Time management techniques {For your side hustle}

{This post contains affiliate links for products I personally use and endorse – find out more about affiliate marketing here}


Just looking at my weekly planner its easy to see how so many of us feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. You often hear people say that everyone has the same number of hours in the day but the fact is that everyone also has very different priorities and commitments. As a mum of 3 {one of which is a toddler with erratic sleeping habits}, primary caretaker of said children at least 5 days a week due to my husbands working hours, homemaker and small business owner who also works part-time and has dreams of more entrepreneurial endeavours/growth plus is also trying to keep my own sh*t together, get enough sleep, eat well, be a good friend, daughter, sister, volunteer etc. I can tell you right now that I GET IT.

Time is constant. It does not speed up or slow down. You can only choose to embrace each moment.

@alifetwintastic

Finding time for LIFE is hard enough without adding additional plates to spin, especially when they seem like “additions” rather than “necessities”. And this is how a lot of side hustles can feel, especially in the beginning. Is my blog my main source of income? No. Do I want to give it up to focus on more “priority” tasks. Also no. It brings me joy, {I hope} helps others {or at least brings some light relief!} plus has given me the foundation to take the leap into new ventures I could have only have dreamt of {hello Life Planner – launch at the end of June 2021!} It’s something that genuinely makes me happy and therefore it’s somehow easier to “make” time for it. To push it up my priority list or to slip into procrastination mode drafting posts when I have work deadlines looming. Is that enough to quit my 9-5 and focus on my blog? Not right now no. But who knows what it may look like in 6 months, a year, 2 years.

If you are passionate about a side hustle {or pursuit of choice} there are ways to find pockets of time to dedicate to it. You may find that right now you can’t commit as much time as you’d like to but life and priorities change – what may seem impossible now may be able to become a reality when {for example} your little ones start school or other commitments lessen. A bit like having children, there is no perfect time to start a new endeavour. But if you want it enough you will make sure it fits into your schedule.

As a self professed queen of procrastination I don’t like to work too hard, but then I also hate being late. It gives me anxiety. I love to be organised yet I still find consistency challenging. I’m really a very simple creature at heart and don’t like to overcomplicate things – so creating methods, habits and systems helps keep me on track and create time to work on those things which bring me the most fulfilment.

{Warning – this is a beefy post but stick with it for FREE resources, a sneak peek and an exclusive offer!}


Time management techniques

As somewhat of a seasoned juggler of life I wanted to share with you some of the tips and techniques I use to help keep my plates spinning. These are not fool proof and of course curve balls are thrown our way at which point we have to stop and decide which plates to {carefully} put down and which to spin faster but the basic aim is to not drop all the plates at once. Ready? Lets go!

1. Top 3 priorities

This is the first job I do every morning. Whether it’s in preparation for a day at home or a day of work setting my top 3 priorities helps keep me focused and prioritise tasks. It helps me to create a basic plans for the day and can be responsive to how I’m feeling and what’s happening around me. For example, if I’m not feeling particularly well or am lacking in sleep my top 3 list may be something like 1. Arrange for boys to be picked up from school 2. Prep dinner 3. Put a load of washing on. Or if I’m feeling super productive and have time blocked out for work my list may be 1. Client A deadline 2. Prep launch timeline for product X 3. Respond to top 5 emails. Or of course my top 3 often encompasses priorities for both home and work. I may have a longer list of jobs to do but singling out those top 3 helps keep me on track, plus I also find it helps me to delete unnecessary tasks from my physical to-do list and make it more of a focused priority list.

2. Eat the frog

Following on from setting your top 3 list – You’ve probably heard the term “eat the frog” hundreds of times but a great way to get started on a task you’ve either been putting off because maybe you don’t feel confident in what you’re doing or simply don’t know where to start is to just do it – eat that frog and take a leap of faith! If one of your top 3 jobs is to brainstorm ideas for your side hustle or to prep some market research and you find it’s something which keeps slipping from day to day – make it your number 1 priority and make a start {more on this under point 9}.

