Good time management is something which is very hard to achieve even by the best Internet marketers. Many good marketers have said to me: “gosh, that’s one thing I could do with – better time management”.
So if you have trouble with it, don’t fret! You are in good company.
In this post I go quickly over 10 tips – around 2 minutes per tip – to try to improve your time management fast.
I do hope you get loads out of it.
Practice Makes Perfect
Learning good time management is like learning any other skill. You have to keep doing it, reviewing how you are doing, tweaking your method, and then trying the new method you just devised.
You won’t manage it first time but after you repeat it a few times you will get better and better. Here are ten suggestions which will help you turn into a super time manager!
When building my $500K herbal business, I used every time management system going, and I was still unsatisfied with how I managed my time. This went on for years. Each successive system I tried seemed to be more and more complicated, and sometimes it felt as if I was spending more time managing my time than actually doing things.
Then, finally, I decided on two things: first, I would use a note utility (I use Evernote) on my smartphone and my computer to bring my time management well into the 21st century.
And secondly, casting aside the dozen or so time management systems which had confused me, I would sit and rack my brains for the few, key essentials of time management I knew were lodged in my brain, not get up again until I had laid these out in my own system. Which took one, long day.
This system doubled my productivity – and I came to call it Timology.
So I’m going to tell you some of the elements of Timology, ten of them, and these will help you boost your own productivity.
Tip Number 1
So my tip number one is: Have all your tasks, or To-do’s in other words, written down. Don’t keep any in your head. It’s just distracting to try and remember things: and at the back of your mind you’re always doubting yourself: “Have I remembered everything?”, and sooner or later, you will forget something.
So, write it down. Keep it in your To-do lists, I recommend using a note utility (I use Evernote) and just have a careful note of everything you’ve got to do. Having reminders in place for everything you have to do takes the stress out of your day, and it helps to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Tip Number 2
Secondly, I assume, so you’ve got lists of things to do. I recommend you keep one list labelled “Today”. If you use a note utility which allows “tags”, that’s easy. Evernote lets you do this.
Have 5-6 to dos tagged “Today”. You can change which 5 or 6 as the day progresses and the landscape changes.
Some of the tasks might be quite small; some of them might be bigger, but 5-6 is about the right number for most people. First thing in the morning, review any tasks you’ve got on your “Today” list remaining there from yesterday, and then look through your other task list and add some more as appropriate. For example, I’ve got a list tagged “Tomorrow”, too. First thing in the morning I might change 1 or 2 of their tags from Tomorrow to Today, or vice versa.
It’s up to you how you plan your day: but the fact that you do plan means you’ll get more done, and you’ll feel generally happier about it.
So you can now focus on your top five or six tasks. When you’ve finished one task, you can go back to your “Now” list, which has only got a short number of tasks on it – rather than look through the whole of your To-do list. Try this way of tagging your most important tasks: you’ll find it works really well.
Tip Number 3
Number three: Clear your essential maintenance tasks as soon as you start work, then it’s generally best if you focus solid time on one project.
The routine jobs you get out of the way will include: email, checking and adjusting your To-do lists – such as putting things in the “Now” list, as I mentioned earlier – responding to any queries you’ve got to respond to, checking your calendar for today’s appointments, and emptying your Intray.
Now you can spend a good chunk of your focused time on one major project. If possible, finish one project off if you can before starting on another one. It’s not always possible, but if you can, it’s the most efficient way to work.
Tip Number 4
Now to help you stay focused on that project that you’re working on with your chunks of time, use a timer. Now a timer really does help to keep you focused. It helps you avoid distractions.
If someone interrupts you, the timer in the corner of your eye just makes you think, “You know, I’ve really got to focus on this. I must deal with this interruption as quickly as possible, and then return to my work,” and it’s just nice to get to the end of your day and to know, for example, you might have done two hours or three hours on a project and your timer confirms that.
So there are various electronic timers you can get. On the PC, there’s Cool Timer, which I have used in the past. There’s Snaptime Pro, which I sometimes use now. And a good iPad app is FreeTime, where you can set up multiple timers if you want.
A final way to time yourself is to use the Pomodoro time available with Kanbanflow. I won’t go into the Kanban method here, but with the free Kanbanflow the Pomodoro timer is very good. This lets you work for 25 minutes then gives you a 5 minute break. I find this definitely aids concentration and helps stop you frittering time away.
Tip Number 5
So my fifth tip is to keep a clear desk and in-tray. If you’ve got stuff lying around, it will be distracting, so clear stuff up as you go along. If you’ve got piles of stuff all over the office, at the moment, or your workspace, then take your time clearing it up: but do clear it up.
With each item you’ll mainly need to:
- Act on it, write it down – or delegate it (The 5 minute rule)
- Delegate it
- File it
- Bin it – throw it away
Pile everything up in your in-tray and then work your way through them one at a time.
I recommend the OHIO principle: Only Handle It Once. In other words, once you pick something up ACT on it – don’t put it down again. That’s a bad habit!
Do this throughout the day.
If it gets out of hand the the Intray starts building up, tidy it up as part of a “weekly review” when you check your time management is in hand.
Tip Number 6
Tip number six is along the same lines but applying to your emails: keeping your email inbox to zero.
Now I know that can be quite difficult to do, but it’s definitely possible, and again, very satisfying if you do that. So the thing with your emails is to clear your inbox. Don’t leave emails in your inbox so you just end up reading them or glancing at them even, two, three, four, five, six times.
You shouldn’t leave emails in your inbox – a waste of your time. It really is. So read them once and deal with them, so you can either delete them – I use my deleted folder as my archive. I’ve got my deleted folder going back for 10 years or more with Outlook so I could search for anything that’s in that folder at any time.
