What I Learned About Task & Time Management in a Tough Time! (5 Top Tips)

Young Woman Holding a BasketballThe biggest obstacle to success that people identified in our 2014  survey was a lack of time. Sadly, we can't add more hours to the day! But we can help you "have more time" by being more focused (and therefore more productive) with the time you have.

A few years ago, when this article was written , I was splitting my time between England and Canada dealing with a family situation. With two households to support and big goals, it was a real "wake-up" call in terms of how I manage my time and run my business. I HAD to be more productive in the time windows that I had. I've always been easily distracted - and also recently realised that I secretly procrastinate too. Not a great combination...

So I wrote this article with "5 Easy Ways To Achieve More and Set Yourself Up to Succeed in Your Business!"

That difficult situation gave me the determination to tackle my productivity and procrastination head-on. And as a direct result of the changes I have made to how I manage my time and priorities, I had my most productive year ever - despite all the travel and a challenging living situation. In just 3 months I got a ton of things done that had been on my priority list all year (or longer!) including becoming an ICF Business Partner, sending out and analyzing our annual reader survey, having my first article published/getting a regular slot on the ICF blog, hiring someone else to help me part-time, updating my newsletter sign-up form, growing and developing my Pinterest Account so that I now get more people visiting my website from Pinterest than Facebook and more!

How did I get it done? Well, I began by creating 1) a checklist to help me develop better time management habits and 2) a New To-Do Task List System to to help me manage my day. In fact I spent the first three months of the year figuring out what worked best for me - honing and improving my time-management (and the forms) on an almost weekly basis!

Here are 5 Easy Ways to Achieve More and Set Yourself Up To Succeed:

  1. First (and if you take nothing else away from this article!) plan your weekly and daily tasks. EVERY week, EVERY day, NO exceptions. I GUARANTEE that if you take just 15-30 minutes weekly and 5-10 minutes daily to plan and prioritise your tasks for the day ahead AND FOLLOW YOUR PLAN(!) you WILL achieve more than you thought possible! It takes commitment and follow-through, but by getting super-clear on what really matters - and doing it -  your business cannot help but surge forwards!
  2. Identify your "FILLER" Tasks! What better way to manage your time (in a business sense at least!) than to get stuff done? And that's where "Filler Tasks" come in. What tasks have you got that can be done in (around) 30 minutes (or less) that will move you forwards? Perhaps it's preparing for that phonecall regarding a joint venture, or it could be following up with a potential client, submitting your article to that blog, making those tweaks to your sales/social media page. They can be standalone tasks or smaller tasks of a bigger project that have been chunked down. It could be important admin, or those final steps to finally finish something.
    TOP TIP: Not only does it feel awesome to get things DONE, but on a busy day filled with clients or meetings, these "Filler" tasks mean you're still making progress on what matters!
    Note: This aligns nicely with "Quick Wins" in the Action Priority Matrix Tool. For more information on the Action Priority Matrix and how it works - see our Action Priority Matrix article on the ICF Blog here.
  3. Work first on what matters most. Successful time management is really about priority management. If we don't work on what is most important first, it's all too easy to fill our time with smaller, less important tasks - and then wonder where the time went. This is the "Big Rocks" principle: working on the big rocks first so that  we don't fill our lives with pebbles and sand... Each of us is unique re: what works with managing our time. Running your own business is a complex undertaking and there's no way you can do everything - which is all the more reason you should do everything in our power to be clear on what's most important and work on that first.
    TOP TIP: Often our top priorities - the things that make the biggest difference to us and our businesses are ALSO the most challenging. They involve us learning, stretching ourselves outside our comfort zones. And that's why we avoid them! But by getting really clear on what our top priorities are - identifying and writing them out - it gives us more incentive to work on them, and less excuses to procrastinate and avoid doing them!
  4. Use a TIMER to limit (and raise awareness of) how long you spend on "time sucks" like email and social media. Email and social media quickly become time "black holes" - no sooner have we emptied our inbox, checked and made a few posts on social media than there are fresh messages to look at, and the cycle starts again. Setting a timer means you'll know when your time has run out AND knowing that time is ticking focuses you on doing what really matters first! You may also like The Urgent-Important Matrix Tool and our article, Coaching Tools 101: The Urgent Important Matrix - What is it and How To Use it!
  5. Have you noticed that when we're stressed, it feels like we have less time? Well, last and by no means least, be more reasonable with yourself and your expectations of what you can do in the time available!

    I used to avoid looking at my "To Do" list because looking at it made me feel bad. Instead I would fall into working on whatever seemed most pressing. BUT because I wasn't looking at my "To Do" list I often let the important - but often more challenging tasks - slide. Then when I finally dared to take a look at my list and realised that the important tasks hadn't got done, I felt worse. This further cemented my (subconscious) view that the "To Do" List was to blame! Now, instead of trying to do too much and "failing", I plan a do-able day - and get to revel in my success! Emma-Louise Elsey

    I've noticed that things almost always take longer than I expect. When we expect to get too much done, and consequently "fail" to complete everything, we often feel bad and blame ourselves. So, when planning your day, check your diary for the day ahead, take into account meetings and other commitments before you plan out your daily tasks, and plan to do less! There will NEVER be enough time to do everything you want to do - so why not be kinder to yourself, be more reasonable - and set yourself up for success?

In Summary: By planning your "To Do" list weekly AND daily, identifying punchy "Filler" tasks to achieve something EVERY day - even on busy days, by working on your priorities first, avoiding time sucks and by planning to achieve less and reaching it, not only do we get more done, but we are constantly moving our business forwards, AND feel MUCH better about it! For me, all these add up to us feeling like we have more time - worth working at don't you think?

If you liked this article about managing your time more effectively, you may also find the following articles helpful or interesting:

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