When Adriana asked me to write on the topic of time management, I got excited! I know a lot of people see what I do online and I’ve been told by many people over the years, “I don’t know how you do it!” And this is my chance to reveal what contributes!
I run an active membership with partners.. 100s of members strong.
I have services I provide…
I coach small groups of individuals one on one in marketing and business each year..
I run a sizable network of niche affiliate websites and a big part of my focus online is niche marketing..
And those are just the things I let folks know about. 😉
But, seriously, when I think about it, I do a lot! Many might struggle to manage just one portion of a business like mine. There’s a lot of complexity and a huge number of things to keep track of daily, weekly, monthly and yearly.
I have to not only have the vision for my business, managing and steering the broader picture, but get small to large projects or tasks done and out the door every single day.
Well, this is a great opportunity to share some of the things that have made a really big difference in my business and what’s helped me manage my time better. These are things that directly impact my bottom line.
Because that’s what it’s all about. If you can manage your time better, you can do more things that impact results. The things I’m going to talk about below all translate to getting more things done, being more productive and making more profits.
Time Management is not about any one thing; and it’s not magic or a big mystery as to what goes into it. It is a number of things working in concert that ALL of us have access to, but few really, truly apply fully.
THIS DOES TAKE A COMMITMENT AND RECOGNIZING IT’S IMPORTANCE…
To some, time management may seem like a dry topic… and for many people I’m sure it sounds like something that doesn’t need a lot of attention and may say something like, “Come on, what do I really need to do? You just set goals for stuff, schedule stuff and do that stuff right?”
But like most things, managing time is a marriage of skill, experience, know-how and using a combination of tools to help you on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
It’s something that you need to work on and it’s something you can become better at with application and practice. Everyone reading this can! Yes.. even you!
AND.. it’s something you need to make a part of your life and business long-term. This isn’t a one time thing; this is a way of approaching every day.
I’m going to go through 10 things that help me manage my daily operations and tasks online. From broad, sweeping, on-going things like managing people and websites to simple, one-time tasks like writing this article.
Within these hopefully you’ll pick up at least a few things that you can improve or start applying to your business to help you become more productive and, in the end, be more successful.
#1 – Toodledo… using a GTD system. Utilize Everything.
Toodledo is my my virtual secretary.
Right now I am writing this article because I have this as a top priority task. Literally there are 100s of tasks right now that I have to do today, tomorrow or sometime in the future. But the beauty is I don’t need to think about them all right now.
I’m not even thinking about the next task right now; I’m going to get this article done first!
Understand, I use A LOT of the functionality Toodledo provides:
1) Status (Active, Next Action, Planning and more options…)
2) Start Date, Due Date
3) Priority Levels
4) Folders, Tags
5) Goals (short and long term)
6) Context (where the work needs to be done)
7) Repeat Function
8) Length of task…
I use those functions along with the built in management and filtering systems. I haven’t seen or used anything quite like Toodledo. It does EVERYTHING for me in terms of tasks and goals. (it even synchs with my smart phone)
I never have to worry about forgetting something or losing sight of what’s important. I capture it all. If I have a new task I think of or that comes up, I don’t hesitate. I set it up in Toodledo.
It’s also based on David Allen’s popular book and method “Getting Things Done” (GTD). Get it and read it if you haven’t already!
So having a system like this is essential for me doing so many different things and having so many different layers to my business. My business has a lot of complexity and this is the number one thing that keeps me going and helps manage my time better.
Find a good solution like this and USE IT!
#2 – Alarms and Reminders – Getting Stuff Off Your Mind…
A close relative to Toodledo are my alarms and reminders. I own an iPhone and I use the built in alarm functionality to remind me of things I have to do throughout the day. (it’s always with me so I never miss a beat)
Most important thing it does for me is it helps me manage my off-line stuff.
One of the most important ways you can get more done and be more productive is to be able to shut out the world and forget about everything else. Especially off-line… I know many of you reading this have a hectic life. But you have to find ways to forget about it. You have to find ways to live in the moment; focusing only on your business.
The way I do that is I don’t worry about what’s going on in my days off-line until I hear the alarm go off.
So let’s say I have to feed my dog. I have an alarm for that.
Let’s say I have to wake up my wife from a nap at a certain time (as I was instructed 😉 ). I set an alarm for that.
Let’s say that I have an appointment to go to; maybe a haircut. I set an alarm for that.
So anything going on in my daily life off-line, is captured within my reminders system.
This provides me with less worry and stress. I can completely focus on my online tasks and business without worrying about what’s going on or what’s happening next off-line…
…Or online. Sometimes I have to set reminders for various things in my business as well.
#3 – Routines and Systems...
Many of these things I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember; years… so consistency is important!
Going hand-in-hand with having systems of reminders and to-do lists is to establish daily routines and systems of doing things.
Just as an example, every single day I get up, I go through the same routine from getting out of bed and sitting down at my computer. I take care of some ‘personal business’, then I feed my pets, let my dog out, make coffee… and then sit down at my computer.
I do these things in the same order every single day. I don’t think about sitting down and watching TV or goofing off. It isn’t an option. In fact, I’ve come to enjoy just diving in. (enjoying what you do helps.. 😉 )
And I always do them with only the periodic exception; like if I had to go on a trip or I had another commitment. It doesn’t happen too often.
I take a shower about the same time every day, I eat about the same time of the day,… I take breaks about the same times of the day. For example, every day at 5:30 p.m. I drop everything I’m doing and watch World News on TV. It’s my time to sit back, relax and catch up on current events. (you need those breaks too!)
I check in on my private forum every few hours.
I answer questions there once or twice a day in blocked off time. I’m not there checking in every 5 minutes. I have to get other stuff done! I just check with a periodic rhythm throughout the day.
That’s the same with Twitter, Facebook and my social activities online.
Now all these things are flexible. Don’t get me wrong and think that an alarm goes off and I go take a shower. I don’t even wake up to an alarm.. it’s usually within an hour; depends when my dog paws at me that he’s hungry.
So most things aren’t bound to the minute. Just the order of things and how I approach my daily activities have a rhythm.
#4 – Being Organized
I think this goes hand-in-hand with time management. If you aren’t organized, you are going to spend more time trying to find stuff and being lost. The less time you’re lost, the more time you have to be productive and make money.
Here are a few things I focus on to stay organized:
I have a good computer and offline folder system. I know where stuff is. If I need a website backup, I know exactly where to find it on my hard-drive.
If I need a bank statement, I know where it is in my file cabinet.
I have central locations for data/logins etc.. I know where all my logins are for every site I own and/or visit.
I have a well organized e-mail inbox… I use tons of filters!!!! Utilize them… anything that is not a priority I have filtered and moved automatically to a labeled folder. I use Gmail and they make it very easy for you to accomplish this. I use stars too… super important stuff (from specific individuals, services etc..) are starred in my inbox and filtered out so I know to handle those right away.
#5 – Tools, Automation and Outsourcing
Depending on the department in my business, I use a variety of tools to help me save time and run a smoother ship. A few examples:
– Basecamp – to manage my outsourcers or mutual projects
– Skype – for quicker communication and voice chat
– Dragon Naturally Speaking – to write faster
– Anything that can help you save time…
I use those things and more. They ALL help me better handle my time and communications.
Also, there’s software that can automate certain tasks for you.
Other things you can outsource. I have a team that helps me run my business, build sites, market and drive traffic.
Don’t do it all yourself; this is VERY important long-term. You may have to at first due to your budget, but don’t be afraid to reinvest back into your business infrastructure, automation and people.
#6 – I Don’t Worry about Tomorrow.. I Worry about Today. Forget the Calendar.
If you have everything captured into your to-do lists and systems, you don’t always have to be looking at your calendar. You’ll just be reminded of those things as they appear..
Even Toodledo as a function where you can just look at the immediate tasks. Or those from the next few days. You don’t need to worry about what’s going on two weeks or two months from now! Those things will appear in due time. Literally…
Worry about today and the rest will take care of itself. Less worry; less stress.
Of course, that’s all dependent on capturing all into your ‘good’ systems to begin with!
