Recently I asked some of my business friends their best time-saving tips. These are the time management tools that makes a huge difference in their working and personal lives. There’s a little something for everyone here – from calendar hacks and unexpected automations to smart task management tips and how to deal with email.
I’ve listed all of their contact details at the bottom of the post for easy reference.
Time Management Tips
Your Ideal Calendar
Lie to your calendar. You heard that right. If you don’t want to schedule anything on Mondays and Fridays, block them off as “traveling” or “unavailable” even if you’re planning to be at your desk and free as a bird. Everything you need to get done during the week, will get done during the remaining days because it has to. And then you’ve got a day (or more) to tool around or do work that requires your full creative focus. Or both!
Plan your week before it happens. I love using the laid back energy of Sunday evening to plan my week. I grab a cup of tea and a notebook or my current planner of choice and brain dump everything I need to get done. Then I prioritize the list, delete or outsource things that aren’t important and defer things to later. And then I head over to my Google Calendar and schedule it in. Come Monday morning I know exactly what to focus on and I don’t procrastinate over endless cups of coffee wondering what to do first. I also like to plan my day on a post-it note before going to bed; that way I know exactly what I am doing when I wake up.
Ever heard of schedule blocking, where you group “like tasks” together in blocks of time on your calendar? It helps improve efficiency, but I take it to the next level by theming each day of my work week. For example, Tuesdays (and sometimes Wednesdays, depending on the season of my business) are my only people-filled days. Client meetings, podcast interviews, group calls and even Facebook lives or other videos are all on Tuesdays. (Bonus: it means I only need to do hair and makeup 1-2 days a week). Most of my client work, like copywriting and design, is on Thursdays, and Fridays are for admin and self-education. The compartmentalized nature of themed days helps my brain feel less frazzled, reduces interruptions, and makes it a whole lot easier to plan time for bigger projects.
- Schedule meditation and workout first thing. The rest of the day goes super smoothly with a little of both.
- The last thing that I do for work EVERY SINGLE DAY is to plan my next day. I jot quick notes of what I need to do next so that the next day I don’t have to spend time remembering where to start.
- I like to get all of my phone calls in while Imm walking the dog or driving. So during that time I hit up my mama, my sister, my daughter, make doctor appointments, etc. Anyone that I need to catch up with before the workday gets busy.
- When people join my FaceBook group, I love to send each person a personalized voice DM. My team sends me all the new names for the week on a Friday and I batch all the welcomes on that day. It helps me get them done (and an awesome way to end the week, by the way!) but also keeps me focused on other days because I block each day for 1-2 specific things. For example, Monday is content creation day, Wednesdays are coaching days. This eliminates distractions and helps me stay organized and get more done.
Set Your Environment for Success
- My meditation cushion isn’t hidden in my closet; it’s out and ready each evening so I can easily sit and meditate in the morning. In other words, I alter my space to INCREASE my exposure to positive visual cues. I tongue scrape every morning so I leave the tongue scraper on the bathroom sink each night. It’s the first thing I see in the morning. The barrier to entry into the new, healthy, habit is slim to none because I’ve designed an environment that keeps me on track.
- One of my go-to time-saving hacks — whether that’s in my personal or professional life — is doing more than one thing at once. And, no, I am *NOT* talking multi-tasking. It is doing things symbiotically versus trying to do separate things at the same time. For me, tending to my mental and emotional well-being is a top priority. But there often aren’t enough hours in a day to separately do “wellness” things as well as all the work/life things. So I always try to align work/life to-dos with the activities/environments/social exchanges that bolster and replenish my wellbeing. This allows me to do what needs to get done while also nurturing and nourishing myself. The greater my wellbeing, the greater my inner resiliency which enhances my capacity to do and be more (it’s like an energy-giving hack!).
- It sounds counterintuitive, but take a pause. Before you launch into the next thing on your to-do list, or think that you should just reply back to that email “really quick,” take 2 minutes to stop, breathe, and ask yourself if it is aligned. Is whatever you’re about to do a priority to you? Is it really necessary? Is it helpful? If not, cut it out. I’m consistently surprised at how much creeps into my day that doesn’t match the criteria. You can’t pause time, but you can spend it more meaningfully.
- Putting on headphones with binaural beats.
- Take what you do and create your own system around it so that instead of reinventing the wheel for each new project you take on, you eliminate the unknowns and give yourself room to be even more creative within a solid set of constraints. This has helped me to get wildly impactful results in far less time—for me and my clients! I’ve helped an agency owner turn a bespoke web design process that usually takes 6-8 months into a 2-week productized process by creating a good UI library and component-based system as a basis for all their projects. And I’ve helped an online academy streamlined their learning path into a simple-to-remember 3-step plan, which their users went bonkers for—and within 1 year, they managed to create 5 more learning paths based on that same productized plan.
– Shay Bocks
- I record a lot of strategy sessions that I want to share with my private clients – but I don’t want to store them on Zoom’s servers. I’ve enabled the auto-connection between Zoom to Vimeo Pro. Once the Zoom session is over, the recording is automatically uploaded as a private video to Vimeo. Then I can share that link with my client.
