Ok folks, tired of hearing this one “I’m too busy, I don’t enough time”. Rubbish, what you don’t have is any time management techniques. Harsh but true.
Earlier this week I was invited to LSE to participate on a panel of entrepreneurs giving advice to students about how best to manage their time. On hearing that I run six businesses, go on holiday several times a year, have an awesome social life, and still write music and record albums in my ‘spare time’, they quickly hushed and began to listen.
It wasn’t a bragging exercise, I was just merely showing them what is possible. Thing is, anything is possible if you want it enough.
I’ll be honest, my time management used to SUCK, big time. At university I thought I had it really hard… oh how naive I was back then! Juggling six businesses and reclaiming my social life and ‘me-time’ (which I previously sacrificed in my early 20s because I had zero time management skills) has forced me to level up my time game, and learn to LEVERAGE. Leverage being the key word here. So before I make you nauseous with more tales of how I totally nailed life, I’ll show you how I did it!
Disclaimer: first few paragraphs rife with sarcasm… I’m only 28… still a lot to learn and making loads of mistakes figuring this life thing out.
Ok, so there’s four things TO do, and one thing to NOT do.
Make those robots work for you baby! I’ve written a gazillion articles on this already but if you missed them, the basics are fairly simple. Set up an email autoresponder or ‘out of office’ reply which answers 90% of the questions you get asked most often, and include links to the appropriate booking tool / calendar / dropbox folder / online PDF with more detail, so you can save a ton of time answering the same questions over and over again. Do the same with your voicemail.
Automate your social media scheduling. Use Buffer (my personal fave) or any of the other awesome scheduling tools out there. Commit to one day a month, or fortnight, to create and input all your content, and save precious minutes every day faffing on Instagram and pondering what on earth to tweet.
Get an online booking system which syncs to your smart phone to avoid the back and forth trying to find mutually agreeable times. If you eliminate the question of when you may or may not be available, you also eliminate the time wasting conversation that precedes the booking. Decide when you want to be available for other people, stick it in an automated calendar and voila. Bonus: human communication avoided. I use Setmore and Acuity for different businesses. Both highly recommended.
Automate your payments, invoicing and accounts. We all hate accounts and invoicing. Even me, and I’m a total maths geek. Get a robot to do it for you and you also eliminate inevitable human error, not to mention the bad mood that infects everyone and everything around you. Both Acuity and Setmore have the capacity to sync with an online payment processor. I use Stripe which automatically deposits the payment amounts into my bank account, minus a small card handling fee. I then use Commerce Sync which speaks to Stripe for me and auto generates all the invoices and receipts in line with what I’ve been paid. Commerce Sync relays all this information to Xero, my cloud based accounting software, so my accounts are kept up to date in real time, 24/7, and I don’t lift a finger. Ok, well I do log in once every few weeks to hit the reconcile button a few times but as far as finger-lifting goes… all the hard work is done for me. I don’t even think about invoices and accounts any more. Literally saved myself about ten hours a week.
Use digital marketing techniques to automate your follow up and sales process. Mailchimp and ConvertKit are two great email services that can automate a lot of your marketing to encourage repeat bookings, repeat sales, and auto-builds a great relationship between you and your clients without you even having to think about it. Once your autoresponders are set up, you’re worry free!
There’s a ton more, but check out my Online Tools blog for more specifics!
You know all that stuff you hate and procrastinate on? Don’t do it! Procrastination wastes time anyway. Doing stuff you hate will lower your mood and energy levels, guaranteeing even more procrastination and wasted time. Do you know how valuable you are? Probably not, read this. Your time is PRECIOUS! Why do anything you don’t like doing? You have one life. You didn’t actually come here to pay bills and die, despite the various memes plastered all over social media trying to convince you otherwise.
So, firstly, delegate to robots. See Automation advice above. Secondly, outsource!! A personal favourite outsourcing tool of mine is Upwork.com. I hire VA’s from all over the world to do the tasks I don’t want to, or can’t do. Everything from creating social media content, scheduling social media content, writing ad copy, designing flyers and posters, editing videos, creating animations, researching and analysing competitors, providing in depth market research, raising invoices and processing receipts (if you don’t want a robot to do it), following up with clients, responding to my emails, diverting my calls, even booking holidays and sorting my online food shop… If I was really lazy, I could outsource my whole life. But then I’d be bored, and that’s not me.