3. Break down tasks/projects

Another reason you may not get started on something is because it’s so bloomin’ daunting! Going back to my post on being a perfectionist, it can be really easy to put off doing something unless you feel you can do it fully and do it well. By breaking down tasks or projects into smaller chunks {or workflows} it can help make them less overwhelming and break that all or nothing mentality and using techniques such as creating effort based goals can help focus on smaller goals. I also like to use planning software such as Trello which creates a really good visual way of breaking down tasks into tick list items. You can also use Trello to create repetitive task lists and delegate to team members {if you have them!}

4. Set boundaries

My post last week focused on the importance of setting healthy boundaries to help prevent overwhelm and inspire wellbeing. I cannot stress enough the importance of setting boundaries both in your personal and business life. Your time is precious.

5. Utilise your personal peak productivity time

There is absolutely no point in you getting up at 5am every morning if you feel like death and end up spending an hour hitting snooze or staring vaguely out of a window. Not a morning person? That’s ok! Think about what time of day {or even what day of the week} you feel most naturally most productive and {depending on what commitments you may have at that time} utilise those endorphins!

6. Batch work and time block

Batch working and time blocking are both really popular time management techniques. Batch working basically means scheduling like for like tasks together – so for example if you are writing content for social media posts, write content for posts for the next week or fortnight all at once. This will help get you into the flow of the task and therefore make you more efficient. Time blocking is a technique whereby you {literally} block out sections of time to focus on tasks. This is a technique I use a lot, especially when working from home, as it helps me flip from work to mum mode rather than trying to blend the two. So for example I will block out 7-9am and 4-8pm as family time for me to concentrate on the kids, meals, bedtime etc. I will then block out 9-12pm to my top 3 priorities and 1-4pm to any follow up tasks or if I’m in a particular flow with something. This may sound very simple but by blocking sections of the day I am almost “allowing” myself to be just mum or to work on my business and it helps my brain to segment the two and create those healthy boundaries. {Also see FREE resources under point 9}.

7. Schedule in buffer time

As an addition to point 6 – a common mistake I still make is to underestimate how long tasks will take {see more on this under point 8} or I cram so much in that I get overwhelmed and as a result productivity levels drop and stress levels rise. Try to leave some “buffer” time in your schedule to factor in flexibility, extra time to work on your task or just time to take a break!

8. Track your time

Not sure how long to set aside for a task? If it’s something you do fairly regularly then consider timing how long it takes to complete. This will help either show that actually you have grossly underestimated the time allowed or that something you’ve been putting off actually only takes 10 minutes. For example, I used to hate making the bed after washing the bedcovers. Then I timed how long it took me. On average it took around 8-9 minutes. Now I think of that and just get on with it!

9. Smart scheduling

Ok so you’ve worked out your time blocks, you know roughly how long a piece of work is going to take you and you’ve scheduled some buffer time. So now you need to be easily able to both see and use your schedule. Depending on your personal preference you could use your diary, a notebook, an online calendar or a planner you keep at the front of your work file or on your noticeboard. The key is to make it easily assessible as both a reminder and to keep you on task and accountable. I like to use a combination of my Life Planner {updated version due out at the end of this month!} and Google/Microsoft Calendar to schedule appointments and tasks but I like to then transcribe these to a paper planner which I keep next to my computer as a constant visual aid of how I’ve planned out my day or week. To get you started I have created FREE daily and weekly planner resources which use the time blocking technique for you to download, print and have a play around with – alternatively you can download and use these on your digital device of choice with an app like Notability or Noteshelf.

10. Manage expectations

In my guest post for Isabella and Us I talked about resetting expectations both in and coming out of the 2020/21 Covid lockdowns. Part of managing expectations is to know {and stick to} your own limits and boundaries. So if, for example you’ve said you are not contactable for work between the hours of 6pm and 8am then you are not contactable. You will, of course, get back to people as soon as you are able to but those are the boundaries you have created, made clear and expect others to adhere to. Another aspect of expectations is how you manage those of others. In addition to being clear about your “office hours” you also want to be clear about how long a task or project is going to take, how much time you have to dedicate to it and what their expectations are for it’s completion. I always ask clients for deadlines {if one is not already obvious} so I know straight away what their expectation is. If this is not going to work with my schedule I will discuss it with them there and then rather than wait until I struggle to meet or even miss a deadline. It may be that they initially want something by the end of tomorrow but in reality it can wait until next week, plus it helps me to plan my workload and prioritise tasks. Another technique I use is to under promise, over deliver. So, for example, if I am writing a report for Client A I will firstly agree a reasonable deadline they I will strive to finish that report a day or two prior. Not only does this method keep your clients happy but it builds in that bit of buffer time in case something comes up.

