Time Management Strategies & Life Hacks
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Spread Your Sunshine Founder Melanie S. Griffin, Esq. recently delivered a keynote address to the Martin County Bar Association (“MCBA”) Solo & Small Firm Committee. As further detailed in the recording, this presentation explores time management strategies and life hacks, including understanding how poor time management hinders success and tips for best managing your time throughout your day. While this program was presented to MCBA members, almost the entire discussion is applicable to professionals across all industries. We therefore hope these ideas help fabulous YOU as you strategize the schedule that helps you shine your brightest.
Why Focus on Time Management?
Time management is defined as “the process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity. It involves a juggling act of various demands upon a person relating to work, social life, family, hobbies, personal interests, and commitments with the finiteness of time.”
In essence, good time management leads to finding information more quickly, thinking more clearly, working more productively, utilizing professional skills more effectively, and making a better impression on clients and colleagues than professionals who are disorganized or demonstrate other poor time management habits.
Time Management Strategies
Knowing the pitfalls of poor time management, you can now start to implement new strategies, like the ones below, to counteract any bad habits you have unconsciously acquired over the years.
- Take Control of Your Communications
When possible, set specified times of day to respond to emails. Your email can be set-up in the background to monitor for emergencies, but otherwise, stick to your schedule. The more quickly you respond to emails, the more emails you will receive. By corresponding during certain blocks of time, you will eliminate any pressure you feel to respond immediately and train the people with whom you work to expect a response within a reasonable period of time instead of 24/7.
Additionally, do not start your day with emails and social media. Instead, best use the first few hours of the morning when you are your freshest working on projects that require your sharpest brain power.
Also, if the volume of your communications overwhelms you, consider delegating your responses to a trusted employee, virtual assistant or concierge, or app.
- Set & Evaluate Periodic Goals
To maximize your productivity, establish your A, B, and C priorities. In other words, what must be done today or this week/month/quarter/year to consider it a success?
When multiple tasks feel like an “A,” consider which one will generate revenue for your business and/or the highest return on investment and start there.
When setting your goals, realistically forecast the amount of time required to complete each task. For example, it is impossible to complete a dozen tasks in a day if each project requires hours of work.
Detail each task necessary to complete your larger goals. By breaking the project down, you will know where to start and what needs to be done, which has the added benefit of preventing procrastination.
Forgive yourself for past mistakes and do not let the fear of failure dictate your future. Instead, forgive yourself, learn from what happened, and move on.
Periodically evaluate whether you are meeting and achieving your goals in each important area of your life. If not, make necessary adjustments.
- Make “No” A Part of Your Vocabulary
“No” is not a bad word, so use it. Determine the “mission-critical” areas in your life (e.g., work, family, faith, community, health) and the positive change you want to create in the world (e.g., mentoring, food insecurity, etc.). Then, use what you have defined as central to your success as guideposts to evaluate new opportunities. If the proposed way to use your time does not align with what you have determined to be important, say “no.”
- Engage in Calendar Blocking
Treat certain business days each week as “booked.” These days are reserved for catching up on work, starting new initiatives, completing more complex projects, or anything else that you need to accomplish and do not have the time to address on days filled with appointments.
- Set & Adhere to Time Limits
Oftentimes, you use the time you have, whether it is from 9 AM to 6 PM or sunup until sundown. So, determine the time your workday will end, work productively to accomplish as much as you can during that time, and then sign-off to protect non-working hours for non-work projects.
- Plan Ahead
Look ahead and schedule tasks when they can most efficiently be completed. For example, if this week, you need to return phone calls and draft an article and will be in the office on Monday and on the road on Tuesday, plan to draft the article on Monday in the office and make the calls on Tuesday when you are commuting between appointments.
- Standardize Common Decisions
The more you can automate decisions, the more time you will save. For example, determine that all breakfast meetings will occur at Coffee Shop A, all lunch meetings at Restaurant B, all Happy Hours at Bar C, etc. This way, you do not spend additional time deciding where to go for each appointment and can better delegate scheduling duties should you decide to involve an assistant.
- Not Every Meeting Requires a Meal
When you are pressed for time, such as when you have suffered an injury after an accident, it is difficult to personally meet with everyone who requests an appointment, nor should you potentially do so when the issue can be addressed during a quick 10- to 15-minute phone or Zoom call. So, prioritize the meetings for which face-to-face conversations are best, and for remaining appointments, schedule a shorter appointment so that the issue is addressed while preserving your remaining time for additional projects.
- Know When “Good” Is “Good Enough”
Not all tasks are created equally. Consider the appropriate amount of time to dedicate to the instant project and when “good” is “good enough” so that the perils of perfectionism do not derail your time management. Each additional second spent is time wasted unless the additional time derives additional ROI or the activity is one for which you have time and that personally brings you joy.
As a related concept, allow at least 10% of your life to be “wrong” every day. Determine the top priorities that must be “right” versus the items that can get out the door without being 100% perfect. Use your time wisely and let the little things go.
- Evaluate Additional Tasks You Have Voluntarily Assumed
Consider the amount of time you spend maintaining your house, supporting your family, caring for your pets, etc. Are you shouldering these tasks because you must? Or, have you voluntarily added additional items to your to-do list because you insist on projects being completed a certain way, enjoy the heightened relationships with your family and friends, or desire “martyr” recognition? If help is available to you, work collaboratively to divide and conquer tasks and better utilize your time.
Tiffany Dufu’s book Drop the Ball gives the following advice:
Through your actions, you are training everyone around you. If you are not effectively communicating, others do not understand the amount of time your projects require; or the task you need help with. It is therefore important that you train your team on these time management concepts, too. With this in mind, make sure you learn to delegate: We overestimate the number of times that people will say “no.” Many times, providing help is a blessing, not a burden — those around you want to invest in you and see you succeed.
- Organize Your Space
Clutter and chaos disrupt your effectiveness and efficiency. To maximize your time, clean your space first.
- Define “Balance” in the Long-Term, Not the Short-Term
You will not get an “A” in every area of your life every day. If you are crushing work, you are likely behind at home and vice versa. Replace evaluating yourself in the microcosm of a day when you “failed” in the area where your time was not invested with evaluating your performance over a longer period. For example, if this week you are focused on work and next week at home, consider yourself balanced over the two-week period instead of focusing on each week individually.
- Take Breaks
- Engage an Accountability Mentor/Coach/Partner
To listen to this keynote address in its entirety, please click here or on the video above.
Now that you are a time management pro, is there additional information you want to receive from Spread Your Sunshine?! We’re sure there is, so please share your ideas by emailing Melanie@SpreadYourSunshine.com or sending Spread Your Sunshine a message via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. We love hearing from you, as together we are strongest.
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