This blog post has been a long-time-coming. People are often surprised to find out that as a marketing consultant, I tend to cover the full range of marketing services (we’re talking social media management, SEO, web design, email automations, PR, and more but that’s another post for another time!). They also are surprised at the number of clients I am able to manage joyfully and stress-free.
Then they hear about everything I take on as a parent and spouse- vocal lessons (where I also fill in at the business part-time for fun), a child in IEP services, daily trips to the swimming pool, park, or library, cooking together, improving our Fortnite squad skills, reading books together, participating in intensive GISH scavenger hunts, creating our own board games and businesses, gardening together, and basically attempting to raise my child into a loving, accepting, and decent human being who also can cook for himself and do his own laundry (he’s 9, I’m very proud!). And the all-elusive date night! We also make plenty of time for travel and to explore the awesome world that we live in.
But that’s not all! I also find time to volunteer in my community (I truly am addicted to this, I spent time as a Girl Scout Leader and have earned my Gold award in the past) and our family is extremely involved in our church community and activities. In the past, I’ve earned my MBA in marketing and pr while attempting all of the above as well.
Are you getting anxiety just thinking about how much time this all takes? I don’t blame you, but I’m going to let you in on a few secrets. I have time to do all of these things and more because I plan effectively and strategically to have a productive day each day.
I’m not saying all of this because I am bragging (though I do believe self-affirmations are amazing and that I am amazing as heck, so are you!). I’m telling you all of this because I want to give you a behind the scenes look at how I manage my life without going completely insane. Without these strategies and tips, I probably would lol. And just to throw a little extra skin into the game, I’ll share that I also have bi-polar depression (here is a recent post I wrote about what it’s like to be a mom with bi-polar depression, you may be surprised!), as well as adult ADHD which both include symptoms of poor time-management. Are you looking at your computer like I’m completely nuts yet? Good. I hope that will help to showcase how well my strategies work even more. These are tips and tricks that you can take to implement into your life today!
When I first started working as a marketing consultant, I was extremely overwhelmed with very few clients. I firmly believe that is because I came from a place of having my entire day scheduled out for me in the corporate world – everything from deadlines to meetings to the freaking hours I had to have my butt in that seat. It literally took me being laid off to realize that I thrive best when I’m in charge. I spent so many years thinking my ideas weren’t good because the companies I worked at always went with what the higher-ups wanted to do. It wasn’t that I didn’t have good ideas, it was that I didn’t have the power those individuals at that company had. I’m absolutely loving being the boss and being able to coach my clients to do what I believe is in their best interest. But again, that is another post for another time.
Time Management This was probably the biggest hurdle for me to overcome. When I first started working for myself, I spent hours upon hours upon hours going in circles to get small bits of work done. Overtime, I became obsessed with productivity because it meant that I would have more time freed up to develop additional strategies and brainstorming for my clients, more time for my family, and more time for myself. I’ve read all the books – everything from The Miracle Morning to 4 Hour Work Week to The Productivity Project and more.
The one thing that I uncovered was hogging the majority of my time was distractions. I work in social media management so it’s crazy to think that I could cut that out of my life, but I did. I still talk to friends and family, but only after my work is done for the day. It was hard to resist at first that because I was my own boss and had the flexibility of work hours to avoid that temptation but I found that I actually got more pleasure after a strong 5 hours of work to relax and focus on friends and family rather than knowing that I was talking to them as a distraction and procrastination. It also helped to push me that I had my son at home asking if I was done working yet so we could do something together and I guiltily knew that I wasn’t even working when I told him ‘almost, just a little bit more!’
So how did I free up that time? I did a few different things. I discovered that between distractions and not planning properly that I was essentially spinning in circles. So I made a goal to only check my email 2 times each day – once at 12pm and once 3pm. I removed the Outlook app from my phone and took it off of my dock on my Macbook. This way I wouldn’t be tempted every time an email came into my inbox to delete it or get distracted by responding back immediately and performing an action if needed (can you please change this on my website when you get a chance? type of requests).
The other thing I did to eliminate distractions was that I scheduled my phone to be on Do Not Disturb mode from 2pm – 10 am each day. This 4-hour chunk is when I get my most productive meetings done and it also includes one of my email response times. Doing this allowed me to give my attention fully and freely to the priority tasks at hand.
