Time is the biggest challenge for everyone, especially self-employed professionals or small business owners. We only have a limited amount of it and once it’s gone, we can’t get it back.
I have learnt a few things over the past two years of being self-employed, and have picked up some great tips from other people about how to be better with my time.
Here are my top time management tips:
Grocery or Food Shopping
This can be a big-time killer if you aren’t careful. My solution is to do one large grocery shop for the week and #mealprep some meals in advance.
I have learnt that if I do one large shop on a Sunday (or at the start of your week) and plan out my weekly meals, this helps free up a lot of my time. Cooking up some meals and freezing them also means not having to think about what you’re going to cook when you get home late.
Not only does this allow me to concentrate on more important things, it also ensures that I continue to eat healthy, home-cooked meals. Planning out my meals and taking lunch to the office also helps my budget, because I don’t have to pick up takeaway food or buy lunch every day.
“Think ahead. Don’t let day-to-day operations drive out planning.” – Donald Rumsfeld
2. Time Block Tasks
I quickly learnt that even though I thought I was good at multiple tasking – I sucked at it. And what I thought was me being efficient was actually killing my productivity.
I took some time to list all of my daily and weekly tasks and then broke these down into work and personal tasks. I allocated time blocks for each task and soon my calendar began to fill up.
This allowed me to focus 100% on the task that I was doing and then move onto the next block. Making sure I allowed time for my personal life was very important; after two and a half years of working flat out, my health and relationships were beginning to suffer. By knowing what I had to do and when I had allowed time for it meant that I could plan better.
Planning for the big things (and the small) is essential. Allowing time to check your email inbox was something that I had read about in the “4 hour work week” and thought was a bit over the top. But after catching myself getting distracted by notifications on my phone each time a new email arrived, I knew this needed to be added to my weekly schedule. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Only check emails three times a day
With a constant stream of emails filling up your inbox each day, it’s hard not to spend your whole day reading and replying to them. I still catch myself arriving at the office first thing in the morning and pushing my to-do list aside as an urgent email comes in.
It has taken some time to get used to and still requires some discipline – but only checking my email inbox three times a day has freed up my time and headspace to make sure other necessary things get done. An example of a good strategy is to check your inbox once in the morning around 9:30 am, again around midday and finally in the afternoon at say, 4:30 pm.
4. Once a month, block out a morning or afternoon to get your personal stuff done
If you have staff and employees, you may be able to outsource some of the things you don’t really want to do or those that are more suited to someone else. However, there is a lot of stuff that you can’t outsource and that you are required to do yourself, such as doctors’ appointments, dental check-ups, getting your car serviced, or being home for tradesmen to look at your leaking tap. Unfortunately, like most businesses, they are only open during the week and during office hours, which makes it hard to get to your appointments while also trying to focus on running your own business.
I have found that blocking out one day or a few hours a month to tick off all of my personal tasks has freed up a lot of time. Anytime I need to book a personal appointment or service I try and schedule it for after lunch time on the last Friday of the month, which is my errand day. By doing this, I don’t have to worry about re-scheduling appointments or moving things around because I have already blocked out that day.
These are a few of my tips and tricks that have worked for me. I am still guilty of spending too much time in my inbox each day but I am slowly getting better. I hope you find some of these tips helpful.
Ross Marais – More Time Financial
– Articles / Books mentioned – 4 Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss