3 Time Management Practices to Actually Stay on Track
We all know that when you want to start a new endeavor, whether it's a business, passion project or a habit, it requires time and space to make it happen.
But making time seems to be one of the most difficult challenges we face.
Because you see, we experience a constant bombardment of messages and advertisements and requests that we feel like we need to respond to the minute they cross our paths. This happens every day, all day long.
So, even if we set out on our day with intention of how we'll spend our time, it can be easy to get off track, given all the external items coming in that demand our time and attention.
The truth is, even after we get ourselves motivated to start something, come up with a strategy, and then outline the specific actions we'll take, it all really means nothing unless we make the time to take those actions.
Everyone has thoughts. Everyone has dreams. Everyone has plans.
But it's those who make the time who actually end up achieving their goal.
In a way, I guess you could argue that making time to take action is the most important achievement when it comes to accomplishing anything you've set your sights on.
So that's why I'm here to provide several ways you can set aside time to take action.
Monday Hour One
This is a time management and action taking exercise developed by Brooke Castillo, that I learned about on her podcast. It has proven to be incredibly impactful for myself and my clients.
The process goes a little something like this:
On the first hour of your Monday morning write down everything you can think of that you should and want to do that week. Get specific. Write down everything from making dinner to writing the blog post to working out.
Now look at this list and cross off every single item you don't want to do. This might sound counterintuitive, but the fact of the matter is, you don’t really have to do anything. And realizing that is actually a big part of this exercise.
You don't technically have to cook dinner for your family, but you might want to to keep them healthy and well-fed. You don't have to work on your business. But you probably want to if you want to be aligned with success. You don't have to send out Christmas cards. You don't have to volunteer. You don't have to spend your time in ways that others expect you to instead of how you want to.
Clearing space and making time for the things that you truly want to do first starts with eliminating the things from your list that you do not want to do.
So cross them off.
Go into the list that you have left and see if there's anything you can reasonably delegate.
Cooking dinner for your kids, for example — can your partner cook half of the nights this week? Can you decide to order in a few nights? Do you have someone that can help you?
Writing your blog post or business content — is your time more precious here or do you have other resources available that can help you outsource this task to a copywriter?
Delegate anything you reasonably can to free up your time.
Now, we're going to add every single item on your list to your calendar for the week as a time block. Estimate how long you think it will or should take to do this thing and block the time accordingly with that specific action listed.
Once everything is on your calendar, rip up your list, and don't give it another thought.
Now you don't have to give any mental energy to when you will do the many things on your list! Because you've planned it already.
The key to this working, of course, is staying committed to your time blocks.
Make sure that you keep your promise to yourself, to take action on the items listed in your calendar time blocks, knowing that if you don't do them within the window you've given yourself that you’ll be doing them in your free time.
That's another thing. Make sure to leave yourself free time. Nothing good comes from over scheduling yourself. You’ll just get fed up and give up altogether.
If you follow your time blocks, then you know with 100% certainty that you will complete your to-do list for the week.
This is a method I designed for those who don't do well with the rigidity of a perfectly planned day.
It's perfect for those who aren't great at estimating how much time something will take for accurate time blocking or who are best motivated when they follow their natural energy rhythms throughout the day.
Make your list of things that you want to get done this week.
Rank each item on your list by priority, ranking them from those that are most important to you and the highest impact actions for achieving your goal to the lowest impact.
Separate out the daily actions (i.e. working out) from those that have a start and end point (sending an email).
Now, we’ll plug these action items into your Monday through Thursday weekdays. Take your highest impact actions that you can reasonably fit within your Monday and put them in your Monday bucket.
It’s important to start with and prioritize those that are the most important and that have the highest impact. We can sometimes get caught up in tackling lower impact items first because they’re easier or take less time. Be sure to include your daily actions in your Monday list.
Do the same for Tuesday through Thursday, going down the list of high impact actions. Remember to include only what you reasonably believe you can achieve that day. Add in your weekly actions again.
But what about Friday? Leave Friday blank, other than your daily actions.
Unlike Monday Hour One, you don't need to time block these in, but you know what your action items and priorities are for the day. This allows for more fluidity and flexibility in how you spend your time, but still holds you accountable to achieving specific things within a one-day timeframe.
And here's the thing. If you don't complete Monday's actions, they roll into Tuesday. And if you don't complete Tuesday's, they roll into Wednesday. And on and on until anything that you didn't make time for in the week eats into your Creative Friday.
We want to protect our Friday, because this is our creativity, learning, or relaxation day. We often get so caught up in our to-do’s that we forget that actively giving ourselves space to be creative and brainstorm additional ways to reach our goals is almost equally as important, as long as we're acting on those brainstormed actions consistently.
So do your best to protect your Fridays.
If you find that you're working all hours of the day on your action items and still having a full Friday full of items rolled over, you’re giving yourself too much each week. Take a step back and focus.
Because after all, you're working on your highest impact actions in the beginning of the week so no matter how much you don’t get to, you know you’re tackling the most important stuff first.
This is a simple technique that can be practiced alongside any other time management practice. It helps you carry out your plan and stay focused.
Once you build your time management plan, you might need a little help sticking to it.
We often find ourselves getting caught up in whatever is put right in front of us. So having this check-in jolts us out of whatever we've engrossed ourself in, whether it's Instagram or spending entirely too much time doing something unimportant or lingering on the phone with a friend way longer than we planned.
This is where your mindfulness reminders come in.
Set a series of daily mindfulness alarms on your phone or watch device.
Make it go off at intervals throughout the day. Some people find that setting their reminder every hour works well, others require less to stay on track. The frequency is up to whatever works best for you and how often you find yourself straying from your plan.
When your alarm goes off, take it seriously. Ask yourself, “Am I using my time in the way that I want to be right now? Am I sticking to my plan? Am I staying committed to myself?”
This includes time for self-care and relaxation in a way that is intentional. Like exercises or meditating vs. mindlessly participating in an escape habit.
If your check-in reveals that you’re spending your time in the wrong way, the reminder gives you a chance to consciously pivot.
Having a mantra, such as the word “pivot” or some other activating word can actually be incredibly effective at redirecting your focus and energy.
This is how you keep yourself on track throughout the day.
These reminders are also a great time to check in on your breathing. We often hold our breaths or breathe shallowly into our lungs. When your reminder goes off, use it as a time to check in with your body and breath, too.
Take a round of deep box breathing (breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four, repeat)
Play around with these time management practices. Not all of them will work for everyone. Despite what the time management gurus will tell you, we’re all uniquely motivated and structured, and some things may work for you that won't work for others.
So try them all out and don't lose hope if one of these practices isn't working for you. That doesn't mean that you’re a lost case. It simply means you need to find what works for you.
Geri Paige Butner is a business firestarter, coach and speaker. Current and aspiring business owners start and grow their businesses with The Business Firestarter framework, offered as a self-guided online course or a 12-week group coaching program. Gain access to valuable firestarters for business and life by joining our email list.