As any entrepreneur could tell you, once you launch your own business, the lists of tasks that need to be completed quickly start stacking up!
It’s easy to get caught up in this cycle too –no matter how many tasks you cross off or things you accomplish, more things come up to quickly take their place. You’re working hard, putting in the time, and even seeing results –but your calendar keeps filling up and time is at a premium.
While most of us can handle a temporary busy spell –for a while, before long things get to be too much. We’re working around the clock, switching tasks continually, and feeling exhausted. Soon burnout starts looming ominously on the horizon.
The problem is, working like this means that burnout is inevitable. Working at full capacity, burning the candle at both ends, and never being able to catch up can only work for a short period of time.
A functioning and streamlined calendar is a vital tool for staying on top of everything that needs to be done. Far from being a catch-all; a place where you jot down deadlines and then panic when you realize that things are due, a calendar, when used right, can be your greatest ally in the war on disorganization!
If you find that you’re short on time, but long on the lists of things to do, here’s a look at some simple steps for freeing up time on your calendar.
Tips for Freeing Up Time on Your Calendar
- Work as Efficiently as Possible
Are you completing tasks as efficiently as possible? If something is eating into your day, and you find yourself saying, “There’s got to be a better way,” chances are there is! There are a great number of tools and programs available today that can help to make short work of many once time-consuming tasks. For example, try Hootsuite for scheduling social media content, LastPass for password management, or Trello, for project management. Or, take things a step further and use IFTTT (If this then that) to create your own customized automated processes. Find ways to get things done –as efficiently as possible!
- Prioritize Important Tasks
It’s also important to make sure that important tasks take top priority. Don’t try to assign everything the same level of importance; make sure you prioritize those tasks that are critical to your business and growth –or important for your sanity.
While there are quite literally dozens of methods for prioritizing important and pressing tasks, Steven Covey’s time-management matrix is perhaps the best known, and most simple. It works like this: in this matrix, you’ll have four quadrants that you can assign tasks to, allowing you to prioritize tasks by level of importance.
Here’s a look at the quadrants:
- Quadrant I: These are important tasks that need to be dealt with as soon as possible. Deadlines, pressing issues, and emergencies should all go into this quadrant –and should be given top priority.
- Quadrant II: These are things that are important, but not urgent. These are tasks that need to be done, but aren’t quite as time-sensitive. You can schedule them in some time to complete them during the week.
- Quadrant III: These are tasks and issues that are high-urgency, but less important. In most cases, these are tasks that you should consider delegating or automating –or even batching.
- Quadrant IV: Finally, we have things tasks that are neither urgent nor important. These time-wasters should be eliminated (if they’re unnecessary processes) or reserved for breaks or unwinding during downtime (entertainment).
- Delegate When Possible
Every successful entrepreneur must master the art of delegation. For tasks that are crucial to the running of your company, but don’t require your personal input, consider delegating them to someone else –then take them off your calendar. Not only will this free up some time for you, but you will be able to spend your time focused on the critical tasks or high-level strategic decisions that only you can handle. Consider outsourcing bookkeeping to a VA, or your tax return to an accountant.
Many business owners find that a VA is a great solution. With a virtual assistant, you can outsource on an as-needed basis, offloading many time-consuming tasks. A good VA can tackle everything from emailing, to invoicing, social media management, and more.
Not sure what to delegate? Try this:
Todd Herman, creator of the 90 Day Year program has a great solution for determining which tasks to outsource. He recommends assigning dollar amounts to your tasks; $10, $100, $1000, $10000, $10000+, based on how much value they bring your company. Doing this will give you a clear idea about which tasks you should outsource. Todd recommends outsourcing the $10-100 tasks, assigning a manager to the $1-10,000 projects, and focusing your time on the big tasks.
- Use the Two-Minute Rule
Another time-waster is scheduling absolutely everything in. Not everything needs to be scheduled, if something that will only take a couple of minutes to do, get it done now instead of blocking out time on your calendar to do it later. The act of scheduling a two-minute task will waste more time than the task itself would take to complete, so try to get those things out of the way –instead of blocking out valuable time to do so later on.
- Identify and Eliminate Time-Wasters
Not sure where your time is going? Start tracking it! Try keeping a log for a few days, tracking where you’re spending your time. Once you know where your time is going, you can be proactive in combating tasks that can be eliminated, streamlined, or outsourced. Be ruthless when identifying time-wasters, if a task is something that doesn’t add value, then consider eliminating it.
- Shorten Meetings
Meetings: while they can be important in some cases, they’re also notorious time-wasters. Instead of holding long, rambling meetings that don’t accomplish much, consider sending out emails to the relevant parties. Or, if you find that meetings add value, be sure to have an agenda that keeps everyone on track. Also try to keep meetings short and sweet –consider capping your meetings at 30 minutes to keep things brief and on-topic.
- Use Time Blocking
This one’s simple, but really effective. Time blocking is a great way to get things done. Using time blocks means assigning specific amounts of time during the day to complete certain tasks. So instead of simply saying “Finish articles” on the 13th, you can assign 1-3pm on the 13th for finishing your articles.
- Consider Batching
Batching is a great technique when you have a lot of similar tasks that need to be done. This technique involves grouping your tasks together for maximum efficiency. By assigning one day, or a set of hours for completing one type of task, you’ll be able to work as efficiently as possible to get those tasks done.
Common tasks that can be batched include: coming up with blog titles, creating blog content, creating social media posts, emailing, interviewing, and more.
- Say NO
Next, make sure that you only agree to things that you must do, things that you enjoy doing, or those things that you feel will give you, or someone else, value in some way.
If someone wants to meet up with you to “pick your brain,” and you just don’t have a lot of time for lunch meetings in the next week or two, consider offering to do the exchange via email –or perhaps offering 15 minutes of time for chat in the week.
“I’d love to meet up, but unfortunately, I have a very busy upcoming month! If you’d like, I could send you a few resources that I found have to be especially helpful to me. Otherwise, maybe we could schedule in a 15-minute video call sometime next week?”
This doesn’t mean that you should lock yourself away and never give back, it does mean being able to say no when you have other, more pressing constraints on your time.
Turning down some tasks and opportunities allows you to make time for your most important priorities.
- Perform Routine Recaps
Finally, once you have your schedule cleaned up, it’s important to reassess it regularly, to make sure everything is working as it should be. If you find that your schedule’s looking full to the brim, it’s time to reevaluate things.
Remember: we all have the same number of hours in the day –it’s how we use them that counts. Make yours count for more by clearing up time in your calendar, outsourcing or delegating when possible, and seeking to eliminate time-wasters. Then look to map out your days in a way that will help you to be as efficient as possible.
A streamlined calendar will prove to be your most valuable ally!
How do YOU free up time in your calendar?