How can I use my time better?
Updated: Jul 18, 2020
This week I'm testing ideas for improving my time management as a stay-at-home entrepreneur.
Goal: Increased awareness of how I spend my time
Plan: Distraction-free phone • Quit The Bachelor • Daily “stand up” meetings • Evaluate 3 planners • Start tracking capacity • Wear a watch
If you’re watching your weight, it helps to limit calories coming in and increase calories going out. This two-pronged strategy is how I’m thinking about time management, too. I’m hoping to maximize my time spent on stuff I have to but also to prevent my time from leaking out in distraction or unplanned tangents.
For maximizing my time working, I’m trying daily “stand up” meetings where I evaluate what I need to do for the day each morning and make a day-of plan. This is different than what I’ve been doing the last few months, where I tried to plan one week or one quarter in advance.
For preventing time leaking, I’m going to finally, truly, earnestly move toward a distraction-free phone. I waste a ton of time scrolling infinitely, and I don’t even get much out of it, not even rest when I think I’m taking a “break”. I want this to actually stick, so I’m not going cold turkey, but little by little hoping to take back the control on this lame issue.
I am also quitting The Bachelor. No disrespect to Bachelor fans, because I get it. But I recently admitted to myself that spending 2-3 hours each week on that show makes me more frustrated than recharged, so let’s just see if I can’t find a better use of that time.
Finally, for increased time awareness, I’m testing three different physical planners, wearing an actual watch, and logging detailed notes regarding my weekly task capacity all so I have an increased awareness of where my time is going.
MONDAY - FRIDAY
This week felt good. I felt especially on top of things on Tuesday and Friday, and made time throughout the week for networking, chores around the apartment, fancy homemade avocado toast and longer workouts. It’s working well for me to keep the plan small and achievable, with the idea of layering on new things to try as the project continues.
Felt more connected with the day’s tasks thanks to daily “stand up” meetings
Recognized a sweet, relaxing interaction with my husband as it was happening. Consciously tried to prolong this moment.
Epiphany: It takes me time to process things, but I don’t allow space for that and instead constantly cram too much content into my day.
Haven’t watched a single episode of The Bachelor
Made time for this stuff:
Maximizing my time working:
I’ve been experimenting for a year on the best way to schedule my tasks, something I’m particularly nerdy about due to my background in project management.
This week felt like a breakthrough, where I made time each morning to re-evaluate what I needed to do for the day. Making a plan for the day in the same morning, instead of in advance, allowed for ultimate flexibility, re-prioritizing and realistic expectations. I could definitely write an entire post about this new method, and probably will in the near future. For now, I’ll just say creating a day-of plan helped me feel present and connected to my work, so it was easier to manage my time during execution.
I tried three different physical planners this week, including Design for Mankind, Make Time and Productivity planner. The jury is still out on a favorite, especially since they each have a slightly different focus.
Make Time: Accountability, with space for experimenting + permission to fail today, try again tomorrow
Design for Mankind Daily Planner: Personal development, part planner + part daily journal
Productivity Planner: All-inclusive, rich with tips + explanations behind each element
Preventing time leaking:
Guys, I haven’t watched a single episode of The Bachelor this season and I am extremely proud of myself.
I’m not doing as well creating some distance between me and my phone, although I did rearrange a lot of the apps and begin working through a very long, very thorough guide to a distraction-free phone here. Instagram is currently tracking my daily limit at 45 minutes, and I usually hit it, but hopefully I can reduce that amount over the next few weeks.
Increased time awareness:
Well first of all, I keep forgetting to wear a watch, but I still like the idea and I’m hoping I can get back into the habit. It’s a way to increases awareness of how I’m breaking down my time, and add distance from my phone.
Along the same lines, I’ve assumed for a while that I have 40-50 hours each week for real work, and scheduled 40-50 tasks accordingly. Week after week, I fell short of my to do list, and felt frustrated and lazy as a result. Recently I’m thinking the issue is more about understanding my capacity than increasing my productivity.
Capacity is tricky, because you probably need to start with the total hours you’re working each week, and then subtract time for:
getting settled at your desk
following up on invoices
posting to Instagram
unloading the dishwasher
...and other perfectly necessary things that prevent you from making substantial progress on a project.
But this week I started tracking my tasks in a way that should give me a better sense of my actual capacity. It will take a few weeks of data, a spreadsheet, and some color coded tags, so I’m excited to try it and report back.
Bottom Line: This week was a promising start toward realistic + sustainable time management.
Article: Distraction-free phone
Book: Make Time
Podcast Interview w/ Make Time author: Curious Minds Podcast #117 John Zeratsky on Creating Time for Things that Matter
Podcast Interview w/ Laura Vanderkam: Curious Minds Podcast #110 Laura Vanderkam On Getting More Done