Laundry is my least favorite chore, but if I want to wear clean clothes, it must be done. Recently I was folding the mountain that had been piling up on the end of our couch when I had a revelation about time management. If I had taken the time to fold the clothes when they came out of the dryer, it would have taken less time than waiting until it piled up into an overwhelming amount of work that demanded my attention.

Laundry and Time Management

Find out what a pile of laundry taught me about time management.

My revelation didn’t stop there. Instead of waiting until most of our clothes needed to be washed, I could run a load every day to make the task more manageable. As a bonus, my family won’t run out of things to wear! It all comes down to time management.

From tackling laundry to writing your company’s next press release, time management is about how you make the most of the minutes in the day, so your responsibilities don’t collect into an overwhelming amount of work.

The Importance Of Time

So often we forget time is one of our most precious resources. As a result, we often waste it on activities that hold no value. Once used, time cannot be regained; there is no stopping the progression of the clock. When put into perspective it is easy to see how important time-management skills are. The question is, “How can we make the most of this valuable asset?”

Better Time Management In Four Steps

1. Identify How You Spend Your Time

Part of effective time management is knowing how to use your day. You probably know your office hours, but have you tracked how long you spend checking email throughout the day or the time you allocate to asking for clarification on tasks? This infographic from Atlassian illustrates how much a person’s time at work is wasted with excessive emails, meetings and interruptions, with 60% or less time actually being spent productively!

So, how can you become more efficient? Create a time-management journal and record your tasks from start to finish. You will be surprised how long you spend on “quick” activities such as email. If you are not doing well at time management, you’ll notice areas that are producing little to no value to your business. By being able to identify these gaps, you can fit more significant assignments into your day and avoid the ones not contributing to your success.

2. Prioritize Your Workload

Record when you start and stop activities to see how you spend your time.

One of the best ways to allocate your time to value-added activities is through prioritizing. Determining what should be getting your immediate attention versus what can wait is a difficult skill to master. First, you need to identify what is important.

Start by writing down your daily tasks. From there, you can determine what has the greatest impact on your business and goals. The items with the biggest influence should be at the top.

Make sure to consider how a task might be ranked by other parties. While an activity may not have a significant effect on your goals, it could be a high-level priority for another person, such as a business partner or client. Clarifying the primacy of tasks with those you are working with will help you determine where the item should stand on your to-do list.

3. Create A Schedule

Now that you can see where time is going and have a grasp on how to prioritize your tasks, creating a schedule is the next step. This is a perfect opportunity to grab that time-management journal you recorded activities in from step one.

Use this resource to determine when you work most productively during the day and schedule the tasks that have the most value within those productive windows. Then, fill in the remaining spots based on priority. Every day before you get started, create a schedule to see where your time needs to be spent. You could even do this the night before, so you can jump right in the next day. Doing this every day helps you visualize how you want to spend your time and improves your awareness of times when you didn’t spend your time as intended.

4. Stay Flexible

No matter how fastidiously you manage and organize your time, life happens. There are going to be unanticipated events and issues that will require your immediate response. Whether it’s because of a last-minute interview with a reporter or a negative comment on your Facebook page, there will be times when your schedule needs to be readjusted. Being flexible with your time management will alleviate stress when you need to re-work your assignments.

Tools For Time Management

From digital technologies to old-fashioned paper and pen, there are a wealth of tools to help you manage your time effectively. Everyone has different preferences, so what works for you may differ from what keeps me on task.

The most common time-management tool is a calendar. There is nothing wrong with a paper calendar and manually jotting down your day-to-day tasks. For many, the physical act of writing helps them stay on track. If you are open to electronic calendar systems, Google calendars are a great alternative. This solution allows you to view multiple calendars simultaneously or independently and easily invite others to meetings, color code events and set reminders. There is a lot you can do with this option. Even better – they are accessible on your smart phone and other mobile devices, so you always have them with you.

Additional time-management resources that are especially useful for busy entrepreneurs managing your organization’s social media marketing are scheduling tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social. Both allow you to access multiple social media accounts at once and see everything there on your screen, saving you time and energy.

These tools also save you time on posting. There are multiple options available to fit your company’s needs, from setting distribution schedules to creating your posts ahead of time to post on a specific day and time. When you need to make sure your posts are going out at a consistent time every day, scheduling your posts in advance will ease the headache of making sure you’re available and online as well as lighten your daily workload.

Take A Step Back

Just because you can be the time-management superhero of your company, remember to take a step back and breathe when you have low-level priorities. No one can go on forever at the intense level of work that comes with high-priority tasks. The last thing you want is burnout.

When working on these high-level tasks WWR recommends taking a break every 75-90 minutes for roughly 15-17 minutes. This break will help you stay focused and clear your mind. If you were struggling with a task, coming back after a short breather can make all the difference, allowing you to clearly see the solution that was hiding behind the frustration before.

What should you do during your break? There are many great ways to take a break, like taking a walk or eating a snack. If you work from home, you could even fold a basket of laundry! The main point is shifting your attention from the work you were doing and focusing on something else.

While I am sure my family will appreciate having their clothes cleaned and folded on a regular schedule with better time management, the effects roll into managing business as well. For more business advice, contact us for a free 30-minute consultation. That’s a great use of your time!

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