This might sound expensive but trust me, it’s not, and the amount of time and stress you save yourself is remarkable. The return on your investment not only means you have more time on your hands, but also means you live a more abundant life. Happy people attract money, they live in flow, they spend time doing what they love, making money doing what they love. At first it might sound like a risky gamble but how much is a happy stress free life worth to you? But no one else is doing it I hear you cry! Well of course they’re not… if they were we wouldn’t have an economic or financial crisis every other flippin’ month. Dare to follow the few, not the many… you will live a life more incredible than you ever dreamed.
3. Batch your tasks
Seriously cool tool… requires you to understand how your brain works. Quick science lesson: the brain works most efficiently when it’s doing the same type of task repeatedly. It creates a snowball momentum effect which rapidly increases productivity. With this in mind, when we go about our day to day, week to week, and month to month, the most effective use of your time is to batch your tasks and ‘to dos’. For example, if you’re a music teacher, batch all your lessons into big chunks of your day. Don’t separate out your classes and attempt to complete other tasks in between. Asking your brain to switch between different tasks is tiring and results in lower productivity.
If on a typical day you ask your brain to complete administrative tasks such as emailing, followed by a yoga class or workout, followed by a creativity session (writing music or your next blog article), followed by client liaison (marketing & sales), followed by invoicing and accounts, followed by more creative work … you’re asking a lot! Too much in fact!
Look at your average week, assign your tasks into categories and try to batch accordingly. Make Monday your teaching day for example, Tuesday your marketing day, Wednesday your finance, accounts & anything remotely mathematical day… and so on and so on. If you need to have multiple batches in one day, split them up with food breaks, or go for a walk to reset your brain before tackling the next batch. Your productivity levels will soar!
Probably the most boring way to manage your time, but the best one for holding yourself accountable and making sure you maximise your time. This is what last months weekly schedule looked like for me:
Pretty intense hey?! But not really… here’s how I do it.
Firstly I create a grid. Days of the week across the top, and hourly slots down the side. I’ve also tested blocking my time into two hour slots rather than one hour slots and it’s just as effective.
Then, I go through and put all my ‘health’ activities in. This must happen first. My regular yoga classes and gym training sessions are paramount. Unless my health is in top shape, I’m useless to everyone, including myself.
Next comes ‘heart space’. This is essentially down time or ‘me time’ where I can do whatever I want. Quite often it’s just relaxing at home but heart space is really important for allowing your brain to slow down and process the weeks events. Your brain will still be running in the background, and including heart space into your weekly schedule is a really powerful way to maximise efficiency and productivity levels. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not on the go 100% of the time. You don’t need to be! And if you are you probably need to take a serious look at that.
Once the most important stuff is in, I schedule every thing else around it. You can see I batch all marketing tasks together for all the various different companies so I keep my brain at high levels of productivity. Rather than working on one company per day and trying to include all the different elements within 12 hours, which would require my brain to flit between lots of different tasks, I stick to the same task and attack all six companies in one go! Quite often one marketing plan will inspire the next. This method to scheduling my time has revolutionised my approach to time management.
Final tip: what NOT to do.
Please do not attempt to multitask. The once highly coveted skill has been proven to be more detrimental than anything else. The brain works best when it can snowball. Snowball being singular, not plural. Attempting to text, whilst watching an explainer video, whilst drafting your next blog post will only ensure nothing gets completed on time, or to standard. Turn your phone off and stick it in a drawer whilst you’re working on something which needs to get completed within your one or two hour window. Nothing will be so important that it can’t be dealt with at the end of your two hour block. Our phones are the biggest distractions and procrastination enticers in our lives… get rid of the damn thing! Or at least delete the Facebook app…
And the longest post ever award goes to…. ha!
Long but necessary because there’s no such thing as not having enough time. You have the same amount of time as every one else. Just use it better!
Until next time,