How do you get it all done?
Managing your time as a business owner can be tricky. Especially when you work from home, it’s so easy to get distracted or focus on the wrong things. We can get busy putting out fires all day that we don’t actually accomplish anything that moves our businesses forward. So how can you manage your time better? Use the right techniques for time management that fits your lifestyle. Or even better, the right combination!
3 popular techniques for time management
There are lots of time management techniques out there. Finding one that suits your style and family can be a bit tricky. Let’s look at three popular time management techniques and their pros and cons.
1. Pomodoro Technique
Many coaches and experts love to promote the Pomodoro Technique. With it’s short bursts of productivity combined with scheduled breaks, it seems to combine the best of focus and relaxation to help you get the most done possible in the least amount of time.
In a nutshell, the Pomodoro technique teaches its users to create “pomodoros”, 20-25 minute blocks of time, where they focus on one task. Then, after the timer goes, users break and relax for 5 minutes. Every 3rd or 4th pomodoro, you would take a longer break of 20-25 minutes. There are apps online and for your phone that help you keep track of your time.
Pomodoro is like sprinting for your productivity. You work really hard and fast for a short amount of time, then you take a short break and breathe. The timer and short amount of time helps you stay focused on your task, almost creating a competitive attitude. Can you beat the timer?
This works really well for business owners who struggle with self-discipline, who get distracted by social media easily, and try to multitask too often. It also works well for those who fall into the workaholic category, because it does force you to take those mini breaks.
The Pomodoro technique does not work well for people who get interrupted often, whether that’s children at home or a customer-service focused business with frequent client requests. It’s hard to focus for even 25 minutes when you rarely get 25 minutes uninterrupted. But this is still a good way to structure a 2 or 4 hour work block of time.
2. Time Blocking
Time blocking is a time management technique that turns your to-do list into scheduled work time. Rather than just working on the next item on the list, you look over your list, and schedule it, or block off the time, on your calendar.
So when you would look at your calendar, you would often see color-coded blocks of times for different tasks or kinds of tasks. For example, you might block off the 9 o’clock morning hour for responding to client requests, so on your calendar, that hour would be colored or labeled “client calls/emails”. Because you have that block there, you wouldn’t try to work on a blog post, clean your bathroom, or go for a run during that time. Those activities would have separate blocks.
Time blocking requires a lot of planning ahead. The idea is to plan, block off the time, act on it, then review and revise your time blocking schedule.
Time blocking works really well for people who have (or want to have) a good deal of control over their schedule, but struggle with multitasking and saying no. By “blocking off” parts of your schedule, you can say things like “I’m booked solid till Friday” or “I have a free appointment available on Wednesday at 2” because you can get a clear picture of when you are doing things.
Time blocking also helps you put the things that are important to you on your schedule. You deliberately make room for them on your schedule, and prioritize them. You don’t have to be detailed with your time blocking if you don’t want to. It can be as simple as “work”, “chores”, “meals” if that works for you.
Time blocking doesn’t work for people who prefer to create when inspiration hits, or feel stifled by a schedule. But in all honesty, time blocking is one of those techniques that is so adaptable, you can combine it with a lot of different techniques.
Categorization as a time management technique means that you are grouping your tasks, goals, or plans into alike kinds, in order to better manage your time.
There are generally two different ways to categorize your tasks: by priority or by location.
If you categorize by priority, you will rate each task as to how quickly it needs to be done or how important it is. For example, you might use a quad chart that helps you determine what’s urgent and unimportant, not urgent and unimportant, urgent and important, and not urgent and important.
Another way to categorize by priority is to determine what the result of the activity will be. Is the time spent going to get you a significant result in return? It’s probably a good investment.
Or you can categorize by location or by kind of activity. For example, make a list of all the phone calls you need to make, and then do them all at once. Or list the tasks you need to do the next time you’re at the computer. This helps you keep like with like, and allows you to focus.
Categorization is great to organize your to-do list and help you prioritize your activities better. But sometimes you can get so caught up in categorization that you forget to actually do your tasks.
Categorization works really well with time blocking as a time management strategy.
Manage your time well
Having a time budget is just as important as having a financial budget. In fact, it’s really more important to budget your time than it is to budget your money. You can always earn more money. But you can’t get your time back once it’s gone.