Mel Kettle is a communications and social media consultant, speaker, blogger, educator, coach, bookworm, obsessive foodie and eatie, and a budding photographer. She blogs on marketing and social media at www.melkettle.com.au. Mel is passionate about working with organisations to show them how to communicate effectively so they can develop communities, share their stories and raise awareness. She particularly enjoys working with people who want to make a difference to other people’s lives. In her spare time Mel writes a food blog, The cook’s notebook.
In today’s highly connected age, where everyone just seems to be BUSY, BUSY, BUSY, time seems to be more and more difficult to manage. At least, that’s often how I feel. And whether you run your own business, or you work for another, the demands on your time sometimes seem endless.
My top tips to make sure I get through my responsibilities, be productive and still have a bit of time to do fun things are:
1. Prioritise your time – Every Friday afternoon I look at my diary for the next two weeks and see what I need to do. What meetings do I have, what social commitments do I have, what outcomes to do I need to achieve, do I have deadlines? I do the same before I finish work each day – what do I need to prioritise for tomorrow? I keep a weekly and a daily to-do list with a focus on a few key tasks that need to be achieved. I have two columns on my page – one for the little stuff (paying bills, chasing up invoices, things I need to buy), and one for the big stuff (client projects, business development etc). I try and keep a degree of flexibility so that I can add or delete if necessary, and in case timeframes change.
2. Look at what you are spending your time doing – If you aren’t getting everything done, chances are you are not using your time most effectively. Consider keeping a timesheet for a week and log everything. You may get a very rude shock when it comes to how many hours a day you spend on social media or watching TV.
3. Get up earlier – Hanging around in bed in the morning can waste a lot of time. I know if I don’t set an alarm, my natural wake-up time is about 8am, making for a late start. I know when I do set an alarm, I can sometimes hit snooze 4-5 times before getting up. If you also struggle with mornings, consider putting your alarm out of reach so you actually have to get out of bed to turn it off.
4. 15 minutes a day – if there is something you really want to achieve, but you have no time, allocate 15 minutes a day to it. I have a colleague who wrote a book last year by getting up a bit earlier every day and focusing on writing for 15 minutes every morning – after three months she had a solid first draft, she now has a book deal.
5. Be aware of your personal energy levels – Do you have more energy in the morning or in the afternoon? Plan your day around when you need to be fresh to tackle a challenge. If you usually slump around 3pm, then that might be the time to go for a quick walk to refresh.
6. Manage your social media use – I’m highly addicted to Twitter and could spend (err, waste) many hours talking to people that way. Not unexpectedly, it’s not all business focused (despite what I try to convince myself)! If I need to focus on a task, I now turn off all social media so I can’t be tempted, and allocate certain times of the day when I can be active. Don’t forget to also turn off all notifications on all your social media (and email) as they can be very distracting.
7. Manage your email – One of my most productive friends only checks her email three times a day. About an hour after she starts work (so she can get a few of the important things done first), an hour after lunch, and the hour or so before she goes home. As she reads each email she replies (if necessary) and then files. Emails requiring more action are flagged and tasks prioritized. This helps keep her inbox under control. I’ve never heard her complain about 1,700 unread emails…
8. Learn to say no – something that for many can be very difficult. I now think, “If I say yes, what does that mean I won’t be able to do?” Especially if I’m saying yes to requests that may not have a lot of financial or personal gain for me. I find I’m getting a lot better at saying no as I’m getting older, as I am becoming more discerning with how I want to spend my time, whether it’s client-related or personal-related.
9. Keep some spare time just in case – I try to fill my diary to about 70% capacity, and have some flexibility. This way if I’m asked to do a really interesting project, or get involved with an activity that sounds really fun, I can say yes. It has also been quite helpful when deadlines have suddenly shifted! That time always gets filled – whether it’s doing some extra business development, writing an extra blog post or just having an occasional long lunch with a girlfriend.
10. Take breaks – Schedule in breaks throughout your day, week, month, year. Breaks from work help your brain refocus, and often help you realize what’s really important. Schedule time every day for a couple of mini-breaks – a relaxing cup of coffee for 15 minutes, 30 minutes away from your desk to have lunch, a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air. Plan regular mini-breaks and an annual holiday and book it! Every year my husband and I plan a holiday and 2-3 long weekends away every year. We work out some dates and pop them in our diaries. They don’t always happen, but they definitely don’t happen if we don’t plan them. Scheduling time away also gives me something to look forward to when I’m drowning in work and wondering if I’ll ever see daylight!
What are your top time management tips?