How to Create More Time in Your Work Day
Do you ever take a look at a neighbor and wonder how on earth she works, raises her three lovely, well-behaved kids, has a neat and clean house, and still has time to sleep? I used to only be able to do two of those. But now, I’ve got three down, and I’m working on a plan for a clean house. I’m going to show you in this post how to create more time in your day.
There are two secrets to neighbor-supermom.
- She has help – she outsources & automates
- Things are good, they aren’t perfect (even though they seem so from the outside)
It’s not 42 time-saving tricks
Although time-saving tactics can help, the “tricks” aren’t going to make the kind of difference you’re looking for, until you start thinking strategically. If you’re a business-owning mom who wants afternoons free, you’re going to have to do more than tactics.
You know what I’m talking about, right? Every women’s magazine has headlines advertising 100s of time-saving tips. It’s true, you might be able to shave 3 seconds off your underwear folding by using this “one special method.” But the article doesn’t ask why in the blue-blazes are you folding underwear in the first place?
Save the tactics for tasks you’ve decided are worth doing!
Start with strategy instead.
Figure out where your time is going
Before you can save any time or create more time, you need to know what you’re really doing with your time now.
For at least one week, write down everything that you do – work and home life. I know that’s not fun or easy. Just do your best. Carry a little notebook to log time, or use a phone app like Notes or Toggl.
Document what you do, when you do it, whether it’s work or life related (or any other category you want to use), and what your energy level is. We’re just trying to get a full picture of what we’re working with. There’s no reason to optimize something that you’re not even doing!
If you mess up or forget some time, just pick up the best you can where you left off. It’s not the end of the world if it’s not perfect. We just want as much information on what you’re doing and when as we can get.
Decide if you’re working on the right things
Take all your tasks – your home tasks, your work tasks, and even the more obvious time-wasters and rate them on two criteria:
Here are some handy definitions to help you figure this out.
Important tasks move you closer to achieving your own goals. Unimportant tasks move you toward someone else’s goal, or toward no goal at all.
Urgent tasks are those that need to be done now and have consequences (good or bad) that are immediate. Non-urgent tasks have no or very low-impact consequences for doing/not doing.
Based on your ratings, prioritize your tasks in the following order:
1. Important & urgent
Example: Getting your sales page up because you’ve already announced the date of your product launch and it’s tomorrow. Your child’s science fair poster is due tomorrow and she just ran out of glue stick. NOTE: Many of these can be avoided through better planning, but as anyone knows, those glue sticks go fast, and no way are you giving her the bottle of Elmer’s.
2. Important & not urgent
Examples: Writing blog posts, reaching out to past customers, writing a chapter in your book, feeding your family healthy meals
3. Not important but urgent
Example: Your client gives you photos this morning and she wants them put up on her website by this afternoon for a sales meeting. WARNING: This is the black hole that sucks up time with no mercy.
4. Not important and not urgent
Examples: A lead wants to meet for coffee to “pick your brain” about a project she’s considering, ironing
Stop list – the easiest way to create more time
Make a list of all tasks you can stop doing without immediate consequences. These are your unimportant and non-urgent tasks. Stop doing these now.
Now, add to this list tasks you’d like to outsource or automate(either now or eventually). These are your unimportant, urgent tasks, and maybe even some of your important, non-urgent tasks.
For this second group, add an important, non-urgent task to your task list to create a plan for delegating or automating.
Do your tasks at the right time of day
I love the idea of time-blocking. Primarily, if you do it with good colors, your calendar looks very pretty, and that goes a long way with me.
Really though, blocking out time for tasks each day, or each week makes so much sense. Combining a calendar and to-do list, time blocking schedules time for each task (or task category). You assign each block of time to something specific so you’re not spending your time deciding what you feel like doing next.
I have two keys to making time-blocking work for business-owning moms.
First, I recommend creating a time-blocked week to use as a template. You’ll need a place to start, and this can be a guide to help you make sure you’re considering all the task categories you often need to do. For example, you might create blocks for meals, writing, client work, admin, exercise, and family time.
Since we are often at the mercy of family schedules and major distractions, trying to stick 100% to a time-blocked calendar is an exercise in frustration. So, each week, use that template to schedule your specific week’s tasks.
Second, when you’re building your time-block template and your weekly schedule, think about your energy levels. Remember documenting them with your time tracking? Look for energy patterns. Are you more energetic in the morning? Or in the afternoon? Pair your tasks with the right levels of energy.
Minimum viable work day
I’m not sure I know one mom who hasn’t rushed a kid, a pet, or a spouse unexpectedly to the doctor. And the more kids & pets you have, the more often you have to do this I would guess. And it takes your entire day.
Here’s how I handle that. And now, it’s a little different than I talked about in my article about handling distractions. I call it my minimum viable work day.
Each morning, I look at my calendar and decide the one thing that must get done today to move my business along. And I have to do that before going to bed. (I do this for home life too.) Usually, it’s a small part of the beginning of a task, like, outline a blog post or post one Pinterest pin. Just enough to keep momentum.
It’s very tempting to skip an important, but non-urgent task when our day has been turned upside-down. And of course, there are days when I do. But if we do that, then the next day, it pushes that day’s tasks back. Plus, it takes extra time to get back in the frame of mind we were in the day before. So, even doing a 10 – 15 minute task saves more like 30 – 45 minutes the following day.
For me, scheduling & doing my must-get-done task first thing when I start work helps me make sure I stay on track. But, when that’s not possible, (has anyone else gotten a call from school before I even made it back home after dropping off the kiddo?) I just make sure I get that task done before bed that night.
We all have the same amount of time in a day. I actually believe that time is relative, and it’s how we spend our time that determines how fast we experience it going for us.
If you want to know how to really create more time in your day, make
What I mean by that is that even if the clock for two people moves 15 minutes, one might experience it as a blink of an eye, and one might experience it as nearly forever. And isn’t it our experiences that determine whether we feel rushed, busy, relaxed, or calm?
I know that planning and scheduling can be a pain for a lot of people. I myself love planning but don’t really like following plans, which is another post completely… Anyway, the extra time created, and the calmer approach to things is worth any hassle that scheduling brings.
You're a business-owning mom, so you use this guide to prioritize your tasks in 2 minutes, and have 41 minutes left to knock out a task.
Great tips, Kate! I need to try time blocking, for sure. I certainly can’t get into really technical stuff late in the day, so I have to that earlier in the day.
Thanks Colleen – I like time blocking as a start, but to make it work for me, using it as an “ideal day” works best.