The Best Time Management Advice I’ve Ever Received

by | Sep 12, 2023 | Art, Blog, Business, Create, Home, Lifestyle

Kari Johnston, owner of Rose City Consulting, shares the best time management advice she’s received – it’s been tried and tested and she’s sharing it with us!


 

Overwhelmed.

That word jumped into my brain 1,000 times a day. Every time someone asked how I was doing. Every time I sat at my computer or looked at my calendar, or I was asked a favor. I study productivity like many of you study color theory or composition, and yet, I was floundering. I felt like a lion tamer, now shaking in their boots when I entered the cage. What I had once mastered was now threatening to eat me alive.

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Finally, one day, I called my best friend Amber and shared this with her. She asked kindly if I was venting or looking for advice (this was a rule of thumb we’d established so as not to annoy the other one with our shared instinct to be a “fixer”). With an honesty only shared between best friends, I told her I’d listen to her advice, but I couldn’t guarantee I’d like it.

Amber works in Corporate America, managing requests to change policies, procedures, software functionality, and all kinds of other super boring details within her company. She is also the mom of 4-year-old twins who have a variety of appointments and activities, she sings in her church choir, her husband performs in their church’s bell choir, and they care for her mother-in-law. In short, she knows a thing or two about keeping her head above water.

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She shared with me the following seven steps to regaining control over my time and they changed the game for me. In short, they force you to see your time for what it is – finite. If you’re like me, you have a to-do list a mile long and you are continually frustrated that you don’t get through it more quickly, or at all!

These seven steps will force you to transform your to-do list into actionable appointments with yourself. They will ask you the hard questions that take you from wanting to do everything, to scheduling those tasks that will make the most impact on your life and your business.

Seven Time Management Strategies That Work

Step 1 – Put recurring events or tasks on your calendar

You already know you have to take the trash out every Sunday – why would you clutter your calendar with such things? This is the first step to understanding what time you actually have. In your mind, taking the trash out takes five minutes, which you round down to no time at all.

In actuality, you may have to gather the trash, put it in the trash can, and roll it to the curb, which may take 15 minutes. This may fall on the same day you have to pick up your groceries, pack your child’s lunch, and feed the dog. Those small tasks combined may be reserving an hour plus on your calendar that you’ve never accounted for – it’s time to start.

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Step 2 – Review the time you have left & choose a time block you can work with

After you have your recurring events and tasks on your calendar, it’s time to do ask yourself two questions:
How big are the blocks of time I have left?
How long can I typically focus on one task?

If you have small blocks of time left – say, 30 minutes in between appointments, this exercise is easy – your time block is 30 minutes.

If you have big blocks of time left – for example, you take your child to school and you have six hours before you have to pick them up – you’ll have to plan more carefully. Parkinsons’s Law tells us that if you tell yourself “I have six hours to get this done”, you’re doomed.

Here are some ideas you can test:

  • Dr. Andrew Huberman suggests that you keep your work blocks to 90 minutes or less.
  • The Pomodoro Technique encourages you to work in 25-minute time blocks with five minutes of rest, and then take a longer break after you’ve done four rounds of this.
  • My favorite method is to schedule one task (or cluster of related tasks) per hour and work on it for 45 minutes, then take a 15-minute “break”. (I put break in quotes because often I use the 15 minutes to just change what my brain is thinking about. I may change the laundry or respond to social media comments. These items can be technically considered productive, but they still give my brain a break from my to-do list.)

So far, this advice may sound familiar. These next three steps, though, are what shifted my perspective.

3 – Keep a running to-do list, broken down into tasks that fit the timeframe you choose

This is where the magic happens.

Let’s say you’ve decided the Pomodoro Technique sounds perfect for you, and you have decided to paint some sunflower hats after reading this blog by Kelly Wiler. Old You would have put “paint a sunflower hat” on your to-do list. New You will break this down into 25-minute tasks like this:

  • Gather the supplies needed to paint hats & get set up
  • Chalk out the design and paint the first layer
  • Add details and pops of color

I know it’s stressful to see your tasks multiply, but this is a critical step in planning when and how to truly get things done.

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Time Management Step 4 – Weigh your tasks by size and payoff

Oh man, this is getting exciting. This is where you take what to do and transform it into what to do first/what to do next.

Not all of the things on your list are created equal. If you’re a creative business owner, you know better than anyone that some of your tasks are administrative, some are maintenance, and some are MONEY!

Sure, you may want to reorganize your website, but you have a painting that you’ve been commissioned for, and once you finish it, you’ll get paid. That should move it higher on your list. It should be highest on your list if, say, all you have left to do is topcoat it.

The more you prioritize the tasks with 1) the most payoff and 2) the shortest duration of time, the more effectively you’ll get things done. (Remember, this is after you’ve scheduled all of your regularly occurring obligations.)

Step 5 – Build in EMPTY blocks of time for “spillover”

No system is perfect. Some days you’ll miscalculate time, some days you’ll slip into hyperfocus or flow and look up and it’s dinner time. It’s all good. I suggest you fill about 75% of your blocks and leave 25% of them as cushions for yourself.

Step 6 – Put your tasks in your calendar

Michael Hyatt, founder of the Full Focus System, is known for saying “What gets scheduled gets done”. I personally, schedule my recurring events/tasks weekly and then do the remaining steps every day or two. I’ve tried to do it weekly, and too many things have come up that left me frustrated that my plans had to change. Do what works for you, but get your tasks into your calendar. It changes how you approach them, I promise.

Step 7 – Manage other people’s expectations realistically

This is my favorite part of this system. My inner people pleaser wanted to tell everyone that whatever I was doing for them would be done right away. This felt good in the moment but over time, it left me with a feeling that I was letting other people down. The fact is, it is impossible to do everything right away!

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This system gives me the tools to set realistic timeframes. Do people always like to hear that I might not be able to tackle the next thing for three weeks? No, but it feels better to tell them that upfront than to make false promises.

I hope this helps you like it helped me! If any piece of this feels too tough to handle, you are welcome to schedule time with me – I’d be happy to help you regain a sense of control of your workload.

Kari Johnston
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Kari Johnston

Kari Johnston is the owner and consultant of Rose City Boutique and Consulting. She lives in Springfield, OH with her husband and son & their two dogs. Though she spent 14 years of her adult life in Corporate America, she transitioned into Brick & Mortar Retail in the fall of 2020 and then consulting in 2022.View Kari’s Full Bio

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