The biggest obstacle to our success as business owners is often not a lack of knowledge or resources, but rather our ability to manage time. As a freelancer, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with several time management strategies over the past few years. Here are four of them that I’ve found especially useful for maximizing productivity.
Here are four of them that I’ve found especially useful for maximizing productivity.
Expand your Einstein window
Your Einstein window is the time of the day when you’re the most mentally alert and productive. If you’re not sure when that is for you, ask yourself if you’re a morning person or a night owl – this should give you a pretty good hint.
You can get more productive hours out of your day by designing your sleep schedule around this critical window.
I’m a morning person – my brain goes down with the sun. To make the most of those early morning power hours, I trained myself to go to bed two hours earlier during the week. This has allowed me to extend my Einstein window by two hours, which makes a huge difference to my overall productivity.
By training my body to follow a regular sleep schedule I’m able to fall asleep faster than I did before, and I wake up feeling more alert and energetic.
When you’re designing your own sleep schedule, make sure to allow for the time it takes you to fall asleep or you’ll be setting yourself up for burnout. The full recommended eight hours of sleep plus an extra 30 minutes to an hour may seem like a lot, but it’ll keep you at your best in the long term.
Schedule habits instead of tasks
As freelancers and business owners, our workdays are made up of many different activities: marketing, managing inventory, bookkeeping, feeding the content machine, managing contractors, working with clients, and so on.
While a bit of variety is refreshing, many of us have thrown the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the entrepreneurial lifestyle. We associate routine with those poor sods working a 9-to-5, label it restrictive, and carry on in our fragmented schedules – which, let’s face it, are often high on task volume and low on results.
A great way to avoid this trap is to use a habit-tracking app to manage the day’s activities (I’m currently using Strides). Whereas before I kept a list of writing tasks that I wanted to complete in a day, I’ve now consolidated them into one daily habit: “Write 2 Hours.”
The beauty of thinking in terms of habits rather than tasks is that you’ll simplify your to-do list and achieve momentum – that steep curve in productivity that happens when you consistently apply yourself to a routine.
As an added benefit, you’ll waste a lot less time and energy making decisions, since the bulk of each day is already planned out for you.
A smart routine is liberating, not restricting. And once something becomes a true habit, it’s easier to do it than it is not to do it, and that’s when you start to see real follow-through.
Pull the kill switch on procrastination.
Procrastination is a major hazard for the self-employed. In reality, the act of making that unpleasant phone call you’ve been avoiding will only take up five minutes of your day. Left unresolved, it takes up too much mental real estate and prohibits you from moving ahead with confidence.
If you want to experience an immediate boost in productivity and motivation, make a list of the tasks you’ve been actively avoiding and commit to handling them before you do anything else.
If it’s a task that you absolutely hate, go ahead and outsource it. In many cases, the cost of hiring someone is minor compared to the cost of inaction.
Don’t spread yourself too thin.
The fewer goals you commit to at a time, the more time and energy you’ll be able to put into those goals, and the better results you’ll ultimately get.
For ambitious people, this is easier said than done. It means some of your goals will have to fall by the wayside – for now, at least. Personally, I’ve tried all kinds of clever ways to work multiple large-scale projects into my schedule. You’ve probably done the same. In the end, you probably didn’t get the results you’d hoped for.
In my own experience, the sweet spot is two, maybe three, major goals at a time. If you focus your efforts in this way, you’ll be able to devote a good chunk of time daily or weekly to each goal, retain the passion you initially felt for it, and build up the momentum that’s so important to successful execution.