Time Management Tips

Time Management Tips

Author: Lauren Coleman

Thanks so much for all your comments on my recent career post. It was smashing to hear how so many of you have also made a leap to self employment too. There were a few requests for a post on how I manage my time between my two jobs hence today’s feature. Having several roles means life is extraordinarily busy, I have to admit sometimes I don’t know my arse from my elbow but to be honest whose life isn’t hectic?
I thought it may helpful to talk through the time management tactics I’ve found work best for me. I warn you they are very simple and not at all ground-breaking. When it comes to apps and other productivity tools I’ve found my dalliance with them is short lived. I’m quite old school and prefer to just use pen and paper and the standard options in my email and phone settings.

Stick to a morning routine

Regardless of whether it’s one of the three days I’m in the office or two days at home, I try to stick to a similar morning routine. If I deviate then everything goes off kilter and I’m less efficient. I understand this is far easier for me than most as I don’t have little ones to sort out in the morning.
After jumping in the shower and putting on my face, I fire up my laptop over breakfast, updating our social media channels and responding to any comments. I’ve weaned myself off checking RMS comments from my iPhone in bed as a) it’s probably not particularly healthy to start work when you only have one eye open and b) I prefer to respond via the keypad on my laptop. This saves a few valuable minutes as previously I was just duplicating work by reading them on two devices. Those 120 seconds can be a luxury in the morning can’t they?

Don’t check if you can’t respond

In a similar vein I’m also working on trying not to check my emails when I know I’m not able to respond. I do find this one very tricky as it’s almost an auto-pilot thing to scroll through my phone every so often. However, as wonderful as it is to have access to information while I’m doing the food shop, I’m not easily able to reply to mails while stocking a trolley. Plus it drives my husband up the wall as I end up drifting off half way through a conversation to concentrate on something else.
99% of the time the email doesn’t require an immediate response (who flags an emergency by email?) and will get a far more coherent reply if I’m back at my laptop. This makes it much easier to separate work from play too.

The to-do-list

I aim to keep both my jobs separate and therefore find individual to-do lists work for me. My husband is a big fan of Evernote to keep track of his chores, I’m a bit more retro.
I have a very posh Smythson notebook in my bag to cover all my personal to-do’s. I then have a paper pad for my corporate job which is kept with my laptop at all times. For Rock My Style I have another laptop and prefer to keep a digital to-do list rather than in a pretty pad. I have no idea why I work in this way but perhaps helps me compartmentalise and differentiate each area of my life.
There are some who would advocate keeping a short to-do list and limit it to five or so priorities. Personally I’m not phased by a long list and actually prefer a lengthier lineup so I can ensure my day is made up of a variety of tasks. I mentally set myself time frames to achieve each on and find it adds pace to my day, in turn making me more productive.
I’m more of an early bird than a night owl so I prioritise important tasks for the morning. See I told you these tactics weren’t ground breaking.

Dear diary

I used to love a real-life hardback diary but find I’m far more likely to keep a digital one updated. James and I have a synced gmail calendar so we can keep track of our social lives and I have access to both of my work diaries through my phone so I can always see my upcoming schedule.
Thankfully both my roles offer very flexible working but being a freelancer means limited holiday. Having a day off often involves rejigging my working patterns to redistribute the workload. Easy access to all three calendars means I can look ahead and plan how I’ll slot in rearranged hours over coming weeks. It can be a logistical jigsaw but that’s the case for many of us.

Turn off notifications

I am distracted by shiny objects and notifications. I used to see an email come in and break away from what I was doing to reply to it even though it didn’t warrant an immediate response. I’d then get diverted off to do something else and by the end of the day had a heap of half-finished tasks.
Don’t get me wrong, notifications are a marvellous idea and most definitely have a purpose. It’s always great to be able to remove a dodgy comment from Instagram as soon as it’s posted, however I do find them hugely distracting.
A career coach once advised me to turn off email alerts and although I don’t do this all the time, I do switch them off when I want to knuckle down. Turning off notification helps me focus on one task at a time so in the long run I get more done and I’ve found it really helps with procrastination too.

I’m very keen to hear about how you deal with the hectic bustle of everyday working life? How do you manage your time effectively and any tips we should all try? Oh and if the header image looks familiar I pinched it from Charlotte’s recent office tour. Do take a peek if you haven’t already.

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Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
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19 thoughts on “Time Management Tips

  1. These are great tips and they ones I try really hard to adhere to. The ‘son’t check if you can’t respond’ tip is probably the best and this is something I have been a lot better at lately. I need to b able to finish the job in hand rather than trying to think about 3 or 4 different jobs at the same time when clients respond to previous emails. Ideally I like to respond same day so I always leave a half hour or so slot at the end of my day to go back and reply to as many as I can within that time frame.

    Anthony is forever banging on about Evernote to me too but I am like you, let me write it down and it feels like it has sunk in a little better and the list seems to lode in my brain at the same time. This doesn’t happen when I keep it online. I also use my phone as my diary. That way as soon as I know I need to schedule something it goes straight into my phone and I cant forget. My phone is the one thing I never forget and so I can always make sure my diary is up to date. I also use it for reminders throughout the day… seriously, I wouldn’t eat if it wasn’t for my lunch reminder!

    I love the idea of turning off notifications and I am definitely going to try this… It will also help with the not reading if you can’t reply method. Fab tip and I’m going to give it a whirl!

