Here’s the deal: I got me three year old twins, a husband, a business and all the laundry, cooking, shopping and cleaning that goes along with it. Being the “at home” parent, even though I work full time, means getting saddled with tasks I have to fit in my day, yet be wildly effective at growing my business and serving my clients. Overwhelm is an old friend of mine. That and a nice glass of Yellow Tail at the end of the day to “unwind”.
No where in my life has been more helpfully affected than by my time management/effective planning practice. More than managing time, I consider it part of my self-care “how I put myself first in my life” thought process. Ready to fight your overwhelm and procrastination? Let’s go!
While I don’t fully have time to unpack it here, know that real effective time management starts with getting clear about who you are in the Meta sense. The first thing all my clients do is create a “Life Blueprint” for this very reason. Managing your time is step #4 in a a process of #1 – Knowing where it is you are trying to go/who you are trying to become, #2 – Deeply connecting to your “why” and mission in life, #3 Effective Goal Setting, then you can get to #Effective Planning and Time Management. So I’m assuming you’ve already deeply connected with where your ship is headed, why and that you’ve laid out the necessary steps to get there. You want your time management to come “down the mountain” so to speak. The “flow” is really about that place where your work and your mission align so well that even though it might be challenging, it’s not really “work”.
The most important thing to remember is that Time Management is both an art and a science. If you get off track, don’t panic, just come back to the basic principles and pick up where you left off. Tomorrow is another day. Here’s my personal Productivity Planning Process:
Step #1 – Master Plan time in 3 month “chunks”
Before I can plan the day, week or month, I look at what it is I’m trying to get done over the next 3 months in all areas of my life. This a) helps me look at my life holistically so I don’t just have a bunch of “work” goals, and b) gives me some room to breathe if one particular week doesn’t go as planned. Life happens: sick kids, setbacks, etc., and it helps soothe the inner recovering perfectionist in me if I give myself a proper window to get things done.
Step #2 – Review Plans for the next 30 days
Now I just look at the next 4 weeks and move those big rocks into the appropriate week. This gives me a snapshot of what my headline goals for each week will be and also helps me make sure I’m not cramming too much crap into one week or another.
Step #3 – Commit to my Weekly Planning Process
Every Friday, I look at the week that has passed and the week to come. I celebrate what went right, and assess what went wrong. Then I do a mini version of the monthly planning process where I list all the things I want to do, group them together into weekly goals and then review my weekly calendar. Taking my commitments into account, I figure out what my daily goals are (which tasks I want to do on which days). This is KEY! Don’t skip this part. I keep this written our on my desk.
Step #4 – Prioritize Most Important Tasks for day (x2)
Evening Assessment – I have seen consistently, that a good tomorrow is planned for today. Its not always easy as once my kids are wrestled to bed, most times I just want to curl up with wine and reality television. However, I have really noticed a big difference in my anxiety level when I allow my mind to unpack what it might be worrying about for tomorrow. So, every evening, I create my top goals for the NEXT day. This allows all the random “buy toilet tissue” brain post-its to get sorted into place, reminds me of my priorities for the first 4 hours of my day (which is super useful when your kids have kept you up all night and your brain is mush the next morning). If your evenings don’t work, then schedule the last 10 minutes of your workday to do this. It’s a critical key to being more effective.
Morning Assessment – Every morning, I review my top goals for that day (as laid out the night before), and make any adjustments. I limit this to 3-5 things, max. I use the 5 Minute Planner and the Productivity Planner to help me do this.
Step #5 – Ditch Reactive, Prioritize Creative
Now that I know what I want to get done, the trick is to not get sucked into emails and other distractions that will stop me from doing big rock priorities. Some useful tips:
1. I don’t respond to email (I can’t always resist the urge to check), until my #1 Most Important Task is completed.
2. Limit distractions by putting my phone in airplane mode while doing my #1 Most Important task
3. No multi-tasking. I try only to do one thing at a time, when its real work. I only allow myself to multi-task errands that don’t require as much brainpower (doing laundry while cooking, for example)
I find I feel most productive less because I’m doing a lot of shit, it’s more that I’m consistently prioritizing what’s important and most aligned with ME, that I feel best.
What is it to you to have your time align with your values?
1. TaskRabbit – Outsourcing has become one of my favorite life hacks. Releasing my perfectionistic tendencies has given me the ability to focus my energy where I really need it, and editing vigorously with those areas where I don’t. With 3 year old twins, obviously there’s still lots to do, but nothing made me so happy this week as when for 2 1/2 hours, a lovely woman came to my house to redo my kitchen pantry (oh, THAT’S where that ketchup went!). Glorious. Take a look at your to do list, and find one thing someone else can do. And use that time to work, get a manicure, read a book, nap or whatever makes you happy!
2. The Productivity Planner – Created by the same team that developed the Five Minute Journal, it’s a weekly planner that keeps you SINGLE tasking and focused on Top Weekly outcomes. Its a great tool after you’ve done your initial goal setting to keep you on track. It’s how I got this newsletter done, ha!
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