Most of us have had to shift quickly to the new normal, including working from home! For those of you who have mastered this, kudos to you! For those of you who still struggle to find a balance, this post is for you!
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Karen Try, owner of Mind Your Own Business. Karen is our community manager at #Strella Social Media, which requires her to be especially organized. In her own business, she helps customers with their bookkeeping, social media, and website design. “Time flies,” as they say, so Karen’s developed some tactics to help manage that time effectively. I’m honored to share this Q&A with Karen!
Q: Finish this sentence. Time management is…
A: Time management is awareness. It’s about cooperating with a structure - and some people just can’t work in a structure. But, on a team, it’s critical because others (coworkers AND clients) are reliant on a schedule. Trello is an excellent tool for this.
Time management is also about being proactive, rather than reactive. Most people are comfortable with simply being responsive and doing what they’re told to do. To manage time properly, though, you really must plan, think ahead, and always keep the big picture at front of mind.
Q: What ways can someone get better with time management?
A: I’ve rarely met someone with poor time management skills that can ‘get good.’ Effective time management requires the ability to prioritize, which is purely decision-making. Some people are emotional and get distracted by the “screamers,” even though they aren’t a top priority. It’s about setting boundaries. I’ve often discovered that people who don’t set good boundaries in their personal lives will bring that to their work.
Q: It sounds as though you either have the skill or you don’t. Do you believe that someone with poor time management skills can be coached?
A: I believe that time management becomes focused work for that person. That needs to start with an inner commitment to improve, a constant awareness of time and priorities, and the ability to put boundaries in place to succeed. One example which comes to mind is properly preparing for a conference call. Setting the timer on their phone to alert them 15 minutes before the call to prepare, finding the call-in number in advance, and changing their mindset to focus on the topic at hand can make a huge difference.
Q: Distractions are commonplace for those working from home, but even more so now that children, spouses, and/or partners have joined the mix. What tips do you have for managing these distractions?
A: Most importantly, find a dedicated space that is not the center of the household, amidst the chaos! I have seen large closets repurposed for office space! Not everyone has a spare bedroom. Set up for success. Plan a start time, break time, and stop time. Set timers if necessary and communicate to family members that this is work time, as usual. If a quiet space is not available, the worker could try wearing headphones or earbuds to listen to music, if desired, or to block out noise.
Q: Share one personal tip for helping to manage your own time?
A: Good health – especially good sleep – is important to achieve peak performance. Avoid looking at your weekly ‘To-Do’ list on Sunday night…otherwise, you might feel overwhelmed and end up tossing and turning all night long, only to arrive at Monday morning in a state of exhaustion. Set aside the first hours of Monday mornings to organize your tasks for the week, allowing “buffer” timeslots for surprises. On Friday afternoons, don’t work until quitting time. Instead, plan to stop an hour or two before the end of the day and review your emails, work tasks, and accomplishments to make sure you are not leaving for the weekend with loose ends or unanswered correspondence.
Q: Share a tip that you give to your clients to help them manage their time
A: At my company, we recommend many apps and offer suggestions to implement software that help our clients keep track of everything from the task list to tracking mileage. One of our services is bookkeeping, which requires a level of tracking and organization that many people find overwhelming and frustrating. We offer a checklist to simplify their requirements, along with many options for communicating with us. If anyone is struggling with time management, the worst thing they can do is try to hide it, and the best thing they can do is reach out for help.
Q. Anything else you would like to add?
A: We all have the same amount of time in a day. Saying, “I ran out of time,” means you chose to spend your time on something else. Acknowledge the real problem. Be honest with yourself. It’s likely there was an emotional component involved, such as playing with the family pet, having a long phone call with a loved one, spending time working on a favorite task, or even just a case of procrastination. I would rather hear the reason why a task was not completed, rather than “I ran out of time.”
As you can tell, time management may not be easy but is certainly crucial to the success of a business at every level – starting with the workers, themselves. The benefits of being organized will be appreciated by everyone involved, including your clients. What time management tips would you add?