– Michelle Martello
- I currently save myself and my team hours of work each week simply by taking advantage of the automated features inside many of my tools and using Zapier where I can to automate manual processes outside of or between my tools. I’m always looking at the manual processes in my business and thinking “How can I have that just happen automatically?” Examples? I record a video (for my upcoming YouTube channel) and save it to a folder, zapier creates a task in Teamwork for my video editor to edit the video –> when he’s done he moves the video to a new folder marked “Final” –> Zapier uploads that video to Searchie (which automatically creates a transcript and audio file) –> zapier also sets a task for my assistant to create the show notes for the episode and uploads the video to YouTube so it’s ready to be finalized when the show notes are done. That automation saves at least 20 mins a week (17+ hours over the course of a year) and that’s just one automation.
- I recommend creating templates or starter files for just about anything. I love to use Notion for this because I can duplicate things very quickly and easily, and also share with other people. But I love to make note of things that can be reused and any number of ways – whether it’s responses to certain types of emails, to-do lists for web development projects, post-launch support guides, terminal commands, code snippets, starter repos for any specific type of web project. The list goes on. Time is far too valuable to do similar tasks over and over again from scratch.
- My favourite automation? I have Zapier look for a safe-for-work dance 💃 gif in giphy and have it automatically post it to Slack with the heading 💃 Dance Break 💃 . I didn’t tell anyone about it beforehand, one day they just got the message in Slack with the GIF. Now, with no direction from me, every Wednesday, the team takes a short break to share something funny or uplifting in response to my automatic dance break message. It sparks conversations, lightens people’s moods, and has strengthened and helped define the company culture. They all love it and it takes no time at all from me each week.
- I automate anything I possibly can whether it’s email auto-replies, filtering certain emails into specific folders, creating tasks out of emails and calendar events, transferring money between different bank accounts, auto-silencing notifications when I’m on calls, passing information into slack channels instead of email, etc. Automate it all!
Organizing tasks and working with others
- BATCHING for sure! Dedicated time to ONE thing with the intention of executing that thing from start to finish in the allotted time. Batching has saved my life!
- The 3 – 2 – 1 method. I work best when I single-task because my mind goes a mile a minute and I can easily distract myself and move on to something new and shiny. So I try to limit my focus each week to:
– Three big results to create each week.
– Two meetings or calls or guest appearances.
– One big task per day (which could be a batch of the same task, example today I’ve written 6 emails in one go).
– Seema Bharwani
- This hack saves me time on the business side when paying people. I use Gusto for my own internal payroll, and when they opened up the ability to pay contractors through Gusto, I started asking everybody that worked with me to set up an account in Gusto. This saved me so much time, especially when working with various people, and they all billed and wanted payment in different ways. I learned that everybody seems to love direct deposit, so setting them up this way allowed me to pay people via direct deposit, all in the same way. Most people are love it, especially knowing that they’ll get paid faster and not have to pay credit card fees.
- Have a wall of done. I usually write my tasks for the week on post-it notes and stick them up where I can see them. As a task gets done I like to move it to a DONE section on the wall for the month; this way I can see what I got done over time even if some days seemed like total time sucks. I also like to capture these tasks in my planner so I can look back on them at the end of the year and see what I worked on.
– Seema Bharwani
- Creating SOPs for everything I do so I can easily delegate if I’ve got too much on my plate. Taking action-related items out of my inbox and putting them into ClickUp (my project management software).
- For anyone who struggles with TOO many ideas. I find it helpful to keep a notebook or sheet of paper next to me when I’m working. I split it down the middle and use one side for tracking my time and the other for tracking my thoughts. On the left: I use the Pomodoro technique to keep track of how long I am spending on each task and what I get done in a day. On the right: I write down random ideas. Books/websites/people I want to check out. To do items I need to get to. All the things that distract me when I’m working that I want to capture but I don’t want to open a new window/notebook/app to log it in.
– Seema Bharwani
Dealing with Email
- Having all of our client communications go to a central email box vs individual people. Everyone internally stays looped in without the client needing to worry about who to email.
- Pause your inbox – sure, you can limit distractions with “focus” settings on your devices, but have you ever paused your inbox? Check out Boomerang for Gmail. I recommend pausing 6pm to 6am weekdays, and all weekend long.
- Canned responses are a total game-changer for getting info to prospective clients or responding to common customer support issues quickly. I just have to hit one button and the pre-formatted email is ready to send.
– Michelle Martello
- Laura Belgray, talkingshrimp.com | Copywriter & Email Expert
- Audrey Saccone, audreydigital.co | Launch Strategist
- Tony Howell, tonyhowell.co | Designer
- Meg Clarke, clappingdogmedia.com | SEO expert
- Sandra Booker, anyoldtask.ca | Online Business Manager
- Ellie Burke, ellieburke.life | Certified life coach and meditation teacher
- Danielle LeComte, secondandwest.com | Web Developer
- Marc Holzman, marcholzman.com | Habits expert, yoga and meditation teacher
- Elena Brower, elenabrower.com | Author, artist and yoga teacher
- Nia Burks, butterandfilth.com | Pole dance studio owner
- Reese Spykerman, designbyreese.com | eComm optimization expert
- Seema Bharwani, contentbyseema.com | Course experience designer
- Michelle Mercurio, michellemercurio.com | Brand strategist
- Marisa Corcoran, marisacorcoran.com | Copywriting for Coaches + Creatives
- Shay Bocks, shaybocks.com | Brand Strategist
- Michelle Martello, minimadesigns.com | Designer and digital strategist