#7 – Do It Now. You Don’t Need to Schedule EVERYthing!
Some tasks are of such a high-priority that they need to be done right now. Just do it.
Other tasks are just so simple that they can be done right now. By the time you put into your system to do it later, it could’ve been done. Just do it.
Sometimes if you have extra time, just do it.
There may be tasks like this that don’t need to clog your system and you don’t need to do later.
#8 – Deferral and Ignoring Other Tasks to Get Stuff Done…
The truth is that to be a good time manager you have to know how to prioritize, defer and ignore a lot of things. You can’t be thinking about or doing too many things at once. To be the most effective, you need to focus on the task at hand.
So many tasks whether they show up in your e-mail inbox, Toodledo or similar programs that you use or just land on your desk can be deferred. Deferred to the next hour, later that day, tomorrow or next week… maybe next month.
But not everything needs to be handled right now. People can wait (just be up front with them and communicate – don’t let THEM rule your schedule), tasks can wait and making them wait will allow you to focus on what’s most important.
This will help you get a lot more done that impacts your business the most.
Don’t feel guilty; and learn to say no or no for now.
#9 – Your Bubble.. Find Free Time and Space to Work Without Distractions!
None of this matters at all if you don’t have a bubble to operate in.
You have to be able to shut out all the distractions and focus on your business.
It’s different for different people… for example, certain tasks I can accomplish while I’m watching TV or listening to some music. Other people need total quiet.
All of us have different degrees of craziness in our lives. Or things happen in our lives out of our control (health related or whatever). In those cases, you know what comes first and you just do the best you can.
Bottom line, nothing I’m discussing here matters if you don’t have time you can set aside and block out to handle it. So this should be your priority – start by fixing this or work towards it.
If you just have surroundings to deal with, try talking with your family or those around you. Make them understand this is your business and it demands time where you aren’t bothered.
Say things like, “This is nothing personal and I’ll handle those things later.. but would you be asking me that OR doing what you are doing right now in this space if I was at an office outside of the home?”
This is no different if you are working out of your home… treat your business like a business. People should respect the importance of what you are doing.
Try to have an area in your house as an ‘office’. And convince those around you that it should be treated as such and those in the office should be left to their work when they have to do it!
If they don’t allow for that, maybe you need to make other arrangements because you are going to struggle.
Maybe you do need to rent some space outside of the home.
#10 – Knowing Your Goals and Priorities
You have to know what your goals and priorities are before any of these things will fall together. On a regular basis revisit your goals and projects; make sure you are on a clear path to specific short-term and long-term goals.
Every single task, no matter how small, should contribute to a larger goal. And knowing what that is will help you stay focused and motivate you to keep going.
The busier you are, the more important these things become. And the more vigilant you should become in keeping to them.
And understand.. you do need ‘time’ to begin with and you have to be reasonable. You only have so many hours in the day which is different for everyone.
I have all day because I have no kids, fewer commitments outside of my business and I’m full-time. YOU may have a different scenario. But even I can only do so much! I try to be realistic.
My point is, keep in mind, you are only human and you can only do so much. Don’t load yourself up with tasks and projects today that you KNOW you can’t handle and will just add to your stress.
It’s ok to shoot a little higher. Push yourself a little. But don’t go WAY overboard and over-plan your time because you’ll never feel like you are getting anywhere. Stay within a reasonable range.
Stretch a little bit; but be realistic.
Lastly, stay flexible and light on your feet. Understand, things will come up that weren’t planned (you can’t plan for everything!) or things will take longer than you thought (like this article 😉 )..
.. But don’t let it stress you out! Think of your time management like a live document and system. Be prepared to continually adapt and mold your time and schedule of tasks. Re-adjust, defer and reschedule when necessary. That’s just part of the landscape. Don’t fear it or let it frustrate you.. expect it.. it’s that way for all of us; a fact for every time manager.
Hope these tips help.
For more tips and wisdom from Matt Levenhagen, visit his central blog “Niche Wisdom“. You might take note of his section called, Motivation and Success Principles, for more tips and strategies to help you become a greater success in your business!