You can’t manage time, says the time coaches’ cliché: You can only manage yourself in time. Parents know this better than anyone else. From the moment your first child is born, your time is beholden to multiple constituencies like never before. Franklin Covey maps these constituencies to what they call your personal roles – Your role as a parent, your role as a friend or your role as executive or founder.
So how exactly do you manage yourself in time? Regardless of the role, the answer is always the same. It is always about having the discipline to say no to doing something so that you can be more present in your key roles.
Delegate as Much as You Can
The easiest and most effective way to add more time to your day is to do less. A sample list of tasks that make you feel productive, but that you should delegate includes:
- Tracking expenses
- Keeping your CRM up-to-date
- Finding prospects
- Following up with contacts
- Preparing for conferences
Plus, lots of other admin, sales support, and operations support tasks that don’t require your authority or expertise. If you delegated all these tasks to a junior member of your team or a virtual assistant, you could save dozens of hours per month.
Never Stop Working to Delegate More
It’s easy to let busy work creep back into your life and, even, to let it anchor to you for years. When I founded Prialto, it made sense for me to run the billing for the few customers that we had. As time went on, I failed to delegate this.
A few minutes a month turned to a few hours and eventually to a couple of days. I subconsciously lied to myself that I was the only one who could perform the billing and collections tasks. Our customers are high touch, and I only trusted myself to handle their invoicing and collections appropriately. Plus, it made me feel productive.
Finally, during a self-productivity assessment, I realized that I had to get this off my plate. I created playbooks and trained my replacement. I gained back two days per month. I gave half of this time back to the company (my founder role) and half of it back to my kids (my parent role).
True, I lost the minor adrenaline of my hands-on collection of a larger-and-larger amount of revenue. But I gained countless sublime moments like bicycling with my nine-year-old to the bike jumps in our neighborhood and seeing him muster the courage to ride them.
Research shows that people who experience frequent interruptions experience a 9% higher exhaustion rate and make twice the number of errors as those who work uninterrupted.
This is no joke, people often mistakenly equate business and even exhaustion with productivity and commitment. But children need patience and focus as much as anything else. A kid who spills their drink at dinner or two siblings bickering in your presence can become magical parenting moments and time for guiding growth if you are rested and able to approach these moments mindfully. But if you are too tired, they will only become explosive moments of stress that you will come to regret.
Here ways you can eliminate interruptions:
- Turn off email, slack, and text notifications for forty-five to sixty-minute blocks of time so you can focus on strategic work.
- Block out times to work on similar tasks. You’ll be more productive spending a couple of hours focusing on related projects than jumping around between a lot of different things
- Ask your family and colleagues not to interrupt you turn blocks of time that are reserved for strategic work.
- Reserve a couple of times per day to catch up on your emails and other notifications. This will prevent you from having to constantly check your messages.
The more time you can spend focused solely on your work, the more progress you’ll be able to make in less time.
Take Advantage of Late Nights and Early Mornings
Many of the most valuable times to spend with your kids - such as school plays, awards ceremonies and sometimes even dinner - conflict with work hours. To ensure that you’re able to be present for these events, take advantage of the early morning and late-night hours when your kids are asleep.
One of my favorite moments in the workweek is responding to my team’s emails in the early morning before my kids awake. I leave my home office door open and most enjoy when the first awaking kid wanders in, rubbing his or her eyes, climbing up on my lap to tell me it is now family time.
Adopt a Productivity Management System
Don’t agonize over which one. Just start with one and go for it. You’ll quickly find yourself better balancing your roles and yourself within them.
Here are a few great choices.
If you’re highly goal-oriented and/or if your typical workload is project-based, the agile results system is likely the best option for you. Instead of mapping out your entire day, it has you focus on the activities that matter most then do everything else in your remaining time.
Here’s a summary of how to implement it:
● Set three monthly goals
● Set three weekly goals that help you achieve your monthly goals
● Set three tasks you must complete each day to reach your weekly goals
● Review your progress and pivot as necessary
A lot of parenting and running a team or a company can find you reacting to random happenings in the moment. Some of these offer joyful moments not to be missed. But many of them can be time-stealing distractions that don’t help move your roles forward.
If you involve your spouse and family in your planning, you’ll help move everyone in the same direction, learn not to be distracted by the unnecessary, and find more time for the unexpectedly joyful.
To learn more about this productivity management system, check out our article:
If you like having a structured schedule and/or have some hard stops on your calendar such as picking your kids up from school, dropping them off at soccer practice, etc. then time blocking is a good option for you.
With it, you take all the tasks on your to-do list and block off times on your calendar to complete them. This prevents procrastination and shows your colleagues that you need dedicated time to work on your projects.
Nothing will better let your kids or your spouse know their importance to you like letting them know that you have blocked specific times to focus on their needs
Zen to Done
Zen to Done is a great option if you like keeping track of everything on your to-do list and want to systematically improve your habits.
The Zen to Done system consists of adopting ten habits over a few months. I’ve summarized them below, however, you can find the full list here.
- Carry around a small notebook or set of index cards so that you can write down ideas for tasks whenever you think of them.
- Choose one to three highly important tasks to complete each day and one to three key projects to complete each week.
- Set aside distraction-free blocks of time each day to focus on your most important tasks.
- Every week, review the items remaining on your to-do lists and what you’ve accomplished that week. Eliminate any tasks that are non-essential and don’t contribute to achieving your goals.
Show your kids the notebook and even encourage them to keep their own. This will invite them into your life in a way they will appreciate and, when the tasks include them, they will know their importance in our life.
Attend Fewer, More Productive Meetings
According to a report from Atlassian, half of meetings attended are considered a waste of time. Often, this is because meetings aren’t relevant to all of the attendees.
As an entrepreneur, it can be tempting to be involved in every aspect of your business, however, there are a ton of smaller projects that aren’t worth your time. Instead, reserve your time solely for meetings about business strategy, major product decisions, and other issues that have a significant impact on your business’s livelihood.
Be aware that even meetings that are about valuable topics are often unproductive due to poor planning. Doodle’s 2019 State of Meetings Report found that:
- 43% of meetings have unclear action steps that lead to confusion on how to move forward with projects
- 38% have a poorly organized agenda that causes people to lose focus on the projects being discussed
- 31% of meetings are slowed down by irrelevant people who are invited
Solving those issues by sending out clear meeting agendas in advance and only including people who are critical to the discussion can save you several hours a month and enable your team to complete projects more efficiently.
About the Author: Eric Taussig is Prialto's founder/ CEO. He speaks and writes about the future of work, global workforce, and employee happiness issues. His ideas have been featured on National Public Radio and in places like Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine and Inc. Magazine.