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C&T Q&A – How do you Break Up your Day so Everything Gets Done?

{image by say hello shop}

This week’s question comes from Elisa Mardegan of Dazzling Dezignz.

Right now I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have a family so I only have about 6 hours a day that I can be really productive. With all that has to be done I don’t know where to start to get it all finished and I’m waiting for some new tools to arrive so I can learn a new style of jewelry. How do you break up your day into everything that needs to be done so it will actually get done?

Great question, Elisa, and a very thorny one, too!

Can I be honest? I STILL haven’t figured out the best way to do this! I think it’s an ongoing, organic process. However, I will share a few strategies that work for me (when I remember to use them…).

The 45/15 Rule

I won’t go into detail about this here, because I wrote a whole post on it. The gist is that you work in 1-hour chunks – 45 minutes of absolute focussed work followed by 15 minutes of play. This is really useful when you have a lot of work to get done, and you have trouble focussing for a long time (which seems to be all of us in this world of social media distraction).

I use this when I’ve got a deadline or just want to be really productive. I can focus on my work for 45 minutes with the knowledge that I’ll get to check FB, twitter, and email in the 15. The trick is to use a timer that dings at you so you don’t lose track of time. More on that in this post.


Chunking is what I call the practice of doing one particular task in a big chunk of time. I tend to be a ‘day chunker’ – that is, I break up my week into days that focus on different things. One day is a making day, another day is an admin day, another day might be a planning day… This helps me focus on one thing, rather than flitting too much and splitting my concentration.

You can also apply this in smaller bursts – such as devoting 2 hours to making, 2 hours to admin and 2 hours to planning in one day (if you only have 6 hours to work). Another day you might change the ratio depending on what work is pressing.

Prioritising with a Week-to-a-Page-Diary

It is SO easy to get distracted and just attend to things as they come up – crisis-management, if you will. This is the perfect way to get yourself stressed, flustered, and left with that nagging feeling of ‘what did I actually achieve today??’ Not a fun feeling.

Prioritising tasks or types of activity can help to overcome this. I love to use the Rocks/Pebbles/Sand method that I read about in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when I was a teenager. (If you’ve never read it, do – it is full of fabulous wisdom). Imagine a big jar – you have rocks, pebbles and sand to put into it. What order do you do that in?

Basically, you look at your week as a whole – maybe on Sunday night, maybe on Monday morning. Assess the tasks you have to get done that week. What are the really vital, key tasks? They are your ‘rocks’. You schedule them into your week. Next come the less urgent by still important tasks – they are your ‘pebbles’. Finally, all the other little niggly tasks are your sand – they get scheduled into the cracks.

This combines really well with the Urgent/Important matrix from the same book:

{image from here}

This is a really helpful way to prioritise the oodles of tasks you have to do.

It helps you to realise that there are a LOT of things in your business that are urgent but not important… and concurrently, a LOT of things that are important, but not urgent. These are often the things that get forgotten in the blur of keeping up – things like business planning, long-term goal setting, PR etc.

I hope those strategies help you, Elisa!

I’ve given you all some homework to do – take a few minutes to consider and answer the questions in the comments below. Don’t just read this and click away – devote 5-10 minutes of thought – RIGHT NOW – to your business time management strategies.



Reply to the following questions in the comments:

  1. How effective is my current time management routine? 
  2. What aspects of my business have I been neglecting due to poor time management?
  3. Which of the above strategies will I find most useful? Can I commit to trying it for 1 week?


Do you have a question for Jess? Just click the ‘Feedback’ tab on the left of screen and send it in!


Van Den has written 318 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.



Hi Jess, Thank you so much for addressing my question so quickly! Here are my answers:

1. My current time management routine is NOT effective!
2. I neglect bookkeeping, organization (and keeping it organized… a question for another time) and creating as much as I would like.
3. I think “chunking” would probably benefit me to get back on track and then using the 45/15 method

I think my main problem is flitting from task to task (and trying to fit in house work at the same time). I just feel like I have way too much to do and I don’t know where to start. Next week, I am trying your methods. Thanks so much for the wonderful post!


