This is a guest post by Nicole Antoinette
One of the best things about owning your own business is that you have complete control over your time. But, let’s face it, that’s also one of the most challenging things, right?
Being able to choose how you spend every minute of every hour of every day means that you actually have to choose how to spend every minute of every hour of every day. Technically, you “can” hang out on Twitter all morning and you “can” spend 5 hours in your inbox – but put things like that together day after day and you probably don’t have a very successful or fulfilling business. You’d be busy, sure, but being busy and accomplishing meaningful work aren’t always the same thing. In fact, they’re rarely the same thing. Which is why the common productivity goal of getting more done in less time doesn’t work for me. The goal shouldn’t be to simply get more done, it should be to get more of what matters done. And that’s exactly where these strategies come in.
4 Unconventional Time-Saving Strategies
1. Use a timer
Just because you “can” spend all day doing something, doesn’t mean you should. Email needs to get answered, but that doesn’t mean you have to toil over every message. For tasks like email, there’s huge value in putting yourself on a micro-deadline – say 30 minutes – and then stepping up to meet that self-imposed challenge. For me, that means setting a timer for 30 minutes, opening my inbox, starting at the bottom (with the message that’s been there the longest) and answering one message at a time, quickly and efficiently, working my way up until the timer goes off.
When the timer goes off, I close my inbox and get back to other work, distraction-free, knowing I’ll have more 30-minute bursts throughout the day. Doing this pushes me to make my responses concise and to the point – thereby getting me through my inbox faster while also cutting down on the recipient’s email management hell. Win, win.
2. Identify your energy leaks (and plug ‘em)
One of the biggest problems with productivity tips is that they almost always focus on time management, even though time isn’t the issue. It’s not about how much time something takes, but about how much energy it takes, which is why our main focus should be on energy management. Think about it: if you love coaching, then the hour you spend on the phone with a client feels great, because it’s an activity that gives you energy. But spending that same hour trying to figure out how to change some code on your website (assuming that’s not your thing) will leave you feeling drained and frustrated.
All hour-long time chunks are not created equal.
So, let’s shift the conversation and stop looking at how to maximize time and instead take a deeper look at how to optimize energy. The best place to start is to go through your schedule for the week and put a little star next to everything you’re feeling resistance toward. What are you dreading? What makes your body contract, instead of expand?
Do this for actual plans (meetings, parties, interviews, etc.) as well as for the different types of work/tasks you do on a regular basis (email, client calls, social media, writing, billing, etc.) Then, once you have an honest picture of how much of your time is being spent on things that deplete your energy, you can start to make some changes. That doesn’t mean you never have to do anything you dislike, but there are plenty of ways to either condense and batch those energy-draining things together, or even to outsource them. Either way, try to make decisions based on how much energy something takes, instead of just how much time. Because, truly, the 1-hour meeting you agonize over for two days is actually 48-hours long.
3. Plan your day around a single question
The best days in my business are the ones where I start work with a short, solid action plan that was made the previous day. I feel grounded, calm, and clear on what to focus on – which helps me keep my mind on the important things instead of just spending the day reacting to whatever “urgent” things pop up.
Which is why, at the end of each work day, I ask myself a single question: “What’s the next best thing I can do to move my business forward?” Then, I make that the very first thing I do the following day, before email, before social media, before anything. That way, no matter what else happens throughout the day, I feel great knowing that I already accomplished my top priority item.
4. Stop trying to “catch up”
Guess what? There will always be more work to do. There will always be more emails to answer. There will always be additional things you can add to your to-do list. So get over it already. Seriously, the sooner you stop trying to “catch up” (whatever the hell that means), the better. Because – and this is one of the most empowering things I ever learned – you will never be caught up, but that’s okay!
The purpose of life isn’t “inbox zero,” you know? So, try it. Try making the conscious shift from always feeling behind to instead owning the fact that you’re prioritizing the things that matter and not letting yourself be ruled by a seemingly endless to-do list of other people’s priorities. Repeat after me: I am not a slave to my to-do list/inbox/social media/anything else.
Because if you cut through all of those tasks, and if you’re really honest with yourself, you’ll be able to identify the heart of your business – the true work that you and only you are meant to do – and then you can shift to spending the majority of your time and energy doing exactly that, and serving your clients and the world in a much more powerful way as a result.
Nicole Antoinette wants to live in a world with less bullshit. She helps people change their stories – the ones they tell about themselves, to themselves – so that they feel safe about changing their habits and, ultimately, their lives. She’s the founder of A Life Less Bullshit, an online powerhouse that provides simple, actionable, and powerful strategies for ditching what you think should want in favor of what you actually do want – so that you can take whatever you’re obsessed with and make it a delicious reality.