  2. Lauren – your like a breathe of fresh air this morning. I’m certainly going to try turning off notifications. I get very easily distracted. I start around 3 – 4 different tasks a day and your lucky if 1 is completed. Feel quiet ashamed writing this 🙂
    Fab tips, will let you know how I get on!

    1. Hi Marlene, I used to be terrible at completing tasks! This really does help me though so hopefully it will help you too. x

  3. Very handy post Lauren, thank you! I don’t think I can use these much in my job unfortunately, as we’re always basically just fighting fire. My day has zero structure whatsoever apart from lunch when the office is closed! Very useful for getting things done at home though 🙂

  4. Another great article, I am a bit of a procrastinator so I try to write lists every day (in a notebook with a tick box!) top five important ‘must do’ things then another list where I can dump whats in my brain (thats always a much longer rolling list) turning off email and social media alerts is a good way of not getting distracted when you need to concentrate on something but I do love hearing that ‘bing’ which means someone is talking about or ‘liking’ my product http://www.recipegiftbook.com thanks 🙂

  5. Great post Lauren! Enjoying being organised is my guilty pleasure.

    I’m a PA and people are always amazed when I tell them I hardly check emails during the day. I have a good read through them and tend to deal with the majority of them as a first task in the morning. I then check them late morning, after lunch and then late afternoon. It is too distracting trying to juggle trivial queries as soon as they pop up – and you often find if you leave them a little while most queries develop or sort themselves out anyway. This method also allows time for you to think thoroughly about situations and to give better informed responses.

    When I am trying to concentrate on things at home I need background noise, silence just drives me insane and to me it can be as distracting as actual noise. I find having a radio on low in the room next door is helpful (it needs to be low enough that I can just hear a hum of music or conversation, but not loud enough that I could make out a full conversation).

    I am old school when it comes to using a pen and paper. I just love a cute notebook (I spent almost half an hour in Paperchase on Monday!) and I always leave my to do list out on my desk at the end of each day – just in case I was to be ill or something important crops up at home – so that work colleagues could instantly look up what is outstanding. I use Outlook task to set up reminders, but just generally as prompts rather than anything detailed.

    The phone ringing has just reminded me that my lunch break is over…

    1. It’s really interesting what you say about background noise Claire. It never bothers me in the office but at home I find complete silence works best for me. I read somewhere you can download an app with the humdrum sound of a coffee shop if you prefer an ambient background noise!

  6. I think in general my time management is pretty good – I have a to-do list and my final Friday task is to start the following week’s list so Monday morning can get off to a good start. Preparing for meetings, not a problem, same for on-going projects. I try not to put big things off and tackle them head on – which is scary at the moment as I’m a month in to a new job, but in the long term it’s the best way to learn I think!

    Emails however are my downfall. We use a web-based email provider and although I don’t have notifications on, I always keep the screen open where possible – the downside of having a two-screen set up! After reading this post earlier today I tried to make a conscious effort to not look when I was in the Middle of another task but it’s so hard!!

    Yesterday was a prime example – had a conference call, so was on the phone, with one screen showing the slides a supplier was talking through and the other screen had my email open and halfway through I started getting replies to emails I was desperate to look at and it was so distracting! Even closing the screen didn’t help as I knew they were there! Must kick the habit sooner rather than later!

    1. I agree Jo, it’s so hard and sometimes I can’t resist taking a peek. Especially if a far more interesting email has just come in! x

  7. I generally think I am pretty good with time management, being organised to a scary degree, and especially love any stationery that ‘helps’ me be more organised. I would say emails are my downfall, as they are generally always up and it’s so easy to just check them and get distracted. A bit corporate but I try to stick to the rule of only having my emails open when I can actually do something about and stick to the one read rule. If you read an email you must then do one of the 4 d’s: delete, deal, diarise or delegate. It’s hard to stick to but does work when you do. X

    1. It’s surprising how stylish stationery can make you feel far more organised. Liking the 4 d’s – definitely one to remember. x

  8. Hi Lauren,
    Great post, I’m working full time and running my shop at the moment so organisation is key.
    i like to use trello, i haven’t ysed evernote so I’m not sure if there is crossover.
    i like to empty my head of all my business ideas n to dos into trello so i don’t forget an idea. I used trello to its max when we were getting married as it allows you to share it with other users so you can assign things to other people.
    For the full time job i use microsoft OneNote – this works

    1. Oops that went through before i was finished.
      I don’t take office work home with me so one note is perfect… But i also have a lush notebook.for meetings.

    2. Hi Sarah, my husband LOVES trello. I’m thinking of using it for our garden project so I can keep a track of everything that needs to be done. The task assignment piece is very handy. Glad to hear you’re a lover of fancy stationery too 😉

    3. Ooh yes Trello is good isn’t it. We use it at work for tracking all of the jobs we have going through and what stage they’re at, artwork/amends, on proof, signed off, etc etc which makes it so much easier when we get calls checking on a job’s progress and saves a million and one phone calls down to our production unit.

  9. I’ve tried to go digital with my to do lists but I just can’t, so a good old notebook is definately the one for me. I too have my personal and work calenders syncd on my iPhone so I have everything in one place.

    Great tip on the dont read if you can’t respknd – I am a nightmare with that. I read emails and then mark back as un-read…so that’s time wasted as I need to cover them a second time to capture everything in them!

    Some good tips here. We’re introducing trello at work – finding it useful!

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