Of all the challenges I’ve faced in my business, time management has been the most difficult by far. When you’re passionate and you love what you do, it’s easy to regularly put in 13+ hour days and not think much of it. But, eventually, this will catch up with you.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had those moments when you realize you haven’t seen the sun in days and your life is going by in a blur. Consistently working long hours can negatively impact your physical and mental health, your relationships, and more – but what can you do when your “to do” list seems like it will never end?
Sadly, I don’t have a magic wand that will make your problems disappear – but I am here to share a few time-management tips that have been life-changing for me. Let’s take a look…
1. Master Your Mornings
I’m a big fan of Craig Ballantyne. He’s the author of The Perfect Day Formula and an extremely successful business coach. One of the core concepts he teaches is the idea of diving into your “deep work” first thing in the morning.
This means not hitting the snooze button, not checking email or social media, and not letting yourself get distracted by things like exercising, journaling, or even making breakfast. For most people, the first few hours of the day is when you’re the most focused, creative, and disciplined. As the day goes on, fatigue sets in and everything becomes more difficult.
When you get to work as soon as you wake up and deeply focus for a couple of hours, you’ll often find that by 9 am you’ve accomplished more than most people do all day.
It may sound crazy, but it actually works. If you want to learn more about Craig’s “Millionaire Morning Routine,” check out this short YouTube video.
2. The One Thing
One of my all-time favorite books is “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. While there are a ton of great concepts in the book, the real key lies in getting into the routine of asking yourself every day…
The answer to this question is exactly what you should be focusing your time and energy on – and the rest is just a distraction. You can keep applying this concept by narrowing or widening the time frame, for example:
“What’s the one thing I can do this week, this month, or this year that will make everything else easier or unnecessary” or “What’s the one thing I can do in the next hour, 15 minutes, or right now that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”
Start applying this principle and you’ll be amazed at how your life changes.
If you want to learn more about this concept (and I recommend you do!) you can get the book on Amazon, or just watch this YouTube video that provides a 20-minute overview of the book’s top 10 concepts.
3. Make a Plan
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating – “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.”
If you want to make sure you accomplish everything you need to do, it’s critical to plan your day. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself looking around at 10 pm wondering what the heck happened. (Trust me, I know…)
Take some time on Sunday evening to write down the things you want to get done over the coming week. Then, think about what you can get done each day to keep yourself moving towards your goals. As you sketch out your weekly plan, do it knowing that it’s a work in progress. Unexpected things come up, priorities change, and sometimes days just get away from us – but if you have an outline in place, you’re more likely to stay on track.
Each night before you go to bed, take a few minutes to reflect on the day and plan out what you’ll do the next day. Don’t wait until you get up. Not only will trying to create your plan in the morning cut into your focus time, but creating your plan at night also allows you to think more rationally about what needs to be done. It cuts out the emotion (your future self can deal with that) and allows you to decide which tasks are actually the most important.
4. Keep it Realistic
Trying to pack your day with unrealistic workloads is one of the biggest contributors to ongoing stress. When you start out with a list that you know you’ll never have time to do, you’re setting yourself up for failure. No matter how much you get done, at the end of the day, you’ll be left feeling frustrated and unaccomplished.
Stop doing this to yourself! Trust me, I know it’s easier said than done, but there are tools out there that can help you. One of my favorites is called Sunsama. It’s a daily task manager that helps you organize your days and make sure your plan is realistic.
This tool is different from many other calendar and planning tools because it encourages you to add time estimates to every task and it warns you when you’ve over-filled your day. It features daily and weekly scheduling and allows you to set a planned shut-down time. It will also remind you when you’re supposed to stop working for the day.
I’ve been using Sunsama for about six months now and not only it has completely changed how I plan out my days, but it’s been amazing at reducing stress and overwhelm. If you want to check it out, you can use my affiliate link to get a 14-day free trial
5. Brain Dump
One of the great things about Sunsama is that it’s not meant to be a “to do” list. The whole point of the tool is to consciously plan out each day. But, I also absolutely swear by having a place to “brain dump” all of the ideas in your head.
Whether you use a notepad and a pen, an online checklist, or a project management tool like Trello, it’s always a good idea to have a central place where you keep track of your tasks and ideas.
Getting these thoughts out of your head and onto your list will free up your mental capacity so you can focus on the things that are truly important. When you think of something you need to do, taking a second to write it down will free you from the urge to stop what you’re doing and get it done right away. This allows you to limit distractions and retain your focus, while also ensuring you won’t forget to come back and do it later.
6. Don’t Try to Do it All
If you’re a dreamer and a doer, there will always be a million things you want to accomplish. But there comes a point when you just have to accept that you can’t do it all.
Using a concept known as The Eisenhower Matrix can help you effectively manage your task list and focus on the right thigs, at the right time. To do this, start by categorizing every task on your list into one of the following categories:
- Urgent and important
- Not urgent but important
- Urgent but not important
- Not urgent and not important
Once you’re clear on exactly where your tasks fall, you can start tackling them in the correct order. Begin with everything that is both urgent and important. When you’ve finished all those tasks, move on to the ones that aren’t necessarily urgent, but are important.
When you get to the list of items that are urgent but not important (like grocery shopping, scheduling appointments, or taking care of your social media marketing) start looking for ways to delegate them so you can focus your energy on the important things. Finally, if there are things on your list that are neither urgent or important, try eliminating them from your life.
If you’re going to try this, it’s important to note that as time goes by, some of your tasks may need to be re-categorized as they become more time sensitive. Using a tool like Trello allows you to easily move and re-categorize tasks, making it less time-consuming to implement this method.
I’ll be adding a tutorial inside the Member Vault in the coming weeks to show you exactly how to do this. (In case you don’t already know, the Member Vault is an exclusive benefit for Discover Bradenton members. You can learn more and sign up here)
Which Time-Management Tip Will You Try First?
Trying to implement all of these tips at once will only overwhelm you, so I suggest choosing the one that seems easiest to get started with and giving it a shot. As time goes on, you’ll be able to keep building on your new routine and sharpening your time-management skills.
Please don’t feel frustrated with yourself if you don’t see life-changing results right away. This is an ongoing process that takes time. When things don’t go as planned, take a deep breath, give yourself a break, and keep moving forward.