Biological Prime Time Out of all of the topics in the books that I’ve read, the one that resonated with me the most was discovering when my Biological Prime Time is. “Your “biological prime time” is the time of the day when you have the most energy, and therefore the greatest potential to be productive. To calculate yours, chart your energy levels for at least three weeks. Then schedule your most important, highest-leverage activities when you have the most energy,” says author of The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey. Bailey offers several suggestions on how to chart your Biological Prime Time correctly and how to use the data once you’ve gathered it on his website.
I personally have found that my Biological Prime Time Peak is from 7am-10am. This can be challenging during the school year when I have to get my son to school by 8:30 am each day but during that time of year, I make adjustments accordingly such as getting up an hour earlier. I was never an early riser but have been gradually adjusting my schedule to get up around 6am each day. I ensure that I wake up with enough energy by sleeping with my blinds open so that my body naturally wakes up after completing a REM cycle when the sunshine comes in. You can read more about this phenomenon here – I guarantee that it is a game changer.
I tend to schedule my biggest frogs to be done in this 7am-10am timeframe. These aren’t necessarily things that are hard to do or take a long time, but they are usually more monotonous tasks such as making sure that social media blog queues are still full of content and populating them if they aren’t, reaching out to hundreds upon hundreds of reporters to pick up a press release, or optimizing websites with new SEO keywords. I do enjoy doing these things, but they take time and in my experience, that leads to procrastination. Once I get those things out of the way, I’m free to work on more creative endeavors such as graphic design and creating social media posts.
More often than not, I’ve completed these tasks by 8:30 am/9 am. I then use 30 minute scheduling to block off the rest of my day. Dummies.com tells us that “Time blocking is the process of placing your priority activities into time slots on your weekly calendar, broken into 15- or 30-minute segments. If you’re new to time blocking, you might start with 30-minute blocks while trying to establish time-management success habits.” The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a free 30 minute time interval blocking template here.
I don’t do this just for work related tasks. I block off all family activities. Everything from vocal lessons to volunteering at our church to grocery shopping to trips to the swimming pool are listed in my block schedule? Why? Because it keeps me accountable. As someone with ADHD, it is very easy to hyperfocus on one task.
According to Healthline.com, “hyperfocus is the experience of deep and intense concentration in some people with ADHD. ADHD is not necessarily a deficit of attention, but rather a problem with regulating one’s attention span to desired tasks. So, while mundane tasks may be difficult to focus on, others may be completely absorbing.”
I will freely admit that sometimes I will use this “superpower” to my advantage such as when I want to get a lot of work done on a website or campaign, but if I know that is the case, I will literally schedule an entire day to focus on that task with a start and end time. If it is a regular day, blocking my tasks off not only ensures that my work gets done, but it also ensures that I make time for myself for self care as well as for time with friends and family.
So that’s all fine and well but how do I manage my 30-minute blocks of time? I use a neat little tool called a Pomodoro Technique Timer. It allows you to set a time limit through an extension on your desktop browser and will alert when you the time is up. This is also a great way to force yourself to take breaks.
Delegating The techniques work great for getting actual work tasks done but if you’re anything like me, doing admin-style work is also a time suck for you. I’m talking about scheduling meetings, managing emails, sending invoices and more. It took me a long time to get comfortable with this idea, but I’ve recently hired a VA and it was a great decision. At first I kept a pretty tight eye on things because I do like to have control of my own work, but once we started meshing well and understanding each other well, it was easy to be able to hand off certain tasks so that I wasn’t distracted by them. These were not things that were bringing me passion or joy and so it made sense to have someone else handle them that did enjoy doing those things.
The last strategy I have in place to keep myself sane and life in order is managing my environment. I purposefully have my office and guest bedroom in the same location because I know that when my office is spotless, I don’t get distracted and it’s easier to maintain a smooth workflow. Because of this, I also know that I always have a clean guest bedroom in case someone decides to spontaneously drop in on us (we live in Colorado, can you blame them?
