Time management is the bane of my existence. And from the conversations I’ve had with other small business executives, I understand that most of us feel the same way. We are busy people with working hours that extend long past 5 p.m. We have deadlines to meet, clients and board members to please and mountains of emails to answer. It can be difficult to properly manage one’s time, but over the years I’ve learned to weed out the following practices. By doing so, I’ve been able to breathe easier day-to-day.
1. Stop checking email every 12 seconds
This can be incredibly difficult, especially if you are waiting for an important email from a client. Fight the urge and instead try to designate specific hours to check your email, maybe three times per day—once in the morning, afternoon and right before you go home. Test this out for a day and see what happens; I bet your productivity will soar.
Another option is to use an email management system. I use SaneBox (I’m not getting paid to write this and have no connection to the company) and love how the program compartmentalizes my emails based on importance. At the end of the day, I can relax while checking the less urgent emails I missed during business hours.
2. Stop scheduling back-to-back meetings
You look at your calendar Monday morning only to realize that your week is completely filled with meetings. Instead of booking them back-to-back, schedule 10-minute breaks between each one. This pad time will account for meetings that go long and hopefully give you room to rest before your next brainstorming session.
3. Stop multitasking
According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, the conscious brain is not able to do more than one thing at a time. Although I do think he’s correct, it can be awfully tempting to send an email while listening to a conference call. Or check Facebook while sitting in a meeting. Resist the urge and try to focus on one thing at a time. Do this and watch your to-do list dwindle at lightening speed.
4. Stop thinking that everything will take only 10 minutes
The business process can be a slow one, so try to pad the execution time of every project you start. Instead of thinking a press release will take an hour to write and another hour to go through the approval process, schedule a day (or two) for expected completion. The farther out you align your expectations, the happier you will be when the project is finished before deadline.
5. Stop working with blinders on
It can be so easy to get into work at 7 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m. only to then realize that you haven’t eaten all day—and, worse yet—haven’t completed the most relevant tasks on your list. I try to ask myself if I’m being productive several times per day. I will pause in the middle of a task and think, “Is this the best use of my time? Is this the best use of my client’s/employee’s time?” If the answer is no, I will realign my priorities to work on tasks more necessary to my business.