Time Management Tips – How To Manage When You Have Too Much To Do

time-management-tips-too-muchIf there is one thing I am good at it is time management, goal setting and task management, with a huge BUT. But when I get to feeling overwhelmed, and there seem to be too many things to do in a short amount of time, I fall apart like everyone else and start scrabbling.

Well today that ends! I know how to get back on track, I have only been off for two days, for some of you I know this plan may be ending a lifetime of feeling like you are doing everything from behind.

The Promise and Premise of Entrepreneurship

There is a funny thing about being an entrepreneur. You are supposed to be all loosey-goosey with your days wide open and a choice for every task you have. You should be sitting around, picking and choosing the tasks that you like to do. Or your days should be filled with interesting meetings that lead to amazing opportunities. But wait, each of those opportunities probably has some kind of deliverable! Rats!

Being organized time-wise can feel to some people like they are being bound up, but to me it is freedom. Freedom from constantly worrying that I am not doing what is most important, or that I am forgetting something, or that I will miss an opportunity. It also means that when I do have the chance to get out, I know that there is nothing vital being left behind or having to race back to finish something.

For me, the last two days might feel like your everyday. Flailing around from one unfinished project to the next, scribbling to dos on sticky notes, enjoying the fact that a scheduled call canceled so I would have an extra couple of minutes to squeeze in something. If that sounds like you, just know that it can end today. I have lived a scheduled life and will just get right back on the wagon. If you have never felt the joy of scheduling, today may be the day that you change your world.

Here is what I am going to do today to get right (pretty much in order)

Make Money

The first job of an entrepreneur is to make money. Look at everything you are doing now and find the one or two things that are on your to-do list that will be responsible for making you the most money. For me today it is writing two sales pages, one for an upcoming event in October and one for our social media marketing packages.

Now there are probably 5 million other things I COULD do to make money but those are the two that will be directly money making activities so I should do them sooner rather than later.

Note: These have to be finite tasks. We also need a website for the October event, and that is more fun than writing sales copy, BUT it is not the very next thing that I have to do. PLUS it is a group of to-dos (write sales copy, add data to the directory, write 5 blog posts, etc.) It is a sub-task that is vital to the overall success of the October event and is probably my least favorite part so getting it out of the way will make the rest much easier.

Fulfill Promises To Yourself

I have “my” promises and “my company’s” promises and these are the next most important things. I promised myself years ago I would write at least one blog post a week for the Marketing Artfully blog and I am doing it now. I will not throw some crap together and call it a day because this site has actually been one of the main driver of sales. I also have to publish our book today. Now that can be this afternoon because I already have the cover done and publishing is actually only about a half an hour (my biz partner did the final edits yesterday). We made a vow that the biggest thing on either of our lists this year was to publish a book a week and barring death, we will do it!

Some other things I could/should do are 1) send out the newsletters and 2) do to-dos that Rebekah needs to move forward. Probably the to-dos will make the list, maybe the newsletters will get done tomorrow. It would be best if they were done today since tomorrow is a holiday, but no one will die if they go tomorrow so that may be answer…got to keep plodding along and see what else should get done today.

Note: It is easiest to not do these things. There isn’t a boss anywhere who will say “you didn’t write a blog post this week, so you are fired”. But to me, these “steady” things are the backbone of my success. They are the tiny building blocks that make up my whole factory and by letting them slide, I would be starting the decay of the whole building.

Fulfill Promises To Your Clients / Customers

Next are promises to our customers. I need to get article titles to our copywriter for one blog and some pretty graphics up for another one. Both of those together should take less than an hour. I will put an hour time in for those (see more about time later). Also I need to send a logo out, which will take 15 minutes and make a huge difference to our customer, this is a sure thing.

Note: After stuff I “have to do” for our comes the promises that we made to our customers which are sacred to me. That said, doing them crappy just to get them off my plate is not okay and they need to be given the gravity that they deserve. Also, poor planning on their part doesn’t mean I have to jump on my end. I have in my head that I need to save time for one of my customers who wants a pretty big job done, but they haven’t sent over all the pieces yet. I can safely move any time I had planned for that over to next week. Sometimes we are so pro-active about doing right by our customers that we wrap ourselves into knots. They would expect to send it over today and have it done, so why would I make myself crazy trying to do it?

Little Tasks

I have a few little things that need to be done like sending a link to a client (that one took less than a minute, I just popped over and did right now!) That said, most of these “little tasks” will take about 5 minutes or so. With that in mind you really have to give them a block of time on their own. Because I have a few that have backed up over the last couple of days, I am going to schedule half an hour today to clean them up. This will make me feel better, so many less things on my to dos!

