Some may think it’s easier to get things done when you work for yourself – you make your own schedule and can work as much or as little as you’d like. While it may be true that you have ample hours in a day to work on your business, it doesn’t matter if your time management is off. Here are seven tips to maximize and manage your time while working for yourself.
Plan your day
Decide exactly what needs to get done per day and week, then prioritize those tasks in order of urgency and importance. Find a paper planner or an electronic one like iCal, and map out all of your appointments, meetings, and deadlines. When scheduling out your tasks for the day, be realistic in how long things take you to complete, and add some extra time in your schedule to accommodate unplanned interruptions.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
When I find that I’m easily distracted or dragging my feet on a project, I try the Pomodoro Technique, created by Francesco Cirillo. Basically, you set a timer and focus on one task, uninterrupted, for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes is up, you take a break and do something unrelated to work for 3-5 minutes. Repeat this four times. After the fourth time, you take a 15-30 minute break, and repeat from the beginning. When I do this, I find that even after the first session, I’m in work mode and can concentrate a lot more.
Batch similar tasks
If you have to do a lot of similar tasks, (say, sending and responding to a lot of emails), batch them all together! It takes less energy and time to do so than bouncing back and forth from one thing to the next.
When batching your tasks, try block scheduling. It’s easy to spend the entire workday answering emails and nothing else. Try scheduling time for answering emails from 9-10am only, for example.
Set office hours
Of course, some days you may have to adjust, but having office hours can maximize the time you spend working (if you know you’re only going to work during the hours of, say 8am-4pm, you’ll likely work harder during that time.) This can also help your work/life balance. With a hard cut off time, you can leave work problems “at work”, and return to them in the morning when office hours begin again.
Designate a space specifically for work
In addition to setting a designated time for work, set a designated space to work as well, whether it’s an office, a desk, or the kitchen table.
When in doubt, pick three
On days when you are feeling too distracted and can’t focus (we all have them) or can’t decide on what to work on first, pick three of the easiest things on your to-do list and complete them. You’ll still have accomplished something, and when you do feel ready to work again, you can use that energy on your tougher tasks.