Effective time management to be more productive

Effective time management to be more productive


It is far too easy when running your own business and trying to do everything yourself to find yourself feeling overwhelmed and crushed by the mountain of tasks demanding your attention. The accounts need updating, bills need paying, the marketing needs doing, quotes need chasing, meetings need to be booked and all of this before you even start on the core of producing your product or providing your service.

All too often small business owners find themselves working 15 hours a day, neglecting their family and eventually reaching burnout through sheer exhaustion.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Once you accept that your to-do list will never be fully completed you can start to plan and prioritise the big things and let the small things go. You need to understand that time management is not about getting everything done. It is about figuring out how to get more of the right things done with the time you have.

So here are some tips:

Plan Your Day/Week/Month

If you’re going to be productive, you must create some sort of structure to your working day, week and month.  Block specific times out in your diary for dealing with those tasks that keep getting pushed down the list but are too important to ignore completely.  Block off the first Monday morning of every month to reconcile the accounts.  Use the last Friday afternoon of each month to analyse your marketing and plan what you are going to do for the next month.  Block out two hours midweek each week to follow up past contacts or quotes.

Treat these times blocks with the importance they deserve.  Do not let other things push them out the way.  You can plan this either in a paper diary or schedule on your online calendar, so you get a reminder.  This will put you in a feeling of control and stop you worrying you are going to miss something.

Create lists

When structuring your day, week or month, create a list of things that need to be done.

A daily list should have no more than three key items that need to be achieved.  This does not mean you have to stop working when these three items are completed but it will help ensure the top priority items get completed first.  And you can choose a fun task from your monthly list when you have completed your daily tasks which will help keep you motivated.

Once you have completed your daily list, have a look at your weekly list and pick something else from there that needs completing.  Do the same with your monthly list.  If a particular task seems too huge, break it down into smaller chunks as mentioned before and create a number of subtasks to get it completed.

At the end of each day, prepare your list for the next day.  If nothing urgent and important with an impending deadline shouts out at you, one trick I use is to put a red dot against each item on my weekly list as the days move forward.  If I get to seven dots, I either put that item as a priority for the next day or make the decision the item is not really that important and delete it.  You can always move it to an ongoing list if you wish and then put another colour dot against it for each week that goes by and use the same principle.

By sorting out your next working day the evening prior, it will help you to relax and sleep better by knowing your next day is all planned out.

Set out your working hours

When you run your own business, there may creep in the temptation to start a little earlier in the day or finish later.  Whatever hours you want to work is up to you but set up a routine of working hours that suits you and your business.

Treat it like a business and start and finish at the same time each day.  Ensure you take a lunch break for at least 20 minutes and get some fresh air in this time if you can.  I promise you will be more productive by taking this short break than if you work through thinking you haven’t got time to stop.

By having set working hours you can focus more clearly on what needs to be completed by when rather than thinking you can do it later and ending up working into the late hours of the night.

Have the right tools

You need tools to keep track of what you must do. Trying to keep everything sorted in your head will result in failure and lead to massive stress.

  • Calendars As mentioned above, by putting tasks into an online calendar which will send you a reminder when it is due, you remove the stress of trying to have to remember it.
  • Emails If you have more than one email account, synchronise them into one place so that you don’t have to keep logging in and out of different accounts.
  • Project Management Software Use task management software to organise your documents and keep a track of tasks pending and completed and how a project is progressing.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)If you only have a few clients, a simple spreadsheet may do but have a look at a simple CRM system such as Capsule. These help organise your clients, hold all their notes, emails and documents in one place and set your follow up tasks.
  • Accountancy software Hate balancing the figures at the end of the month? Always get in a muddle?  Try software solutions such as FreeAgent and Freshbooks that look after your invoicing and expenses and balance your figures with your online bank account.  There is a small monthly cost for many software solutions, but these could be well worth the expense (approx. £19.99 pcm for FreeAgent) if it saves you hours of time and stress. It will take time to get your head around some of these systems, but start slowly and simply and you will soon end up wondering how you ever coped without them.  And many systems integrate with each other, so you always have access to all your information in one place.

Baby Steps

Big tasks can seem so overwhelming that you just don’t know where to start.  Think of the adage ‘How do you eat an elephant?’  The answer, one mouthful at a time.  And it is the same with your work.  Break it down into bite-size chunks or baby steps.

If you have a task that you think is going to take you hours to complete and think you just don’t have the time, set an alarm for just 15 minutes and make a start on it.  You may just surprise yourself with how much you get done when the pressure is off to complete the task all in one go.

Focus on one task at a time

Multi-tasking is not always the best way of being productive and is when mistakes tend to happen.  It can be far better to focus on one task at a time and get that over and done with.  Turn off any distractions for important tasks such as your phone and close those social media tabs!  Set your time and get going.  It is far more therapeutic to see whole tasks being crossed off a list than just doing bits here and there with nothing ever getting fully done.

Outsource what you hate

Have a look at those tasks that are building up the red dots and still sitting on your list.  Is there a pattern or any similarity between them?  Mine is always the financial tasks.  I love being creative and being with my clients.  I hate sitting down number crunching and cross-referencing.  So, go get someone else to do it for you.  Someone with a passion for numbers can get my books up to date in a couple of hours where it would take me days to truly get to grips with it.  Outsourcing things you hate may cost you a small amount of money, but this will make up for itself in getting those things done to free up your time doing what you love and making sales.