Note: Because they are tiny, some experts suggest that you do anything that is two minutes or shorter immediately. That doesn’t really work for me since it means popping open my email or going on social or doing something else that will knock me off my game. I give them their own block of time, knowing that I can’t go down a rabbit hole and get them all done if I don’t stay on track.

Written Down

Ahhhh this is the key for me. I have a to-do laminated sheet that I use to write down what my three top to-dos are and then it has 10 more lines. There is no way that I can get 13 things done in a day generally, so having a longer “to-do” list would be silly and demoralizing. I have things that need to get done on the top three lines and do those immediately. The rest I cross off as I get done.

Note: I also have a Wish List. There are probably a couple of hundred things that I would like to do. Things that would be interesting, could make a difference or even might be way more fun than what I really have to do today. But they are not actually important. It is fine to have a wish list, but if your to-do list is 50 items long, you are just setting yourself up to fail every day.

There Is No Extra Time

This one is the most important to success by far. I have a day planned. I have about an hour this morning before my kids get up and it takes an hour and a half to write a blog post, so they get a pop tart and the TV (not optimal parenting, but great entrepreneurship!). Then the sitter comes and I am FREE to work! So I have from 7-10:30 today, before I go to a mastermind meeting. That is 3 1/2 hours max of steady work time. We have already determined I am going to do an hour of client work, I do have half an hour of tiny todos and I might just be able to carve out 45 minutes to send the newsletter out. One hour can go towards company work and there all my time is allocated.

The biggest mistake I see people make is to act like there is a time stretcher. While I would love to have more time, there is no magic that will make this part of my day grow so I have to be careful that I have a realistic goal of what I can really do. Luckily my mastermind is with one of the world’s best sales people, so I am going to take my “writing sales copy” out of this morning and do it when I meet with her. I have an owl timer that sits next to me so I set it and know when “times up”. Get a timer.

Note: I ALWAYS underestimate how long something I like to do will take and over estimate something that seems hard. If you like to do research online and give yourself an hour, is that a real estimate or will you stretch it out, messing up the timing of the rest of your day. Does that task you dread REALLY take an hour or are you being histrionic because you hate it? Once you get into the groove, you will see how easy it is to get things done and moved off your plate when you aren’t messing around with yourself.

Get Some Help

So I threw in there that I have a copywriter, I also have an assistant and some “elves”, workers who are doing things right now that I would have to have on my list if they weren’t there. You cannot do this all yourself, nor are your skillsets going to match every task you have to do. Before you think you are ready, you need to get some help. My elves are not full time, 40 hour a week, salaried employees. They are amazing women who need to make some extra cash and who work a few hours a week for me. But that is like getting 10 hours because they do things I am not good at.

Note: As a lone wolf, this process would become overwhelming. There is no way to run a business and not have any outside support. You don’t have to have a lot, but somewhere, somehow, there has to be some way to get things off your plate and onto someone else’s.

Ignore Email

I also talked before about not wanting to do “quicky” things that required I see my email. This is because my email is full of other people’s problems. It has people who want to partner, write blog posts and even my clients who have needs. I have done my scheduling for the day so you know I don’t magically have more time to do everything in there (or even to delete them all) so why look. My clients have my cell phone and will text me if there is a marketing emergency (there has only been one if 12 years of doing this) and my staff knows to text too if they have a problem.

Note: I generally try to make email the last thing I do in a day. Today that means after my mastermind. I don’t want to have all those other problems swirling around in my brain while I am trying to be powerful and creative about writing our sales copy. If you really can’t survive without knowing that your email is being monitored, make that your assistants job twice a day. She or he can check it and then send you only the things that really need your attention.

Work Really Hard For 6 Hours

I am a hard worker. I am from Pennsylvania and the work ethic runs deep there. That said, I can only really work hard like a maniac 6 hours a day. The rest of the time I am okay with doing “stuff”. So today my “work hard” time is a little shorter, but still doable. On normal days I put in time from 5:00AM to 11:00AM, knowing that after rocking the hard work, I can add things like scheduling social postings, training, webinars and other fluffy, non essential work.

Well that is it, hopefully you got the gist of my time management system and goal setting tasks and I am so much more settled now that I am back on track. I know exactly what I need to do today and can “win” because it is all possible. Now, if you want to learn more about why you might be off track in the first place, check out our book:

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Tara Jacobsen, Marketing Speaker, Consultant, AuthorTara Jacobsen is the owner of Marketing Artfully, a marketing services and consulting company focused on small businesses, entrepreneurs and Realtors. Find out more about her Small Business Marketing Services today!

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