If it’s a <5 minute task, do it there and then, else create a To-do list from the email item if it requires action. I would create a note in Evernote and paste the email into the body of the note, and write my “to do” desctiption as the title of that note.
Or, if you have Evernote, you have your own Evernote email address, so you can send it there and it will just pop into Everntoe as a to do, ready for you act on.
So, I’ll just show you my Outlook email. Okay, so here’s my inbox, and you can see at the moment, there are xxx items in it.
So I’ll just quickly go through these. That’s just a summary of Twitter, not really very interesting; Freelance.com, not interesting; Buffer, not interesting; WarriorForum, not interesting; Message From My Accounts Department and one from Yahoo! Answers – not interesting.
So the accounts, I’ve already dealt with that, so I’ll delete it. These things I’ve done I would want them to go to my secondary inbox because they’re simply not important items, and if I didn’t see them for a week it probably wouldn’t matter in most cases.
And so here is my secondary inbox. I call it “Non-urgent,” and what I do is anything that’s important, I set up a rule in Outlook to send email into my Non-urgent inbox. I’ve recorded this on video before that I do this, so I won’t go into that now, but I’ll just show it quickly.
Right click on this Twitter one. “Rules,” “Always Remove Messages from Twitter to Non-urgent.” That’s that.
“Rules,” “Always Remove Messages from Freelance” – it’s non-urgent – “Buffer,” the same.
These are things I’ve signed up to recently, or activated recently in some way; hence, I haven’t set up these rules already.
So there you go. That’s my inbox empty, just how I like it, and now I’ll look at my secondary inbox, which is where 80% of where my mails go because of rules I’ve set up, and these are usually not anything; you know, I usually delete these… which really means they are archived in my email system.
You can set rules to filter out just your most important email in most email systems.
Tip Number 7
On to Top Tip number seven: Manage your business and your personal tasks using the same To-do system.
After all, business and personal tasks affect each other, they impinge on each other. If you’ve got your personal life organised, it will have a good effect on your business and visa versa. So why not use the same system?
If you use an note utility like Evernote, you can ‘tag’ notes that you want to do in certain places – eg with “Home” or “Shopping”. Now there are ways of being able to see your To-do items when you’re at home or at work and keep that distinct, but keep them in the same system.
This useful idea of tagging is covered more completely in the Timology system.
Tip Number 8
Number eight: Have a weekly review. First, collect any papers and anything else on your desk and put them in your Intray, then work through them till they’re gone.
Then go through your emails, and if they’ve built up, which they might do, then hack them back down to zero again – it just keeps things so much cleaner and efficient.
And then, look through, in the weekly review, every single on of the To-do tasks you’ve got and make sure you’ve got five to six on your special “Today” To-do list, which we looked at over here at point two.
Now, each one of these notes here is a task, and each task has a preview down here with some more information, which could be anything I want. These are the actual tasks, and they’re all in the To-do notebook, you can see from here, and they’re all… each one is tagged with various tags.
Some of them are tagged with “Today”, some of them are tagged with “Tomorrow”,
I keep things organised so that I can see a small number of items under my “Today” tag, and I know I am running low on things to do, I can quickly go to my “Tomrrow” tag and choose to move some items over to “Today”.
You might have noticed that I also have a “This Week” tag and I will move some items from here periodically over to Tomorrow or even to Today. I do all this moving around each day to some extent: but I check very item in all my to do lists at my weekly review.
I hope you get the rough idea – this is all made clearer in the Timology training.
So that’s the weekly review – really necessary to keep yourself tidy – and don’t forget to go through that in-tray during your weekly review and clear it out.
Tip Number 9
Number nine: Only keep time-specific tasks in your calendar. So don’t put to-do items in your calendar. I personally have maybe two, three, four items in my calendar in a day. That’s all.
Having To-do list items in a calendar really is a waste of time because you end up just having to move them around. And you don’t know you’re going to get around to something on a certain day, so it’s better to keep you to two items on the To-do lists and not clutter it up. So only put things in your calendar that have to be done at a certain time or on a certain day.
Tip Number 10
And finally number ten: Keep a “Pending” list and put on it things you are waiting for others to do. So if you ask somebody to do something, if somebody says they’re going to get back to you, if you delegate a task, put it on a “Pending” list and review it during your weekly review.
Now in my own system, I actually have that here as a tag. So I can check my Pending tag items in Evernote and check what I am owed by various people, each week or so.
Tip Number 11
Use a note utility – such as Evernote. Other options are the Linux Evernote clone which used to be called Nevernote, but now it’s Nixnote: and also, you can use Microsoft’s OneNote.
I’ve shown a few example of how Evernote helps me with my time management and it’s because a. it allows me to tag my to dos, and b. it’s so easy to add to dos or filing to it – whether it’s typed in directly, emailed to my Evernote email address which automatically drops it into my Evernote, or forwarded to Evernote from my email programme or from my phone.
I want to keep this training short, so check elsewhere for my Timology training programmes which tell you in detail how, using a note utility, I used Timology to double my productivity.
So that’s the end of this summary of Top Ten Time Management Tips. If you get your time management right, you can become much more effective and efficient in not only your work, but also your private life.
And doing your work will become much more satisfying, because you’ll have your finger on the pulse of your work: you’ll know where you are with everything. If you need to look stuff up, you’ll know where to look. You won’t overlook tasks, and you will simply achieve more in the working time you have available.
So I hope you got some useful ideas from these top ten tips.
Evernote is such a useful program that I think absolutely everybody could benefit from using it.