Time management is something every busy person struggles with. When you have a blog to run, there’s no counting how many tasks there are, and each one seems more pressing than the other. But with only so many hours in the day, how can you structure your workday in such a way that nothing gets neglected? The art and skill of managing your time is something that you have to develop consciously and keep a close eye on unless you’re ready to just let time slide by with no accountability.
Keep a Strict Schedule
First and foremost, keeping a schedule is an absolute must. If you let your workday take shape as it goes on, you’ll surely be missing deadlines, wasting hours on time-sinks (more on this later) and working too late to finish what you should have done hours ago.
Structure Your Day
At the start of each day, take thirty minutes to write up what you’re going to be doing and at what times. Use a pen-and-paper notepad if you prefer that, but a great way of scheduling tasks is through Google Calendar. Check out miraCal for its pretty GUI and convenient notifications. When a popup tells you that time’s up, that means time’s up. If you haven’t finished working on the task, that means you’ll have to schedule more time or it next time around, but for now, just push it to tomorrow, if possible. It’s better to be late with this task than the cut time from the next one, or you’ll be cutting time from the one after that, too.
Give yourself a little legroom at first, since, if you haven’t taken time management seriously until now, you probably only have a vague approximation of how much time any given task is going to take you. Factor in an hour or two for breaks. You really should take a ten-minute break from looking at your screen for general health purposes every hour or so, but the kind of breaks that I’m talking about should be allotted specifically for non-work activity – check Facebook, text your friends and look at some funny pictures guilt-free during this time. Don’t worry about not working for two whole hours – if you do everything by the book, you’ll be recharging your batteries during these times. Not to worry, you’ll be making that time back by being able to focus entirely on what you’re doing.
When you sit down to work on a task, resolve to remain distraction-free for the entire time, and commit your focus solely to what you’re doing. That means closing all tabs in your browser that aren’t directly related to what you’re working on at the moment, turning off your phone’s sound, and using distraction-free software. If you’re writing a post, being focused on what you’re doing is especially important, and will save you time when editing later on. And you might already guess that we are talking about Write!. It has a mode called Focus that will dim all paragraphs except the one you’re working on – a very useful feature if you get distracted easily.
Group Similar Tasks Together
This is a no-brainer and of the reasons why scheduling time for one task, and one task only, works. When you switch between tasks, your brain will have to change tracks rapidly, and your overall performance will decrease because of it. If you have to write four posts during the day, schedule researching, outlining, and writing them as three separate tasks. If you schedule it as four tasks – working on each of them from start to finish – it will take a significantly longer amount of time. If you don’t believe me, try it for a week and come back with the results.
Avoid and Block Time-Sinks
What are your biggest time-wasters? Only you can know this, but here’s a way you can figure out what to avoid: if it’s something that you can’t be ‘done’ with, it’s a time-waster. News sites, social media and email all fall into this category. “But!”, I hear you say, “I can’t go without email or promoting my stuff on Facebook”! Of course, you can’t – that’s why you schedule time for these activities individually. Be honest with yourself: there really isn’t any need to check email more than once every 12 hours, and there’s rarely anything going on Twitter that you can’t miss.
Use apps like Cold Turkey to block access to the sites you waste time on most often, and allow access to them only during your break if it’s social media or during an hour at the end of the workday if it’s email. This is the only sure way you can cure the habit of opening a tab and going on Twitter to get that quick fix.
Learning to schedule your time correctly and making the most of your day is a lengthy process. No one method will fix all your redundancies, but you can commit to adjusting for individual quirks in your workflow by tracking your results week to week. See how many times you had to put off finishing a task because it took longer than expected, and what you wasted time on each day. Start each week by changing your process to account for these issues. Do this for a month, and you’ll look back and wonder how you were able to do it any other way.