November 30, 2009 – Time management skills are imperative for any business, both online and off, but the speed of the Internet, real-time search, and other online marketing factors have us working harder to get content, social media profiles, newsletters and press releases on the Web in record speed. But with so much that needs to get done NOW, how can you manage your time effectively? Well, we’ve compiled some helpful tips to get you stay on track!
1. Create a game plan – The best way to manage your time is start by creating a list, graph, calendar, etc (whatever works for you) with all of your projects and goals along with their deadlines. Once you have your big list of projects in front of you, start creating daily and weekly goals. For longer projects that are due perhaps a month or two out, you need to honestly estimate how much time that project will take you in total and create short blocks of time each week to work on it with enough wiggle room (a few hours) before your project due date in case any emergency changes come up or the project takes longer than you had originally planned for.
Then look at each day individually and check your schedule to determine what other ways your time will be spent that will take away from your projects, i.e. – meetings, time in transit (if you are driving), and home responsibilities (picking the kids up from soccer, family together time, and so on). After you take into account these hours you’ll be left with blocks of time during your workday which you can then fill with the projects that need to get done.
Always leave a few blank spaces for unexpected changes, meetings, and project wiggle room. If you try to account for every second of your day and one long meeting pops up, you won’t be able to catch up on your projects and waste even more time hyperventilating that your deadline was 2 hours ago.
For example, if your goal is to publish 3 blogs a day, you need to determine roughly how long it takes for you to complete a blog and carve out enough time for all 3. Perhaps you won’t get to finish them all at once and write one in the morning, one after lunch, one near the end of the day, but getting them done on time is the goal, not publishing them back to back, unless that time frame is the one that works for your schedule.
2. Take it one day at a time – You may be familiar with this term if you are in recovery, but it’s a valuable lesson that anyone can really implement into their daily work lives. After you have looked at all of your projects and created a game plan, you need to prioritize and learn how to delegate.
For example, it’s Monday, your goal is to create 3 blogs, update the status on 3 different social media profiles, and get an online newsletter written and sent out by 5 p.m. in addition to your other work. By mid-morning you are relatively on track, one blog written and 2 social media updates out of the way. But oh no, an unhappy client has called which turned into a 45 minute conversation and an unexpected half-hour meeting with your team. Now your whole schedule for the afternoon is thrown out the window, what do you do?
3. When everything goes wrong, reevaluate – Don’t panic. This is the time where you once again look at the list of items you need to work on today and start prioritizing. That newsletter is about a time-sensitive current event and really can’t wait another day, so that now moves to the top of the list. The two remaining blogs? Those are next as your web visitors expect a certain amount of new information to get posted to your website daily, so perhaps you can write one blog and ask another member of your team to write the second blog. If everyone is busy perhaps you can write the blog later that night at home or write four blogs the following day to make up for the one you missed. A social media update can take place from your phone or home computer in less than 5 minutes. Leave this for last.
It’s important to have a working plan, however you can’t marry it. There will always be emergency phone calls, new projects, delays and so on that throw your schedule off track. By looking at each day individually and not planning your schedule down to the minute , you can take a deep breath and rearrange your priorities. Sometimes a project will take less time then you thought and you’ll get a few extra minutes to work on something else. Sometimes you need to look at your schedule and say, “I need help with this” in order to meet all of your deadlines.
4. Be honest – If you are working on a schedule that is impossible to manage on your own, you need to be honest and ask for help. Whether that means telling your boss you are overloaded or delegating a few tasks to team members or other employees, running yourself ragged doesn’t work out for anyone. Work becomes sloppy, details get lost, employees get sick from stress, and everyone ends up playing catch up and losing in the end. Effective time management occurs when you can look at your time and your projects and figure out the best way for them to co-exist. If you have more projects than time, you won’t ever be able to make that work.
5. Learn when to put the project down – Sometimes we get writer’s block or we’re too preoccupied on something else to focus on the project at hand. This is when you need to be able to look at a clock, evaluate the situation and step away from the project. There comes a point when a project just gets overwhelming (even something as seeminly simple as a blog post), and you’ve already spent an hour more than you thought, but you’re not close to finishing. This is when you stand up, take a walk, get some water, call a friend, go read a tabloid, do some yoga, or move onto a different project for a while. When you hit this kind of wall, trying to aimlessly plow through it quickly turns into banging your head against a wall.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your project, is to step away and come back to it later with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. Even if you are already running late, a ten minute hiatus can do wonders for your frame of mind.
Remember, time management only works when it works for you. Some people work best early in the morning, others do their best work after midnight, and some want to have it all wrapped up by 5 p.m. sharp. Creating an effective time management schedule means being honest with your working habits, abilities, projects, and time to construct a game plan that lets you organize your day and your priorities with a little room to move things around if need be. You’ll be a happier and more effective worker if you do!
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