If you struggle with time management, whether it be organising a blog or social media channels or just in general, here are some tools and techniques which I have found to work for me! So here are the problems I have found and how I have tackled them!
Problem #1 – Where Do I Start?
The sheer amount of different areas that need to be looked at and worked on is pretty overwhelming – which sometimes spirals into procrastination as you feel too overwhelmed to even start, even on something small.
How I tackled it:
Break it down:
It is much easier break a massive task up into smaller, more manageable sections. I found a great app called ToDoist which lets you set up tasks, sub-tasks and assign them to projects and assign deadlines and labels.
It is very simple to use, just add your tasks for the day and tick them off as you complete them. The act of writing down what needs to be done made me feel in control rather than overwhelmed.
I started by writing down broad categories of what I needed to look at, such as Facebook, Website Design & Email.
I then added the things I needed to look at for each category I’d written down. For example, I needed to look into Facebook competitions & paid advertising and each morning I take the time to plan my tasks for the day – checking what is already on the list and adding anything else.
Todoist have created a great Comprehensive Guide if you ever get stuck – I was using it for weeks and didn’t know that you could create subtasks – now I use that feature all the time!
Todoist also comes with a fun ‘Karma’ rating that increases when you complete a task, giving me more incentive to tick stuff off my list.
Checking off that last task and seeing the ‘No Tasks for Today’ check mark feels very rewarding, which I think has definitely helped!
It is a very robust piece of software, and here are some things that are only available on their premium version (which is super cheap at £18 for a year) but the basic package has everything you would really need.
Problem #2 – I’m Working, But Not Getting Stuff Done?!
Using a task management app definitely helped with figuring out what I needed to do, but I was struggling with actually completing tasks. I was constantly jumping between different things – stopping and starting without actually finishing anything. I had separated out tasks into different days, but I found I was constantly moving things around & delaying them.
How I Tackled It
Work Less, Do More:
If you have ever looked into how to increase your productivity, I’m sure you will have heard about Parkinsons Law:
“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Simply put, if you say a task will take 15 minutes you will get it done in 15 minutes. But if you said the same task is going to take 45 minutes – it will take 45 minutes.
ImpossibleHQ have a guide on How To Do More Stuff By Giving Yourself Less Time using the theory of Parkinsons Law to your advantage, but here are my favourite tips.
Don’t just add ‘Update Facebook Page’ to your task list – give it a definitive finish time such as ‘by 1pm’ and make sure that the goal is also specific – change it to ‘Add 4 posts to Facebook Page queue by 1pm’ and watch your productivity take a jump.
Be proactive, not reactive
We’re all guilty of checking Facebook, emails, and attending to every notification ‘ding’ constantly. Rather than letting yourself get distracted, set aside time to do these tasks, ignoring them until you have time. Obviously important things do come up, but if it was that urgent would they have used email? Set aside specific time for these tasks instead – for example at 9am, 1pm & 5pm you will check and reply to emails.
Do the impossible
If you pick a big goal, and commit to it you will figure out a way to achieve it. By creating a gap between what you think you can can do in the time available, and overstretching for a much bigger target you will just figure out how to grow into that gap. Giving yourself less time to do it just gives you more drive and focus to just get it done. Leonard Bernstein hits the nail on the head with his quote:
#3 – Getting Distracted
I found that distractions crept in constantly. Whether it’s was having a quick check on Facebook, or suddenly deciding I just need to find that blog post that I read somewhere right this second, I always found myself miles away from the actual task I had set myself to finish.
How I tackled it:
What is The Pomodoro Technique you ask? It is a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo, that encourages you to focus on one task for 25 minutes – without distractions. It also gives you lots of breaks to keep your mind refreshed.
You can read more about it on the official Pomodoro site, but the general workflow is this:
- Decide on the task to be done
Pick something big or small that needs your full, undivided attention.
- Set the pomodoro timer to 25 minutes
Make a small oath to yourself: I will spend 25 minutes on this task and I will not interrupt myself. You can do it! After all, it’s just 25 minutes.
- Work on the task until the timer rings
If you suddenly realize you have something else you need to do, write the task down – often it can wait
- Take a short break (3–5 minutes)
You’ve successfully completed a task! Have a breather to celebrate.
- After four pomodori, take a longer break (15–30 minutes)
Give your mind some breathing space to refresh, after all you’ve earned it!
Things that you thought would take days can be done in just a few pomodoros if you have the willpower to not get distracted during them.
But don’t try and fight the distraction – if you get interrupted by a thought or an idea, write it down. I have a notebook on my desk just for the distraction inducing thoughts – you’d be surprised at how often they would be unimportant or downright random!
I found this really helped me focus, and the great thing about this method is all you need is some paper and a timer – but there are some tools available to help:
Be Focused – Focus Timer & Goal Tracker on the Mac App Store
A lovely timer for Mac (also syncs with iPhone and iPad) which is free or has a Pro version without ads – this is what I use and it’s good looking and a breeze to use.
Don’t feel like this method will work for you? Don’t worry! There are lots of methods out there, check out No Time to Read This? Read This which runs through some alternate time management techniques.
All I need to do is get into the habit of using it consistently!
#4 – I don’t know where to start
I was having trouble figuring out where to start or what order to work on my tasks. Nothing really seemed urgent, and I just organised them by looking at it as “I can’t do Task A without doing Task B, so I shall work on that first’ – I didn’t really have any set timescales or plan of action – this made me feel like I wasn’t achieving anything or making any progress.
How I tackled it
It was simple really. I just had a word with the boss and simply asked what they wanted me to focus on first – I then worked on a timeline from there. Generally most items have a natural order but you need to know where to start!
If I hadn’t asked, I might have completely finished one task for someone say “Great, but what about X?”
I think sometimes we are so involved in what we need to get done, we forget to find out other peoples expectations.
It also helps to assess where you need to be – set time aside on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis to review at what your goals and aims are and which tasks are important within that timeframe. Do you need to increase website views in the next month? What tasks to you need to do in order to achieve it? One should naturally comes first but if it doesn’t – no worries, ask someone: hey, we can do X, Y or Z, which one is more important?
And the rest should fall into place.
Now hopefully you are armed with tips so you can finally get some work done, but I will leave you with one final distraction – a TED talk explaining why work doesn’t actually happen at work. Enjoy!
Do you love a technique I’ve missed, or simply have a great tip that helps you get stuff done?
Leave a comment, and spread the word!