help once or twice, but don’t make it part of the plan if you want to be successful.
After examining all the pros and cons and making your decision, it’s time to be smart about how you’ll use your time.
If you’re going to learn a new language, did you think about including other activities that will speed up the process?
- Watching movies
- Reading articles or books
- Listening to music
- Practicing the alphabet (if applicable)
They aren’t part of the course’s curriculum, but they’ll support your progress.
When it comes to physical activities, for instance, include an extra warm-up and cool down time in your planning.
Other ways you can make time to implement improvements in a smart way are by:
Make a smart plan that will support your learning efforts.
How to make time
It’s time for action!
After going through the 3-stages plan and making your final decision, you are going to actually start making time to implement what you learn.
Once you sign up for a new course or activity, add it to your calendar. Also, include an implementation period.
Let’s say you’ll be attending a 3-day event in your area of expertise.
I’m sure you’ll leave it with notes and action items that are the key to your success.
Don’t wait until next month to start!
Plan any related to-dos asap.
Before jumping to another discipline, finish what you have started.
During summer, it’s common to find numerous courses of our interest.
It’s hard to stick to just one or two per year when one craves to improve. But you better do so!
Stay in the niche of your goals and don’t start another activity until you finished the one you’re currently working on.
Stick to the plan
Keep in mind that things won’t be perfect because there isn’t such a thing as perfection.
While you may have to go through (minor) detours, it doesn’t mean you can’t make time to implement your newly acquired knowledge.
Be flexible to avoid that stress takes over, but stick to your main plan.
You were selective, cautious and smart when making your choice.
You can do it!
Just follow these 3 steps and you’ll make time to implement what you learn and become more productive without stress.