Get Control of Your Time

funny businessman with wall clock on gray background

There is never enough time and when you are running your own business, it gets exponentially worse. Your work life and your personal life all meld into one big pile of busy. But you can do some things to help yourself gain control.

1. Use Your Calendar A LOT

Use your calendar religiously and occasionally take a macro view of it to see when things are happening. Note when you normally get phone calls. When you return them. When you normally have meetings. When you like quiet time to research. When you walk the office or warehouse floor.

With that information, make a skeleton schedule and schedule meetings and calls accordingly. It isn’t set in stone, but if you like to spend Friday afternoons reviewing your KPI’s, work to move things away from Friday afternoon to allow you to do that. I would block those times on your calendar to repeat weekly as a reminder. It’s up to you whether you want to mark those times as Available or Busy.


2. Schedule Time Off

Make hard rules about working weekends or after hours. Unless you are an hourly employee or you bill by the hour, more time does not translate directly into more money. If you believe the studies on fatigue and burnout, it can actually translate into less. And you probably aren’t having any fun.

So when you are tempted to come in on a Saturday, ask yourself this: “What is the worst thing that will happen if I don’t?” and “Is this something that I have to do or could I delegate it?”  Remember— it’s a marathon, not a sprint. (If you need delegation advice, I’ll give you that, too.)


3. Just Say “NO” to Meetings

This two-hour meeting was almost as productive as a single, well-written email.

Limit meetings, because so many of them are terribly unproductive. But sometimes you do need to collaborate with people, so do them remotely as much as possible (even if the attendees are down the hall).

I estimate that any time I move to a conference room for a meeting, it is easily 10 to 15 minutes prep time to pack up my laptop, grab my Diet Coke, and get seated. Think about the wasted time when you drive to a meeting! 

Keep me at my desk and communicate via Zoom, Skype, Join.Me, GoToMeeting, or any virtual meeting tool. Keep me in my seat working and let’s resolve this issue ASAP. When you just want to hang with your work peeps — schedule a happy hour.


4. Make Scheduling Time With Others Easier

I’ve started using an app called Calendly and it really speeds up the process of arranging times to talk with collaborators. It’s a calendar share on steroids. But users don’t have to use the same calendar app and no one can see the other’s calendar.

Basically, Calendly syncs with your Google or Outlook calendar, allows you to limit the time intervals available for scheduling (say 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and then displays the open slots available in the time segments you set up (e.g. 15 minutes, 1 hour). The other person can review the available slots and schedule time with you. Both of you are sent an email confirmation, you can automatically add that to your calendar, and the app can send automated reminders and follow-up emails.


5. Schedule Your Social Media Time

Designate social media and web surfing times. It’s easy to get lost finding the end of the web and looking at vacation pictures (someone else’s, of course). I personally like social media and I believe it helps many people’s business, so you do need to engage in it. Just make it a conscious engagement for a limited time period.

I try to limit it to 30 minutes at a time once a day. Yes, I occasionally fall down the web rabbit hole, but I do try to make sure it isn’t taking precedence over something more important.


6. Stop Using Email as a Project Management Tool

This is a real “soapbox” issue for me, so get ready. Please stop the email abuse. That’s the habit of people notifying others of progress on a project or engaging people on the project via a cc’ed email to everyone who might be remotely interested in a topic, clogging up their email to the point that they can’t find the things they are interested in.

Those email threads get wildly long, the order can change depending on the email client used (it’s always fun to realize you missed the latest information at the very bottom of the thread), and it ensures that no one can find the information when they need it.

I compare it to making 50 copies of your memo and just throwing them around the office and hoping the people you wanted to reach see your update. Hot tip — that’s not a good idea.

Use an app that can better manage communication by topic or project and by user, such as Insightly, HubSpot, BaseCamp, or Slack. Use email as a communication tool, not a project management tool. If you lead an organization, you are the one that needs to set the standard for efficient communication and collaboration.


7. Speaking of Email Communication

Email is a communication tool. So make sure it communicates effectively. Encourage your collaborators and employees to remember these skills when emailing:

  1. Start a new email instead of adding to a 35 e-mail thread with an old subject line.
  2. Use an appropriate subject line that concisely and accurately describes the contents of the email.
  3. Make the document as concise as possible. I like to break my emails into paragraphs of information and bold the most important phrase. Then the reader can quickly find the information they wanted.
  4. If the sender wants to include additional information such as a file, send a share link to the original document instead. Then the receiver always has access to the most current version.

Time is a valuable and scarce resource. But get in the habit of managing it effectively and you’ll find you can get more done in the time you’ve got. And don’t spend time doing things you can delegate. Particularly, accounting.