Always tick-tick-ticking away.
Some days you're working from sun up to sun down. And at the end of the day, you have no idea what you actually did.
It's happened to the best of us.
One thing I've found in close to 6 years of straight-entrepreneurship and collectively 13 years throughout my lifetime, is that there's no tool that'll "fix" your time problem.
Gasp! But the title says "8 Time Management Tools.."?!
Yep. I know.
The deal is: Time management tools rely on you.
If you're not willing to adhere to a system that works for you, there's no tool in the world that'll fix the problem.
Whether you've gotten to the point that you've invested tons of money in tools, books, or productivity courses—or maybe you're just fed up with "running out of time" more often than not—this post is for you.
The person ready to take tools and motivation to navigate your business to a more productive future.
Although I'm big on productivity and organization, I wasn't always efficient.
(Okay, better said, I was a stubborn ass for most of my lifetime.)
Entrepreneurship, for me, started as a "I have to do this because if I'm not 'the boss' I'm not a good team player".
That's pretty much the antithesis of a successful business owner.
And with that realization came the point where you understand that, sometimes, you have to make some pretty huge sacrifices to reach goals. And that being self-disciplined with positive professional habits is a must if you want to be successful.
So, easing into waking up at 5AM was the first step.
Then, it was balancing family and work as a recovering workaholic.
Finding more time for life outside of work (or the other way around) can turn into a part-time job.
But that's where using the right tools partnered with the motivation to succeed—to make it work—comes in.
Because "finding" extra time for work, or time for more important things in life—like family, friends, and fun—are gargantuan keys to a successful business and a happy life.
Gain more time and better balance your life and business with these 8 tools to boost productivity in your solopreneur business.
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Every entrepreneur needs a plan.
And daily planning and structure is a key factor in reaching your professional goals in a S.M.A.R.T. fashion.
So, we've got some basic needs in the planning department:
- A Calendar
- A To-Do List
- A Daily/Weekly/Task Planner
1. A Planner
I use the Content Strategy Planner to map out all of my projects, content, email, and social media strategies.
Although I primarily use digital tools at this stage in my business, I refused to abandon the simplicity and clarity that paper planning offers.
This tool is a calendar, weekly, daily, and online strategy planner that can be used by any paper-appreciating entrepreneur with one blog to maintain.
2. Calendar Apps
Having your Reminders task list integrated with your calendar sold me on this one. BusyCal for Mac (although it's not available on the App Store anymore) is pretty darn great.
It's easy to use, you can set up filters to, well, automatically switch from one view to another.
EXAMPLE: I love seeing my full week in the week view, but only care to see all day tasks and my task list in the month view. Yep, the filters allow you to set that up.
For everything non-work related, I prefer using a mobile calendar.
I didn't like BusyCal for iPhone—too complicated to scan through when you, say, want to just take a peek at your week or get an idea of the appointments you have set up for the month.
So, in search of an app that was visually appealing, easy to use and customizable, I found WeekCal.
It offers weekly view limitations which will spoil you rotten if you're using another calendar app.
EXAMPLE: My day starts at 5AM and ends at 10:30PM. There's no reason to see all that blank sleeping space on the calendar.
WeekCal allows you to start and end your day at specific times to keep scrolling and keep unnecessary white space to a minimum.
3. To-Do Lists
After all the to-do list managers I've bought, 2 have managed my life and business best.
The first is the Reminders app that comes with all Apple products. Simple.
But then I came across the new version of The Hit List, and ooh am I in love with this app. Although the desktop version isn't as up-to-date looking as their iPhone app, it's outdated appearance doesn't detract from it's powerful capabilities.
It's pricey. But, to me, it's been worth it.
Although it has a slight learning curve, a simple Google search lead me to some decent YouTube videos on using the app. (I should do a tutorial, huh?)
Project Management Tools
Regardless of what industry you're in, I'm sure you work on projects of some sort.
And if you don't, there's no better time to start.
4. Project Development / Management Tool
Since I use The Hit List to project manage, too, it's my go-to app for several needs.
But maybe you'd prefer a guided project development tool. Especially if you're working with a team.
In that case, you'll want to check out Basecamp. They've got a free version now too. *Winks*
Time Management Tools
Specifically two time management tools that helped me become a better "life and work player" (instead of team player, you know, since I'm a solopreneur) are:
5. The Pomodoro Technique
This tried and true method of time management is the ultimate productivity tool for me.
