If you’re looking for a work day distraction, there are (ironically) thousands of theories you can find online about how best to manage your time; and every business owner can tell you how they do it best. At WrightPlan, we’ve built our company on the goal of helping clients optimize their processes, and provide great tools to organize task lists, due dates, and staff time so they can focus on all the things that keep you fulfilled outside of the office. Time management is key for us. We believe you should never feel “too busy” to live your life well.
While a lot of these strategies, from meditation to sleep time regulation, are great, I’ve personally found the key to doing it successfully is to customize a plan that takes into account the way I work best… and the challenges I know we face each day. If you’re a parent and spend your evenings at soccer practice or dance lessons, taking time to map out the next day’s to-do lists or answer emails might not be feasible. If you hate running, trying to hold a morning gym appointment with the trail behind your house might be unrealistic. Since we live in Waterloo, Ontario, (a great Canadian city known for innovation and technology), we’ll share a few key tech-related tips we use to keep our team on track.
Escape Your E-Mail
If you’re ready to have a week that’s organized around other people’s priorities, check your inbox first thing in the morning. Seriously. Checking your e-mail often sets an expectation with your network that you’re always immediately available to put out their fires instead of keep your own priorities in line. Focusing and refocusing many times a day is also mentally exhausting. Take control of your time each day by allocating two hours in your workday (one mid-morning, one late afternoon). Skeptical? Try it I dare you, just as an experiment. You’ll be amazed how efficient you can become within that hour, and how streamlined your workflow will become as a result. If you need a little help with the digital detox, there’s an app for that. Think batch process, and brevity!
Optimize Your Travel Time
With over 80% of our customers outside of our local region, our team spends a lot of time in on the road and in airports. It’s valuable time for us: and while it might be too hectic and unfocused for tasks that require our undivided attention, it’s a great time to get motivated, grow our industry knowledge, and learn new tools to stay productive. Check out podcasts by motivator extraordinaire Tony Robbins, time management guru Tim Ferriss, Ted Talks for excellent but short presentations on just about any topic, or the ever-entertaining super star entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk for quick doses of inspiration.
Measure Your Success
Measurement tools are the best way to ensure that all your communication systems are paying for themselves. They can also give you valuable information about how to better optimize your time. How well is your website working, for example? Are there pages where you’re consistently losing people? Google Analytics can give you valuable insight into the way users navigate your site, so you can better organize your information. If you’re not sure how to read Analytics, here are 20 Must-Know Tips and Tricks to master Google Analytics. Using a tool like bit.ly to measure the impact of your social links can give you similar information, while programs like Constant Contact can provide detailed reports about how people interact with your e-mails.
Alternate Your Meeting Agenda
We’ve all been there. A meeting without an agenda and a clear focus can leave everyone feeling like their time wasn’t valued, especially if there’s travel time involved. Using Skype or Google Hangouts to connect can save out of office meeting times without losing that face-to-face dynamic (especially during those northern winters when you can’t get to the office!) For meetings that need to be held in person, consider giving one person the role of time keeper, or use a timer to help you stay on track. A healthy option is to unplug completely! Try walking meetings for one-on-one, which give the added benefit of improving your focus, creativity and mood. For groups, try stand up meetings. In another article on our blog, I talked about how great standing desks have been for the overall health and productivity. They’ve also helped us in our meetings, as people are more likely to stay task-oriented while standing.
One hidden and important key to finding success with any time saving strategy is to believe your time is valuable. If you don’t, you won’t be motivated to put anything into practice, or to stick with it until it becomes a familiar habit instead of a forced routine. Remind yourself often what you have to be grateful for, and use your free time to the fullest. Once you’ve got the belief part down, mix and match strategies from a few different sources. Most importantly, don’t try to do too many things at once. Easy does it, and less is definitely more!
Michael Cox is the Chief Executive Time Optimizer behind WrightPlan software management system.