As a business owner, your time is money. Developing strategies to become more intentional with how that time is spent creates the space for success. Parkinson's Law applies here which simply states: "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." This is a critical realization; it's not that you need MORE time, you simply need to BE MORE STRATEGIC with your time. Since time is most our valuable asset, we have to protect it, structure it and be intentional with it.
Time blocking is an easy way to accomplish that. You can use this technique today with a bit of planning and alot of self-discipline!
- First, identify your priorities and groups. Look at your goals for the year or the week, and set aside your largest blocks of time specifically to work on that goal. Until this goal is complete, everything else is merely a distraction.
- Next categorize your activities and create buckets of time to accomplish the rest of your list. Group the common tasks together. For example: (1) client work, (2) marketing, (3) business development, (4) team management, (5) goal-setting and new initiative planning, (6) time with my assistant, (7) personal tasks.
- Schedule these as recurring appointments on your calendar so that the structure remains in tact each week. It is crucial that you are organized going into your time blocks or they will not be effective. The key here is to honor your calendar as you start the process.
- First, batch the tasks that need to be completed within each individual block to give yourself some structure. For example, if you are working in a "Client work" time block, strategically move from one client's work to the next client to maintain focus rather than jump around from client to client.
- Second, use a task management tool that can categorize by context to match the time blocks on your calendar. We love a free online tool called Asana to keep projects and tasks organized and accountable. You can create tags to match your time blocks within existing projects. If you're a David Allen fan, check out Nozbe which follows the GTD methodology. With either tool, as you go into a block, just click on the context tag to access your list of active tasks and prioritize from there.
- Third, track your time. When you start on a new block, start your timer. Our team loves Toggl for simple but robust online time tracking. It can help hold you accountable to respect the blocks of time and also report on how your time was spent across the week. This can be really useful information to have as you look to improve your time management or identify areas to delegate.
Tweak as needed and re-shuffle based on what meetings and follow-up might be required for that particular week. The key here is to develop a balance that works for you, so that you are embracing the system and using it and not feeling confined by it. It's ok to allow yourself some flexibility as you move throughout your day!
Check out Delegate Solutions for more of Emily's tips on time-blocking.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.