As business owners and as moms, we have a lot to manage. Chances are you’ve created some method of managing your time and at some point, it’s failed, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Time management is constantly a work-in-progress and subject to change in different seasons of our life. You need to be flexible and open to change, but you also have to hold yourself accountable. These seven tips will help you be ruthless with time.
Here’s the hard truth about time. It’s finite. You can’t get more. It’s one of the only things you can’t work harder to get more of. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t do some things to make sure you are making the most of the time you do.
9 ways to be ruthless with time
1. say no
Ok, I know you’ve heard this one before, but it works. As women, we want to help people and want to say yes when others need us. The problem is, like I mentioned above, time is finite. When you say ‘yes’ to something, that automatically means you have less time for something else. Maybe that’s a trade you want to make, but it’s better to make that choice intentionally instead of just saying yes to every request that comes your way.
You matter. Your time matters. And your opinion of how you want to spend your time and what your priorities are is yours alone (maybe with the consideration of your family or those closest to you). Ideally, you would be able to help everyone with everything and still get all you want to get done, done. But, that’s not usually possible so you have to get used to saying ‘no’.
2. allow yourself enough time in the morning
This tip is often phrased as “get up early”. As a committed night owl, I hate the advice of getting up early. It just doesn’t work for everyone. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in making sure you have enough time to get your day started on the right foot in the morning.
I am not one to wake up at 5:00am, but I do know that if I snooze and sleep until the last possible second, my morning will be rushed and stressful. And that doesn’t set the tone for a productive day. I’m not suggesting you knock out your to-do list before everyone in your house is up for the day. Just that you wake up early enough to avoid chaos in your morning.
3. be on time
I’ve learned that time management is not just about managing your time, it’s also about managing your energy and mood. If you are able to get everything on your list done, but it’s done at the expense of your sanity and has you screaming at your family-was it really worth it?
When you’re running late, or getting things done at the last possible second, it’s going to cause you to feel frazzled. Most of us don’t do our best work when we’re feeling like this. Allow for some margin when you have meetings or deadlines. This is one way to eliminate urgency from your life, which can cause stress and problems with time management.
Bonus tip: use that extra time to do something on your list that you’ve been looking forward to. Always make sure you have a book or something else to work on so you can make the most of all the time you have.
4. understand how you work best
We all have particular things about us that make some techniques and methods work better for us than others. It is your responsibility to figure out what works best for you. It’s best to work with your natural tendencies instead of fighting against them.
Some people do their best work in the morning. Others work best in the afternoon. It’s strange how you can do the same task at different times of the day and have vastly different experiences doing so. If you do your best writing in the morning it may take you an hour to write a blog post, yet that same post could take 3 hours if you’re working on it at night.
There’s no right or wrong way to do most things. It’s all about what works best for you and how you can make the best use of your time.
5. eliminate distractions
Our lives are full of distractions. We have pings and dings coming from multiple devices. We get emails trying to move other people’s priorities up our lists. To be ruthless with time, you have to control your distractions.
Where you can, disable any notifications that aren’t necessary. Set aside specific times for replying to emails and phone calls. Unless something is a true emergency, it can wait a few hours.
If you need more help with this, check out this post on using the Pomodoro Technique to help you manage your time better.
6. create a task management system
Make a list. It doesn’t really matter whether you use a bullet journal, Trello, or the back of a napkin. If you have a task management system that works for you, you can be more ruthless with time.
You want to create lists for things that need to get done, but it’s also a good idea to keep master lists for the tasks you do over and over. Some people would call this a system, but it can be as simple as a written list.
Once you know what steps are required to do a task like “publish a blog post”, you can better allocate enough time on your calendar. Trello is awesome for reusable lists like this because you can work from the same list every time.
7. put it on the calendar
Put everything on your calendar including everyday tasks, small steps for a future project, and time with family, friends, and yourself. Don’t forget to include stuff other than deadlines and meetings. One of the benefits of putting something on your calendar is seeing it as part of your week and committing to get it done.
If you need more help for planning out your week, check out this post on planning your week.
8. avoid unnecessary tasks
There are probably going to be some things that aren’t necessary that can’t be eliminated. But, there are plenty of things you’re doing that don’t even really need to be done in the first place. You may not be able to eliminate everything that is unnecessary, but even getting rid of the things you do have control over will help.
This can even include automating tasks when appropriate. When you first look at your list, it will probably feel like everything is necessary and has to be done. Maybe it does, but challenge yourself to find one task to stop doing (or do better).
9. do it now
One of my favorite tips from Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before, is if something can be done in less than two minutes, do it now. I’m always amazed at how much time and brain power I use for a task that, if I had just done it, would be over already.
Thinking about a task or procrastinating on a task often takes longer than the task itself. And, when we’re distracted by the little things on our to-do lists, we can’t focus on what really matters. You will save yourself much time and energy if, for some tasks, you just go ahead and do them when they come up.
A related tip is the ‘touch it once’ rule. This basically says when you are presented with something, ‘touch it once’ and do whatever you need to do with it at that time so you don’t have to come back to it later. If you are checking email (hopefully at a predetermined time) and one requires a response, go ahead and respond instead of adding it to a to-do list to do at a later time.
You can be ruthless with time
You aren’t going to manage your time perfectly overnight, but little by little you can improve your time management skills, be ruthless with time, and get more done.
Don’t be too hard on yourself in terms of the amount of time you make yourself work. Yes, you need to put in the hours, but you don’t have to work constantly to be productive. We aren’t made to work 20 hours a day. Yes, you want to create a schedule for your work and stick to it, but don’t forget to schedule in time for other stuff too. And don’t forget that being kind to yourself in the process.