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Tackling Time Management: 6 Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way

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Rather than kicking this article off with that “same hours in the day as Beyonce” quote, let’s start with something a little less cliché and a lot more real: Time management is challenging.

If you’re struggling with handling your time effectively, don’t treat this as an indication that you’re not smart or capable enough.

Simply recognize it as a sign that you might need to switch up your system.

Here are a few techniques that I’ve learned through my own mistakes, which can give your productivity that much-needed boost:

1. Give your To-Do List a Makeover.

    While we often attribute our lack of progress to “not enough time,” it’s more a matter of half-assed prioritizing.

    My to-do lists used to simply consist of a daunting list of action items. I would spend time considering which tasks to dive into on that particular day, and found myself alternating between projects in an unproductive fashion.

    To make your to-do list more effective, start categorizing items by importance. I now implement a color-coded system, and mark weekly tasks with “high priority,” “medium priority,” or “low priority.”

    Along with labeling based on critical deadlines, it’s important to factor in future scheduling conflicts. Identify opportunities to complete certain tasks in advance, particularly when you know you’ll be booked during that time-sensitive slot.

    Without clearly defined priorities, you’re more inclined to attend to a task that might be more enjoyable and less urgent. (Guilty.)

    By centralizing your focus, prioritizing can keep you much more accountable and in-control.

    2. Identify your Time-Suckers.

      Ready to hear my biggest roadblock to productivity? I have a tendency to spend WAY too much time on “simple” tasks.  

      Whether it’s building a media list for client outreach or creating a newsletter for my blog, I often catch myself overthinking, fixating, and readjusting.

      While attention to detail is important, it’s also vital to recognize when you’re simply devoting too much of your precious time.   

      To combat this, I’ve begun designating time limits for the “no-brainer” deliverables. Once that 1-hour block is up, it’s time to move on.

      This helps me use my time more effectively, freeing up space for large-scale projects that require more analytical thinking and commitment.

      So make an effort to identify your own time-suckers, whatever they may be. Establishing limits is a great way to gain that valuable time back in your day.  

      3. Ditch the Distractions.

        Even though you’re aware that distractions destroy productivity, you’re probably still scrolling through Instagram more often than you’d care to admit.

        Hey, it happens to the best of us. After all, fully “unplugging” is usually easier said than done.

        However, when I’m on a serious time crunch, I’ve learned that a little discipline can go a long way.

        Whether I’m in my office or working at home, I’ll place my phone in an out-of-reach corner until the deed is done.

        If I don’t, the social media notifications and juicy group chat conversations can often be too difficult to resist.

        You might rationalize that you’re only checking your phone periodically for a few minutes per day, but those minutes add up!

        So when you really need to focus, push yourself to leave your distractions out of sight and out of mind.

        This way, you can bask in that sense of accomplishment and feel good about engaging in some guilt-free scrolling. (Or swiping. I don’t judge.)

        4. Keep it Structured.

          When I first began my blogging journey, I relied on the iPhone notes apps to track all of my goals.

          While this a can be a good option to jot down ideas, I don’t recommend it as a sustainable solution. Despite your best efforts, things will inevitably begin to get sloppy and disorganized.

          Without serious structure, you’ll face two potential problems: A lack of ideas, or too many ideas with no direction.

          Therefore, I now maintain a more comprehensive Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all blogging deliverables. And let me tell you, it’s been a game-changer.

          The spreadsheet breaks down blog posts by month, key social promotion dates, and an ongoing list of future topics.

          I also have a tab specifically dedicated to pitching myself for sponsorships, features, and collaborations. This list consists of prospective brands, companies, podcasts, and blogs.

          Is this spreadsheet a little extra? Perhaps. But is it effective? Hell yes.

          Particularly in the case of side hustles, keeping yourself organized is crucial to both your productivity and your overall sanity.  

          5. Make your own deadlines. 

            Here’s another one for my fellow side hustlers. This might be your chance to be your own boss, but deadlines should still be making a regular appearance.

            When I first started out, I was staunchly committed to coming up with ideas – but not so dedicated to setting targets.

            With no due dates, they’re just dreams. Deadlines make them actionable.

            Once you start setting self-imposed deadlines around your schedule, you’ll begin to use your free time more effectively.

            6. ...But be realistic with yourself. 

