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

floral clock wooden

{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

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:

ui-matrix

{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.

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Homework

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?

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