HOW TO MANAGE YOUR TIME (LIKE A HOLISTIC LEADER)

The phrase “time-management” makes me dry-heave. Like networking, this term has been co-opted by bad bosses and our least-inspiring work experiences. But one of the most common woes I hear from entrepreneurs and those in leadership positions is a lack of time. Time for work and time for living. It really does often feel like we are dragging our tired selves through needless obligations, and the real frustration lies in a sense of helplessness, and the inability to envision a solution.

A great tragedy of adulthood is the loss of boredom.

So how do you manage time so that it works in your favor, allowing you space to dream, de-stress, and yes, even snag a moment or two of delicious, sweet boredom?

Here are some actions you can take.

Start Your Day Early (Adapt to Habit)

A no-brainer, but actually kind of important. I am in no way suggesting you go full-Wahlberg on this one, but snagging an extra hour or two in the morning is a game-changer. A bajillion studies have shown that waking up early promotes productivity, and many, many successful entrepreneurs attribute early wake-ups to their prowess.

Creating habits is a part of this. Habits are actions that you do every day, and are crucial to creating headspace and time to focus on more critical tasks, such as managing your business or growing/enhancing your career. Habits like meal planning (or simply making overnight oats) so breakfast takes up very little time, energy and brain activity. At first this might mean you have to schedule time for meditation/mindfulness to de-stress, exercise and meal planning, but over time as these become habits, you don’t need to put them on your calendar because you just do them. Every day.

Become a To-Do List Ninja

Writing things down, digital or by hand (you do you), is a key component of prioritizing tasks and managing your time. At the beginning of each day, write down an intimidating task, an urgent tasks, and at least one easy task that you can complete by end-of-day.

To create effective lists that really work in your favor, it’s helpful to divide big projects into manageable tasks. Instead of “do my taxes,” create smaller tasks to complete this, such as “update Quickbooks invoices/POs” as a weekly task you do on a specific day each week. That way, when it’s time to send your profits & loss statement to your accountant each quarter, it’s a simple 5-minute task.

If you want some digital tools to help you upgrade your list-making, I like Trello, Wunderlist, Google Keep. Or try the Bullet Journal method of hand-coding your life like a Pinterest queen.

De-Clutter

Truth: it’s hard to be productive in a messy environment. Confession: I am a messy-ish person. Fact: this action is hard for me. But the truth is, disorder negatively impacts mental clarity. It really is hard to get shit done with a workspace that looks like your printer and a whole Staples store exploded and died on your desk.

And try to organize your digital life too. Someone I know (cough) recently cleaned out 85,000 emails from their inbox (me, it was me). It felt good, dudes. It seriously upgraded my productivity.

Avoid Distraction

There are usually a dozen excuses that people have for not turning their phone off (or to airplane mode). It’s usually based on a fear that you will miss a vital call or update: “my boss,” “my kids at school, “my_.” Seriously though, you need to turn your phone off for periods of time to maximize productivity and get shit done. Turn off all distractions - Facebook, Instagram, messages that “ding, ding, ding” on your laptop. Do it while you complete a task. Or give yourself hour benchmarks. And yes, turn it off at night and in the morning so you can take time to really live you life. Be that awesome friend who leaves her phone in her purse when she talks to you.

So much of time-management is separating, identifying, and completing tasks rather than living our whole damn lives as one giant messy chaotic whirlwind of demands. Yes, it is stressful when your boyfriend is texting, you have 5 projects open on your computer, your Facebook and Twitter are dinging with updates in the corner of your screen, and your phone is vibrating with totally-not-urgent messages, and things like sports scores. Seriously, you need to control the chaos by managing the distractions. I encourage everyone to try a digital detox for a week or 10-days and see how you feel.

Concentrate Selectively

If you want to become more productive and manage your time, you need to learn to focus selectively on each task at hand.

Multitasking is actually terrible for anyone trying to empower, enhance, and integrate their work/life. Controlling your focus and how you pay attention is directly tied to the previous challenge of effectively managing distractions and creating doable tasks and lists.

Outsource and Delegate

Fact: you cannot do it all. And you definitely cannot do it all alone. The best decision I ever made as an entrepreneur was to outsource everything I could, and retain what I value, need to control, and like doing. Production, accounting, customer service, PR, web design, branding, all these things can be outsourced. Hire freelancers or agencies to take on these tasks. What should you not outsource? Your clients and your money. Retain some direct interaction and connection to your customer/client, and even if you outsource accounting tasks like payroll or invoicing, make sure you block out time each week to maintain oversight, and revue that this is being done correctly by whoever you hire.

Use the Tools

First, try a time tracking tool like Toggl and Timely. Then, automate whatever the heck you can. Especially social media. There are lots of tools nowadays, like Hootsuite or TweetDeck for Twitter users.

Also, in case it’s not obvious, there is 0 reason to use paper, or linear tools like Excel. Receipts, invoices, and banking should all be managed online in your accounting software (such as Xero, Zoho, or Freshbooks). And taking a select number of hours per week to manage these is crucial.

Prep, 1, 2, 3

Friday is often a weird day of either procrastination and/or “oh-shit I have so things I didn’t get done this week.” A way to initiate a more efficient work week to come is to set goals and tasks during the last 30-minutes of every Friday for the following week. Maybe this means starting a calendar or task list, or planning an activity that you love for Monday, so you can instill a sense of motivation to start you week off right.

Pause and Refresh

This is actually the most important action. You cannot be productive without taking significant breaks to pause and refresh. One thing I often hear from successful entrepreneurs and leaders in their field is that they take mental headspace breaks every day. Some take 60-minute walks where they unplug, daydream, brainstorm, and reflect. Others nap for 30-minutes. Some make a point of eating lunch unplugged, slowly and thoughtfully, letting their mind wander and their bodies digest. They usually come back to their work with renewed energy and clarity. Also, plan your meetings in advance, and leave time and space for reflection and review.

Finally, unplug and connect. Take time with friends and family, let go and laugh as much as you can. So many new entrepreneurs work 24/7. This feels fun when you’re 27, and the adrenaline of being always on is addictive, but over time it drains you, and can cause massive burnout. And without reflection and space, we make bad decisions.

And Finally

The key to an integrated hustle is creating rituals, and cycles of productivity and reflection. And of learning to value your sweet life.

What gives your life meaning? For almost every human, the answer is a mashup of the love and time we gave to friends and family, and whether we contributed something of value to the world. What that means is personal, but the theme is universal. And usually the only regrets we have in life are what we didn’t do, who we didn’t love enough, the risks we didn’t take, and, most of all, the connections we let fade because we falsely valued obligation and safety over love and bravery. Managing our time is a step in the right direction of a balanced work/life and a chance to truly live our best lives.

Keep on hustlin’, friends,
Laena

Laena McCarthy