Monday, October 26, 2015

11 Time Management Tips for the Self-Employed

When David and I were both self-employed a few years ago, I offered him all kinds of time management advice. It was pretty good stuff, I thought, but I'm having quite a time adhering to my own advice. In the interest of completely procrastinating on actually doing work today, I'm going to make a new list of all the tips that I know help. Voila!

1. Make a list on Sunday night of what you need to accomplish that week. But don't do it right before bed because that can just stress you out. Just know that it's on the list, so it will get done. Then go about enjoying your weekend.

1a. List your to-dos by category

My business and daily life get mixed up, so when I remember I have to pay some bills, I keep a separate "home" list. I also keep an "email/communication" subcategory, along with Bookkeeping, Writing, Home, The Wee Boy, etc.

2. Slim that list down on Monday morning of what you absolutely need to accomplish that day. 

It's too easy to flip out looking at a massive To Do list. There's actually a pre-printed planner, called the Planner Pad, if you're the ink-to-paper type, that organizes your week like this. I have trouble keeping up with both paper and Google calendar, but they have an e-version as well.

3. Identify tasks that can wait until other days and assign them throughout the week.

4. Set a timer for tedious tasks, and stick to it. 

If you know you're only going to be spending 15 minutes on something, you'll know it won't be so bad. Also, it helps you stay focused -- no straying from the task until the timer sounds.

5. Only check email a few times a day

This saves time and stops you from doing that thing where you read the email, think 'I'll respond to that in just a bit because I'm doing something else now,' and then you completely forget about that old email because it's no longer bold-faced in your inbox.

6. Leave the house.

If your house is in a state of disarray, you aren't going to get as much accomplished as you could. It's too easy to say "Oh, but laundry, but organization, but dishes, but etc etc etc." I'm sure it would be lovely to hire a professional organizer to come in and makeover your home so you feel all zen and able to work at your dining room table (or even home office if you are so lucky!), but for now: go to the coffee shop. While you are there, remember to set a timer to make the most of your time

7. Work when you are most productive

This one is super-hard when you have kids, or at least it has been for me. My childcare starts at 9am, but I am not a morning person. I am most productive and creative beginning at around 2p, basically just before I have to pick up the Wee Boy. If you don't have such restrictions, enjoy the freedom and make the most of it. You can set your own hours, so set them to when you can be efficient. 

8. Schedule your social media posts. 

You can use "schedule" feature on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. so you can post at optimum hours without being tethered to your laptop or phone at those exact moments. This ties in well with #7 -- if you write best at midnight, then write then. But schedule your post for a more prominent social media time. 

9. Give yourself a break.

This one is hard for me. I am the meanest boss around. But every employee needs a break. Take a walk around the block, do a 20 minute yoga video, sit down for a cuppa, whatever will re-energize you. Just again: Set a timer, so it doesn't turn into a Netflix marathon.

10. Learn your limits. 

Don't be too hard on yourself. Self-employed workers are doing the work of at least five (and probably more) employees. Understand that you are taking on a lot, and be good to yourself. 

11. Remember that your job is important.

I struggle with this one, especially because so many of my friends just do not understand self-employment. Most either think I am a stay-at-home-mom or that I am available to have lunch or coffee on a moment's notice if my kiddo is in childcare. I shouldn't care what they think, but it's rough when the same friend calls every day right during the time my clients start arriving (and when they have known your schedule for 10+ years!). It's easy to be dismissive of your own career, but do your best to remember that your job is important.

Now, to follow my own advice! Singing that song from Alice in Wonderland ... "I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it." Sigh. 
What are your time management tips?? I'd love to hear them.

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