When you’re marketing online, it can be really tough to find enough hours in the day.
You’ve got content to write or edit, tweets to craft, images to pin, outreach emails to send, blog post ideas to capture...
...and it can sometimes feel overwhelming.
If you’re struggling, here are some of my favourite time management techniques to help. All of these are beginner-friendly, but at the same time, they’re really powerful. (If you’ve come across some of these tips before, use this post as an opportunity to check whether you’re actually using them!)
#1: Time Boxing Using the Pomodoro Technique
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
As a student, did you ever find yourself spending weeks perfecting one assignment, only to race through the next the night before it was due?
If you’ve got two weeks for a task, it often ends up taking two weeks, whether or not that time is really needed.
One solution is to use “time boxing” which simply means you put each task into a “box” of time. The most popular version of this is the Pomodoro technique, where you focus for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. This has made a really big impact in the productivity of my day. Watch the video to find out more:
#2: Minimising Distractions
Let’s face it, when you work online, there are tons of distractions at your fingertips.
While it might not be practical to block every problematic website (after all, you might need Facebook for work), you can definitely cut down on the number of time-wasting opportunities you have.
The Pomodoro technique (see #1) can be a big help, but if that’s not enough for you:
- If you’re using Chrome, the StayFocusd app limits the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. (You choose the websites and the time periods!)
- If you find yourself singing along to your music, try focus@will for music that’s designed to increase rather than interrupt your flow.
- If you work in a busy office or home and frequently get interrupted by people wanting to chat, wear headphones (even if you’re not listening to anything).
#3: Using the “Getting Things Done” Method
Getting Things Done (GTD) is a hugely popular book / time management system by David Allen. It’s essentially a way to organise all of your tasks by project checklists where you learn the 'do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it' principle and clear your thoughts so you can, well, get things done!
Even if you don’t use the entire system, Allen has plenty of handy tips in his book. I particularly like the focus on closing open loops, which can really help to reduce overwhelm.
Leo Babauta, from Zen Habits, has a great twist on GTD called Zen to Done. It simplifies the system and brings in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, including a greater focus on productivity and goal-setting.
To keep track of your tasks, under either system, try Todoist.
#4: Only Check Email at Specific Times
Rather than reacting to each new email that pings into your inbox, try to limit checking your emails to specific times of the day. Many people find that 11am and 4pm work well – this gives you a clear period in the morning to dig into your most important projects, and also allows you to sort out any last-minute tasks that come in by email toward the end of the day.
This isn’t possible for everyone, but even if you can only create an email-free hour or two each day, it’s worth doing.
Tim Ferriss has a couple of examples from people who successfully implemented this in How to Check E-mail Twice a Day ... or Once Every 10 Days.
#5: Plan Your Work the Day Before
At the end of each day, allow time for a quick review of what you've achieved. Create a plan for what you want to accomplish the following day.
Your plan doesn’t need to be a complicated schedule (in fact, it probably shouldn’t be!) All you really need to do is define your “most important tasks” – the three things that you really want to get done.
(For more on most important tasks, or MITs, see Leo Babauta’s post Purpose Your Day: Most Important Task (MIT).)
While you can plan at the start of the day – which is still far better than not planning at all! – creating your plans the day before gives your subconscious time to reflect, and it allows you to relax, confident that tomorrow is already mapped out.
In some cases, you may find you even come up with solutions to or ideas for your MITs before you start working on them.
“Don’t start the day until you have it finished.
Don’t start the week until you have it finished.
Don’t start the month until you have it finished.”
Similarly, you can plan ahead on a Friday for the following week, and at the end of the month for the following month.
Do you have any other crucial time management tips? Let us know in the comments...