I have a tendency to get lost in whatever it is that I'm working on.
I'd miss meals (seriously, just working right on through), get upset with my kids over interrupting me, and lose sleep and personal care time over a work-obsession.
And how can a 25-minute timer help that?
Self-discipline, partnered with the timer (and the will to change) straightened up my views on work and life.
Working, in any form, using the Pomodoro technique could revitalize your business.
You can use an app or simply the timer on your phone. Or even an egg timer.
Set your timer for 25 minutes. Start your single, focused task and work it till the timer sounds. After, take a 5-minute break.
Do something unrelated to work during your break. Even take a walk or do something physical to re-energize your mind and body.
Then, return to work with another 25 minutes on the timer.
After "four Pomodoros" (100 hours of work and a total of 15 minutes in break times), take a 15 to 20 -minute break from working.
I try to be as physical as possible during my breaks. I find that it brings additional clarity and focus to go take a walk or stretch for a bit.
Some of my best ideas come to me during this time.
6. Operational Alarms
Okay, my obsession with timers is becoming apparent.
But I've found that using timers is one of the most effective ways to keep my speedy-fast brain on target throughout the day.
This form or productivity boosting I'll lovingly credit to my on-the-go friend, Renee.
She's one busy woman, yet always has time to spend with her family and loved ones.
And if ever you chat with Renee, you'll likely hear an alarm go off at some point in your conversation.
So, "The Renee Method" (as I'll call it) consists of setting multiple alarms for your day-to-day life.
For example, I have my morning wake up alarm labeled "Morning Pages" since I get up to write first thing in the morning.
There's an alarm to prompt me for each major period in the day. Like "Morning Reading", "Kids' Nap Time and Work Time", "Pick Up Ava [At] Bus Stop", and so on.
Simple settings to gently disrupt potential distraction to keep me on course with what I need to be doing every day.
A necessity for a (recovering) workaholic like myself.
What would some of your "Renee Method" alarms be labeled?
Some Neglected Areas Of Importance
7. An Organized Email Inbox
First I'll note that Gmail is my ultimate favorite email client.
App-wise, I like having everything easily accessible from my desktop. I'm one of those people who forgets I have things if I can't see it. Yet, clutter and seeing too much is not at all what I need.
Pain in the tush much?
Hence my transition from a gazillion paper products, to one planner, my Accountability Partner Worksheet, and a few productivity applications to run my life and work like a well-oiled machine.
Not for it's functionality, but more for it's convenience. It comes in two formats: the desktop view and the condensed view. I like both just fine.
But really, it's more the convenience of having my email inbox as a tab on my Mac's tool bar.
Simple and convenient.
But, the app itself is a small piece in the productive puzzle.
Keeping a zero inbox as often as possible is the key to a productive inbox. And a part of that is having properly labeled folders and unsubscribing from anything that isn't relevant to you and your business anymore. Even if it's from my emails. *Sniffles*
Seriously, though. I'm not kidding.
8. Journaling Your Personal Stuff
I know we're not in grade school anymore. However, I came across this incredible technique by Julie Cameron.
It's called "Morning Pages".
The activity includes writing 3, long-hand pages of anything you can think of. Simple things. Julie refers to these thoughts as things that are "crossing your consciousness" in the time of writing them down.
"Morning Pages" is a technique used to clear your mind of the things that aren't super-important. But, these things can easily throw off your productivity when they bitch-slap your brain at random times during the day.
For example, one of my pages begins like this:
I'm not looking forward to cancelling Ava's drama class. I hope they don't make us pay for the month when I know she'll refuse to go. Waste, waste.
School is starting again tomorrow. Yay! The girls have been nuts...
I have to call my doctor tomorrow to get this surgery crap underway. Yay...
You're just writing down what you're thinking in the moment.
I spend anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes every morning with this activity to clear my mind of everything that doesn't pertain to work.
That way it's recorded, it's out, and it's dually noted so I can tackle it during my personal hour.
Although I love hand-writing, I moved my "Morning Pages" to the Day One journaling app.
Which time management tool will you start with?
P.S. Comments, emails, running a business and being a mom of 3 were just too much for me to handle. So, blog comments got the boot. But the lack of a comment box doesn't mean I don't want to hear what you think! Share your thoughts with me via @GoffCreative on Twitter or directly via email.
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