            While being strict with yourself is important, make sure to avoid extending yourself too far.

            If you put give yourself unreasonable expectations, this approach will become counterproductive.

            So stick to your deadlines, but keep them reasonable. Time management just might be that push you needed to make your dreams a reality.

            Ready to give any of these techniques a whirl? Are there other time management methods that have worked for you? Drop a comment and let me know your thoughts!

            18 Comments Add a Comment?


            Meaghan Harrison

            Posted on Oct. 29, 2018, 4:05 p.m.

            These are awesome tips! I definitely struggle with time management, distractions are my biggest issues and having structure.



            Posted on Oct. 29, 2018, 7:31 p.m.

            My biggest time sucker is re-writing my to-do list nearly everyday and then I don't have enough time to actually go through my to-do list! Great post that I will utilize!



            Posted on Oct. 29, 2018, 8:51 p.m.

            This is great! I used to struggle with prioritizing because I'd prioritize based on what I like to do the most, instead of what things were going to move my business forward :)


            Chrystina Williams

            Posted on Oct. 29, 2018, 9 p.m.

            I’m guilty of some of these myself! I find I have to schedule in a set amount of time with certain tasks or I’ll spend way too much time on it. Great post!


            Rose | MomLife Organizer

            Posted on Oct. 29, 2018, 10 p.m.

            Completely true. I like your no-nonsense approach to time management. I am hoping to create something soon to help moms in this exact way!



            Posted on Oct. 29, 2018, 10:47 p.m.

            What to do list? My issue is procrastination!



            Posted on Oct. 30, 2018, 4:44 a.m.

            Thanks for sharing. Trying to find time between my full time job and blogging has been difficult especially when trying to grow. Love the idea of the spreadsheet! I love Excel!



            Posted on Oct. 30, 2018, 1:32 p.m.

            These are great tips! I have to work on ditching distractions! Your article has provided me with motivation!



            Posted on Oct. 30, 2018, 3:03 p.m.

            I sooo understand what you mean about the to do list being taller than the house most days! ???? I have done a similar strippping away of tasks so that I only focus on 5 super important and timely goals a week. If I get those done, then I reward myself with a “creative day” on Friday. If I finish those 5 really early, I look at the larger month list of goals and grab off one or two that I feel confident to either start or completely finish. I am more productive and less stressed now than I was when I was simply putting EVERYTHING on one big list. Thanks for sharing on a super important topic for Moms and entrepreneurs.


            Samuel Langley

            Posted on Oct. 30, 2018, 6:35 p.m.

            Wonderful post discussing some important study tips. I'd love to adopt some of these ideas for my own studying when I head back to University!


            janice sisemore

            Posted on Oct. 30, 2018, 6:47 p.m.

            We never have enough time. Good suggestions.


            Cherryl Ehlenburg

            Posted on Oct. 30, 2018, 9:54 p.m.

            Thank you for the tips! I struggle a lot with being productive, and need all of the help I can get!


            elena torres

            Posted on Oct. 31, 2018, 3:32 a.m.

            I really liked the tools or tips you shared. For me it would for sure help to identify my "time-suckers" because I get so caught up with those tasks sometimes!



            Posted on Oct. 31, 2018, 4:10 a.m.

            These are some great ideas! Thank you! I'm always struggling with organization and keeping on track.



            Posted on Nov. 2, 2018, 12:37 a.m.

            Some fantastic tips here, Sara. Thank you for sharing! I sometimes feel so overwhelmed with things I have to do - I really like your ideas of making a central focus.



            Posted on Nov. 3, 2018, 2:51 p.m.

            I love this, there's some really great tips! It's always important to make sure that you're being productive rather than just busy. Thank you for sharing! :)


            Rachel Batchler

            Posted on Nov. 5, 2018, 12:30 p.m.

            I love this list! My biggest issue are the time-sucks. Specifically things like newsletters or even creating IG posts!
            Great advice, thanks!


            Lynelle from Mom Succeeds

            Posted on Nov. 7, 2018, 12:50 a.m.

            Those are great points about time management.

            Since I'm now working from home, my biggest problem has been "distractions". And something that has been helping me is time-blocking because like you mentioned, it provides me structure, everything is prioritized, and has deadlines.

            Thanks for sharing!

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