Prepare for emergencies.

Life rarely goes smoothly and the unexpected happens to put us off track when we least need it.  You feel like you have everything under control and then your dog gets taken ill and must be rushed to the vet.  You have a load of documents to print-ready for a workshop and your printer decides to stop working.  The school phone because your child has been involved in an incident and you need to go and talk to their teacher.

So, have a contingency plan up your sleeve.  Prepare for the ‘what if’s’.  Just having an emergency plan in place will give you so much peace of mind.  Try to keep a few hours free in your diary each week to plan for the unexpected.  This will give you a few precious hours to help get yourself back on track with your tasks.  And if you don’t need to use this time for an unexpected event, use it to either do a task you enjoy or even to take a couple of hours for yourself to relax and recharge.


Try these time management tips and see if you start to work more effectively.



How to get your mind and body in sync

How to get your mind and body in sync

Are your mind and body in sync?

There is no separation of body and mind.

If you are physically unwell, your mind will not work effectively.

If you are having negative thoughts, your body will not work effectively.

To be most effective and productive in your work you need to have both your mind and body in sync so whenever one of them is adversely affecting the other, try these top tips to get back on track.

When your mind is out of sync

Someone has made a negative comment to you and you are now feeling drained and lethargic.  You have no energy and your body does not want to move.  In fact, all it wants to do is to curl up under the duvet and hide in the dark.

Then you get a phone call.  Your child or loved one has been involved in a serious accident.  Your mindset changes in a nanosecond.  You now have a sense of urgency and a heightened awareness that springs your body into action.  You have all the energy you need to run as far as you need to be with your child or loved one.

The phone call could be to tell you that you have won the lottery.  You are suddenly full of excitement, surprise, happiness and anticipation and you can’t wait to jump up and tell your friends and family.  Your mind is buzzing with ideas of what you are going to do and your body is literally jumping with joy.

But when we are stuck in a negative mindset, these physical scenarios rarely occur so it is up to us to create an environment to get us unstuck and back in the right frame of mind.

How to get back into a positive mindset

Turn negative thoughts into positives.

One effective way to do this is to use a self-talk diary.  When you find yourself having negative thoughts, write them down. Now look at this statement and think about how you can turn it into a positive.

Let’s say someone has been negative to you about your business or has cancelled their contract with you.  You could decide that is a good thing as you simply weren’t a right fit for each other and would have become emotionally drained by having to work with them in the future.  Alternatively, you could use their comments to improve your business and make future clients happier which you would have failed to do without these comments.

If you would a FREE copy of my self-talk diary template to download and use, drop me an email at co*****@an********.com

Use affirmations daily

Create a list of positive affirmations and repeat them to yourself regularly throughout the day.  This will start to slowly create a positive mindset and help your self-belief.

Talk to your mentor or another positive person

Just the art of talking to someone about how you are feeling and sharing your feelings can help you feel a sense of relief and be ready to take on the world once again.


Mediation can gently calm and relax the mind.  There are many apps for meditation that focus on dealing with different feelings such as self-confidence, anxiety, depression etc so do your research ad find one that is good for you.

Listen to music

Music can uplift us, energise us, calm us and excite us.  You can be feeling low and then an upbeat tune comes on the radio and your mood can lift instantly.  Create a list of your favourite tunes to turn on when you need a boost.


When your body is out of sync

When you eat and drink unhealthily so your body becomes bloated, all your mind can focus on is the feeling of your clothes being too tight, the queasiness and the extra rolls of fat gathering on your body.  Your body feels uncomfortable and so does your mind and you simply do not function so effectively on whatever you are working on.

If you have a broken bone, your mind will be distracted by the pain and discomfort.  You may have reams of ideas and be raring to get going, but the distraction of the pain will constantly dull your thought process.

Obviously, if you have a broken bone or serious disease, you are going to need medical attention to help with the pain and until that is sorted it is going to be difficult to do anything else.

However, with other physical symptoms, where your body just doesn’t want to get going, there are a few things you can do to help get yourself up and about again.

Look after your body

The first thing is to look after your body in the first place.  Eat healthily and get enough exercise.  Just a 20-minute walk each day is better than slouching on the sofa without a break.

Get enough rest

Constantly working 16 hours a day and until the early hours of the morning is not going to help.  You will simply end up both physically and mentally exhausted.  Set yourself working hours and stick to them.

Change your working environment

Sometimes it can really be this simple.  If you have backache, move to a more comfortable chair or buy a new ergonomic one.  If you have a broken or sprained ankle, move somewhere where you can rest it comfortably whilst you work.  If you are feeling nauseous, move outside if you can and work in the fresh air.


Get regular medical check-ups and take time out to have a massage to keep aches and pains at bay.  Just a little preventive care now can save long-term damage and illness further down the line.

The power of music

As mentioned previously, music is incredibly powerful on the mind which reflects our physical ability.  If you run, you will already know how listening to music can make you feel stronger and hence run faster and with more ease.  Music can distract us from our physical feelings of discomfort and can reduce stress, so find some uplifting songs and create a playlist for when your body is feeling lethargic.


Do you have any top tips of your own to get your mind and body in sync?  Share them in the comments box below.