Managing your time when you’re self-employed

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If there’s one commodity we all wish we had more of, it’s time.  “There are never enough hours in the day!” “I’ll never get it all done!” are heard a lot in this business – particularly if you are working for yourself.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We all just need a little time management.

Or, in the words of Laura Stack, in her excellent book, ‘What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do’, it shouldn’t be called time management. The correct term should be ‘self management’.

The fastest, most efficient way to manage your day is to be focused.  And the enemy of focus is distraction.

First, see what you can do to minimize the distraction in your work environment. From barking dogs to the kids just home from school, it’s easy to lose your focus.

For some, noise-cancelling headphones are the way to go. Others either schedule a dedicated half-hour with the kids before heading back to their desk…or instill house rules about not interrupting Mom or Dad when they are at work. A closed door can help!

technologicaldistraction550wBut the biggest distraction for all of us is also our biggest ally:  technology.  How do you tame the e-mail, the social media, the ringing cellphone?

Remember, it is possible to turn off a phone and disable the pinging notification of new e-mail.  (How many times do we drop what we’re doing just because we heard a new e-mail come in?)

Routine is great for focus. Use, say, the first half hour of the day for social media and the last 10 minutes to update your to-do list. Turn off your phone and ignore e-mails during that time. As Stack points out, unless you are a triage surgeon, chances are it can wait.

Similarly, ‘chunk’ your time:  I will devote the next hour to John and Mary’s destination wedding.  During that time I will not undertake any – any – other tasks. Multi-tasking (once thought to be such a talent) actually clutters our minds and requires us to mentally shift gears every time we buzz from e-mail to Facebook to accounting to research and back to e-mail.

As American motivational speaker Denis Waitley puts it:  “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day.”

Next month I’ll touch on some of my favourite tools for time management, to help you make the most of those precious hours!