This is a time management trick… If you’re like me, when you think about a month of time, you think that it’s a long time to accomplish all the things that you need to do.
Truthfully, before I was a mother, a month did feel like ages of time because I was able to work all times of the day and on weekends – whenever I wanted. This typically added up to about 55 hours of work a week, which felt fine because I was working on my schedule and able to take breaks when I wanted to.
But, now that I have a peanut and I’m forced to work during the window of time that she spends at daycare (and refuse to work at night after I put her to bed because, hey – I need my time, too), a month is only 20 working days.
I’ll repeat that – if you are working ‘business days’ only, a month is only 20 days.
When you consider how many tasks on your list swallow up one-third, one-half or all of your working day, this really is not a lot of time. *Gulp*
Having 55-hour weeks of work at my leisure condensed into 35-hour weeks of concentrated work time has been a BIG adjustment for me, but it’s also taught me a lot about how to make the most of the time that I do spend working.
This is what I do:
Step 1: Figure out all of the tasks that you repeat every month, and approximately how much time each takes.
You’ll be surprised how much of your time is consumed by tasks that you repeat daily, weekly or monthly.
For instance, daily I have to manage my email inboxes (1 hour), pitch my website design services on Upwork (30 minutes) and spend a bit of time checking in on social media (30 minutes).
Weekly, I have a designated number of hours that I spend on my retainer clients’ websites and online business systems.
Monthly, I have four blog posts to write, Pinterest content to create for my website design business, Instagram content to create for my health coaching company, Skillshare courses to create, YouTube tutorials to create, and the list goes on…
This step will usually reinforce just how much you need a time management system in the first place!
Step 2: Use an Excel or Google spreadsheet for time management, and mark out your twenty working days.
You can complete this step on a calendar, but I find having everything in a linear spreadsheet easier to view. I mark out my twenty days, usually adding in the weekends and highlighting these with a dark color. This allows me to see when weeks begin and end easily.
I tend to work in ‘buckets’ of time – with the morning bucket from 8AM to 11AM being the most productive. I mark ‘Morning Work’ and ‘Afternoon 1’, ‘Afternoon 2’ as my time slots.
Step 3: Add any doctors appointments, personal days, or otherwise scheduled time.
If you’ll be taking vacation days, have appointments or any other scheduled commitments, place those in the blocks of time that they will be taking up. Don’t forget to take travel time into account!
Step 4: Place your recurring tasks onto the days in which you will be completing them.
OK, now you have the amount of time available for work in front of you. Take the tasks you mapped out and place them onto your spreadsheet.
Step 5: Identify your white space – this is the time you have to start new projects or push them forward.
What you’re left with now is the free working time you have to devote to non-routine tasks. List out what projects or irregular tasks need to get done this month and place them onto your spreadsheet.
If you’re like me, this step is critical for my time management. It always forces me to prioritize which ‘extras’ are the most important, and it usually becomes clear that I won’t be able to complete something like a new online course within the month. What this does do, is force me to be realistic about my time and what deadlines I can set for myself.
Leaving some white space can be useful in case you do not complete a task on any given day. Leaving yourself some room is always good!
Step 6: Commit to completing each days’ designated tasks. Always end each day knowing what you will be doing the next.
Now you have your month mapped out! It’s time for follow-through.
Commit to following your spreadsheet to the best of your ability throughout the coming weeks. For more accountability, I block out my spreadsheet tasks on my Google calendar at the start of each week – as things shift (and they will), I can move some things around in the spreadsheet and add them to the Google calendar at the start of each week so that I always know what I should be focused on.
Bonus tip for time management: Make sure that you know exactly what your tasks are for the next day when you wrap up each workday. Your spreadsheet will tell you what you are broadly focused on, but list out your exact to-do’s. Taking time throughout the day to figure out exactly what you need to do next is a momentum-killer.
And there you have it! Yes, it’s a bit of a process, but it’s really helped me to stay on track and move the needle forward even with reduced hours. Give it a try 🙂