I also have a drawer in our fridge that our son knows he has free reign to for snacks. This drawer includes pre-cut fruits and veggies, yogurt, granola bars, etc. All of these items require 0 work on my part to get in his hands, he can simply help himself and this reduces the times that I’m interrupted while working because he’s ‘starving to death’. He’s 9, so let’s be honest, that is probably every 10 minutes or so at this point haha!
Because I’m a creative person, it’s also easy to get caught up and resentful in doing mundane tasks that don’t allow for creativity. I find the days that I give myself about 30 minutes before 7am to organize my tasks for the day in my planner are the days that I am quite honestly happier. I have tried every planner under the sun and my Happy Planner is my favorite to date. It includes a 30-minute interval time blocking page for each day and I literally scrapbook each day’s page with self-affirmations, important notes and meetings to remember, and so forth. It allows me to creatively keep myself in check, on time, and productive. Being able to surround myself with positive affirmations while working has been immensely enjoyable and helpful in motivating myself. Below is my before and after of yesterday minus the physical drawing of my blocked off time because sometimes I just get going with it in the back of my mind).
Productivity and Organizational Tools I Use I will start by saying that I have tried out almost every CRM and productivity tool under the sun. This list is a roundup of my personal favorites and that I utilize on a day-to-day basis.
I use Asana to keep track of my clients, my hours, and my VA’s hours, It is the best tool I have found so far for client management as I can keep notes about my clients in there, login information, overview of projects with smaller day-to-day subtasks, calendar of deadlines and more. I typically will have my VA update my Asana tasks as emails and requests come in and assign them to me with specific due dates. I also have reoccurring tasks in here as a reminder as well for items such as spending time each day growing social media accounts.
I use this to ensure that meetings are only scheduled outside of my Biological Prime Time. New prospective clients can book time on this calendar as well as existing clients. I have it tied in to my Google Calendar which has all of my personal and professional commitments listed on it.
Each morning I will check my Google Calendar to write down any meetings for the day in my 30 minute interval blocks. I also block off my designated time for working each day. To the side of that, I have a list of tasks that need to be done that day according to Asana. I order them from items that need to be done in my Biological Prime Time to items that require left focus and are more of my ‘fun’ tasks. I don’t include anything else that isn’t scheduled so I can still feel like I have spontaneity in my day. For instance, I don’t schedule going out for ice cream after dinner if we randomly decide to do that. When I do schedule things such as going to the park for a break in the middle of my work day with my son, I do so because it holds me accountable to him. I generally don’t schedule anything in stone after 5pm other than vocal lessons or church events or plans with friends that I want to make sure I remember.
And.co isn’t the most exciting tool I use, but it is simple and reliable. I use it for processing invoices and it has allowed me to automate the process for the majority of my clients using templates and reoccurring charges.
Again, not the most exciting, but necessary, and another tool I am able to use to automate my processes and free up time. I use this for creating proposals and it’s very handy because I have developed several templates where I can plug in or take out the different add-ons for services I offer. I generally use this for when I bid on RFP projects such as for web designs.
The aim of this app is to help you focus on any task you are working on, such as study, writing, or coding. This app is inspired by Pomodoro Technique which is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo.
LastPass A browser extension for managing your passwords. One login will activate the extension and autofill your password on any website you’ve saved the information for. Overview of Recommended Books
The Miracle Morning What if you could wake up tomorrow and any—or EVERY—area of your life was beginning to transform? What would you change? The Miracle Morning is already transforming the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world by showing them how to wake up each day with more ENERGY, MOTIVATION, and FOCUS to take your life to the next level. It’s been right here in front of us all along, but this book has finally brought it to life.
Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan–there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, or earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint.
The Productivity Project The Productivity Project—and the lessons Chris learned—are the result of that year-long journey. Among the counterintuitive insights Chris Bailey will teach you:
slowing down to work more deliberately;
shrinking or eliminating the unimportant;
the rule of three;
striving for imperfection;
scheduling less time for important tasks;
the 20 second rule to distract yourself from the inevitable distractions;
and the concept of productive procrastination.
In an eye-opening and thoroughly engaging read, Bailey offers a treasure trove of insights and over 25 best practices that will help you accomplish more.