There was so much great content at Type A Conference again this year, and I came hoome with some many great takeaways. The time management hands on class I signed up for is a great example. So the next time you call me and I don’t answer? Now you know why.
Amy Bair @resourcefulmom
Brainstorm on paper all the things in your life you value most – people, showering, wine, whatever you value most:
For me, this list includes: Children, Reading, Cooking, Husband, Volunteering, Time to write, Friends, Fun activities with small children, Ability to afford to do activities/what I want, Good food, Having a safe and secure home, My cleaning lady/not having to clean/do dishes/take out the trash, Pampering myself periodically with mani/pedi/massage, Having childcare when I need it, Playing with technology, Enough sleep
Amy: List all the things you do in your day – don’t skip things like shower. What are you shocked by?
Answers from the audience:
The time I *should* have. I should be able to organize this better to get done the things that should get done. What is the reality of what I spent my time doing (Jenn @SuperJenn) I might be running around in circles
How organized my morning schedule has become – then it all goes downhill
How much time I spend in the car
How little time there is in the day just to be and not going somewhere or doing anything
How wanting to be in control and independent leads to not asking for help from others
Spending a lot of time reacting to please others rather than doing things for me that need to be done
Amy: A lot of us are feeling the same sorts of pressures that we are not spending our time the way we could or should.
We’re all feeling a little anxious at this point. Some of it is all fleshed out for us, but let’s go through it. List and prioritize. I put children in alternating days of preschool and always had someone with me. When my business really started to grow, I had 16 hours a week of childcare – 4 day a week preschool and full time school. This is important for me because I struggle to get everything done and not say no to my kids all day long. These are things that work for me.
The to do list at the start of the day doesn’t have to be in priority order. I put the to do list into three categories of items. Work – things I have to do for my blog or a twitter party or something for someone else. Home – remember to take kids to the orthodontist, etc. I want credit, and I want to do those items and cross them off. Sometimes if I don’t put filling out the Girl Scout form on the list – something that may only take 30 seconds – it won’t get done otherwise. Radar – things that I need to do some time in the next 2-3 weeks. If I don’t write it here, I will forget about it.
What isn’t crossed off transfers to the next day. The list of things to do gets ridiculously long, but many are only 2-3 minutes – you feel so good crossing them off and you know you aren’t forgetting anything. It’s the people who aren’t writing anything down who are getting manic. You can also do your to do list the night before if that works for you. I do it at night for the must dos, and then I revise it and add the rest of the items and prioritize the to do list in the morning.
Stop multi-tasking. At some point in evolution, men’s brains realized they’re screwing everything up and so their brains stopped letting them do this. We aren’t productive when we multi-task. We only fool ourselves that this is working. We’re doing things 80% most of the time. Don’t have multiple windows open. Don’t check your email in the middle of doing something else. Just don’t do it.
Have a “one touch only” policy. Don’t open an email and not deal with it right then. If you make this rule and stick to it, you will be so much more productive. If you don’t, it takes twice as long to deal with everything. If you have to make a decision on an email, then you are investing emotional energy if you don’t reply then. If you open it, then delete it or reply to it the first time.
Take advantage of downtime. Be realistic. You can use it in ways you don’t realize. It may be the time to do your radar list. It may be time to think about what’s on your “I wish I could” list. I bring non wifi stuff to do when I go to my children’s music lessons. I finish up with work fifteen minutes before I need to leave for the lessons, which gives me time to get together their instruments, something for them to do when the other one is having her lesson, and something I can work on.
You could use Windows Live Mesh – sets up remote access to your home PC. This is a great tool that will put all your emails into threads. It also learns your rules so that if you get a GroupOn email every day, you can set it up to delete all those subscription emails after 30 days. There are all sorts of great tools within your email these days to help you be more productive and not get bogged down.
Keep a central calendar and share with your spouse and coworkers. You’re not making more lists this way. It’s a great help for delegating so that everyone knows what’s planned and what needs to be done.
Don’t waste time reinventing the wheel. Don’t tweet asking if someone has a template you’re looking for. You know you’ll end up crowdsourcing and chatting for 20 minutes. Google it and take what you find. It doesn’t have to all be just yours for a template. Go ahead and use something someone else has created and put your tweaks on it that you need to.
Make your email work for you. If you use your electronic calendar, use the reminders so you know what you’re supposed to do and when. We have too much going on to place the “what am I missing” feeling. There is a tool called Sweep on Hotmail to move all of what you don’t want to keep using various rules you set up, for example, anything that says “press release” in it. Be ok that maybe the one cool thing that’s in all the “press” emails will get deleted because you just saved yourself a ton of time and mental energy. It can also send all future messages to trash that follow that rule. Gmail has similar tools, as does Outlook. Spend a half hour to make five rules that will save you a ton of time.
Reward yourself. Make it realistic though – no thirty minutes of tweeting for ten minutes of work.
Set end times. Write down when you will stop working on something. I set almost certain office hours to know that I’m going to spend so much time on a project, and then I need to move on.
I will highlight on my to do list. Green items are the ones that have to be done today. Yellows are the items that, if greens are all crossed off, get done next. Yellows become a green the next day if they aren’t completed. Red (pink highlighter) are items that need to be done this week, but if they don’t get done Mon/Tues/Wed, that’s ok. It’s about getting all tasks written down and prioritizing once they’re down.
Delegate – look seriously at what you do during the week that you could pay someone to do for $20. It’s something that wouldn’t kill the bank but gets things done and saves you hours a week. It’s those hours you can use on other things. An intern is the greatest thing ever. I have someone I hire to go through all my email from my contact form. She knows what she has to do to respond to them and only forwards to me the ones I need to deal with. It’s a huge time saver for me.
Go through and honestly look at what you spend your time doing that you could spend less time doing it so that you can streamline them. You can’t just toss things out, but maybe you can do them faster or less often.
Change your settings and alerts on your computer so that you will only check email after you do these three things or once every half hour. You don’t need something popping up or making that bing every time you receive an email or every five minutes telling you how many emails you have. If you keep those alerts alive, you spend half your day pressing send and receive. It’s not productive to be doing this and going back and forth.
You aren’t going to miss anything good because you didn’t respond to it immediately – things may come through, but you are ok now. I understand that there are opportunities that you will miss out on in very rare instances that require immediate response. However, I’m alive, it’s ok, and I think we have to just say at a certain point, if I structure my day this way, I’ll have all these benefits. The occasional cost is that I might miss something, but if you structure your day you won’t miss things. And definitely turn off your sound effects. The binging and everything else is incredibly distracting.
I only take scheduled calls. If the phone rings and I’m not expecting the call, I won’t answer it. I’ll call them back when I have a chance later, but this keeps me from getting interrupted and sucked into other conversations.
Find ways to share your tasks – can you do morning carpool and someone does afternoon carpool? If a day is completely messed up, then reschedule activities so fewer days are messed up – but maybe more messed up – and you have some days where you can truly get things done. Don’t micromanage bathtime or brushing teeth; just let it go. If you do divide all tasks, you may never see your spouse. You become coworkers working different shifts, which is a danger. Find what works for you to protect your time so you can get done what you need to do.
If someone emails you something asking you to work on a project and you don’t have the time to do it well right now, tell them that you don’t have the bandwidth for it now, but that you can do it by X and do it well if they want – or you can do it now but it won’t be to the quality that you wish. Clients inevitably choose quality over having something done immediately.
Tell yourself, I am ignoring my children from 4-5pm when I would like to play a game with them. But I spent an hour snuggling with them at 6am, and if I were working full time, they would be in childcare. Focus on the good that you do. That’s how you know you’re spending your time the right way.