You’re welcome, Elisa! I totally understand where you’re coming from – I know that feeling of being overwhelmed with TOO MUCH and just throwing up your hands in despair! 🙂 Make sure to let us know how you go.


Thanks Jess, some great ideas there. My answers are:

1. Not very good! I procrastinate… a lot. I’m trying to deal with that habit.
2. Record keeping, filing, finance…
3. ‘Chunking’ and scheduling the week in advance. I currently use the Pomodoro technique for focus (25 mins on, 5 mins off), and that really works for me.

Like Elisa, I feel like I have too much on my plate a lot of the time – I’m still working full time, so building my business is a real juggling act! My new mantra is simplify, simplify, simplify!

Looking forward to reading more over the coming months 🙂


Awesome homework, Clare!! I like Pomodoro – I just find I need a longer focus/play time – 5 minutes isn’t enough for me ;D

I spent 2 years working on my biz part-time around my full-time job before I went full-time. If you’re in it for the long haul, you can afford to do it slow and do it right 🙂


Some good points and tips in this article. I found that the 45/15 really doesn’t work for me, as it is almost too long for short tasks, and too short for longer tasks….most of the time i need a good 20-30 minutes to really get into the meat of a longer task, and stopping at 45 is like cutting my brainpower short. Most of the time, I’m a ‘chunker’. I’ll say “I’m doing X project until 10:45 and then i’m switching to Y project til 1:00” or “i’m giving myself 35 more minutes on this then i’m stopping”.

As a family, we definitely do the rock/pebble/sand approach. we’ll create a huge list of everything we need to accomplish, then fit them one by one into the days of the week. the most important part with this method, is to stay accountable, and not fall into the “oh i didn’t get to it – i’ll do it tomorrow”. A few weeks of this approach helps you to learn exactly how much time certain tasks take….so after awhile it’s fairly accurate and easy to keep up with!

Staying organized and accountable takes some time to set up…but I think the rewards are huge (especially if you can re-organize your day and find an extra 20-30 minutes here and there!)


Fantastic! Sounds like you’re pretty on top of your time management 🙂

Lix H.

I really need to do some thinking on this – my time management is pretty much atrocious. I can’t commit 45 minutes of my time to something from the get-go, even though with most crafts, once I get started, I’ll go on for as long as the momentum keeps me going. Which may mean my weeks would be better off divided in day chunks.

I also need to try the prioritized to-do list. I may just give this all a go next week. (Or this week! We shall see.)


Great tips. I have also read recently (sorry don’t remember the source) that a study found that the most productive people work in 60 or 90 minute bursts, but only two or three times a day. The trick was to maintain focus diligently for these periods on a very regular basis. I also find that when there’s a lot of things to do that you’re not energised about, pick one and do it first thing. There’s a real sense of achievement in completing the awkward stuff.


Absolutely! Both very excellent time management strategies there, Sarah-Jane!


Jess its funny because i wrote a little about this on my twitter page. I was in the process of writing my book, when i realized that my crocheting would have to take a back burner. The book is about crochet , so in a way, I was still creating but I am SO NOT A PUBLISHER. I am still very new to creating ebooks, so of course, that was a project in itself. I was kind o overwhelmed trying to keep up with my book and business, so this post really helped. I think the rock, sand and pebbles thing is more for me. Thank you for being my tim management muse, much needed!


Jess, I was just thinking about that Covey matrix yesterday, prompted by something I read about busy-ness v. business. Covey is the grandfather of time management! I like the tips you suggest. My time management is a constant struggle and I’ve tried all kinds of ways to get a handle on it. Doing better, but not where I really want to be 🙂


Covey’s ‘7 Habits’ was given to me by my Dad when I was a teenager – I believe it was the first ever time management/business book I ever read, and I STILL go back to it 🙂

What say you?