Over promise, under deliver

@alifetwintastic

11. Create the habit of being a {insert pursuit of choice here}

In addition to “eating the frog” James Clear talks about creating the habit of doing something in his book Atomic Habits. So let’s say you want to become a writer. To do this you need to create the habit of becoming a writer. What does a writer do? They write! So instead of saying I’m going to sit and write a book, or even a chapter, start creating the habit of writing by sitting at your desk, opening your notebook or laptop and writing no holds barred for 5 minutes. Doing this consistently every day {or how ever many days you want to commit to} will not only mean you’ve started writing, but you’ve started identifying as a writer and creating this habit will either naturally gain momentum or you find you can start adding small blocks of time or even decide that actually, this isn’t for you after all, no harm done.

12. Create systems which allow creativity on the go

I recently wrote a post called How to Create Systems that Work. One of my tips in this post was to create systems which can be easily accessed and used on the go. This may be in a notebook or diary you keep in your bag or apps like NotabilityEvernoteOneNote or even the voice notes app on your smart phone make it easier than ever to jot things down or work through your systems on the go across multiple devices. The trick is to keep it simple and choose one or two methods or apps to use so it’s easier to keep track.

13. Work smarter

Work smarter not harder right? Great advice, but how exactly are you supposed to do that? Again my post How to Create Systems that Work talks through different ways to create systems to help make your life {and business} easier. One of these is to automate repetitive tasks. It may take a bit of time to initially set this up but once you have it will make your life sooooo much easier! From scheduling social media posts to sending out welcome packs to new clients and managing your finances there are so many great automation apps and platforms available.

14. Digital and physical declutter

If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I LOVE a good old declutter! And with good reason. Having a clear space promotes having a clear mind. If my space is tidy and organised I’m more likely to feel more motivated and settle into focused work more readily than if I’m feeling slightly deflated by the sheer amount of stuff or having to wade through piles of paperwork to find my notes. The same goes for digital clutter. Simply clearing your download folder or desktop can do wonders.

15. Create simple filing methods

Moving on from decluttering, having a simple and effective filing system is paramount to saving both time and energy. Paper files may be a bit sparse these days but if you do still have them make sure they only contain information you need or have to keep {noting document retention laws}. In my experience, keeping files as simple as possible is the absolute best way to keep them organised. For electronic files there are a magnitude of online filing platforms to choose. From DropBox and GoogleDrive to the Microsoft suite {SharePoint and OneDrive} and iCloud. I personally use the Microsoft suite for professional documents and GoogleDrive for personal and blog related documents. Two words of advice when it comes to filing electronic documents. 1 – always save your work online. If you are still saving everything to your hard drive and your computer goes caput then bye bye hours of hard work. And 2 – try to choose just one or two online filing platforms and keep them simple. There is nothing worse that knowing you have created something then not being able to find it or remember which login you’ve saved it under. Huge time wasting potential right there!

16. Create and communicate with your support network

Having a strong support network in place is the equivalent of creating firm foundations before building a house. Support could come from your family or spouse or from an online network of likeminded entrepreneurs, mums, gymnasts etc. It could be having coffee with a friend who you can share your ideas and challenges with. It can be your mother in law taking the kids for an hour after school so you can dedicate time to your side hustle. It could be someone simply saying “you’ve got this” from afar. We all need support and someone to be our cheerleader. It’s also important to feel you are able to ask for help and support. Don’t know how to get something to work on Canva? Chances are there’s a Facebook group for that! Hate doing your annual tax return? Maybe it’s time to outsource your business finances. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s strengthening your foundations. A side note on communicating with your support network – a great piece of advice I was given was to be clear about whether you are working but interruptible or working and on “do not disturb” {setting your boundaries}. This has really helped me and my family especially when working from home.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s strengthening your foundations

@alifetwintastic

17. Practice discipline

Ok so this may be easier said than done but there is definitely the need for discipline with time management. I am pretty darn disciplined when it comes to showing up on time for events or appointments. Yet I am also a huge procrastinator when it comes to sitting down to do the task at hand. This is where maybe I need to re-evaluate the sliding scale of work vs. home life or how much some aspects of work are no longer a priority for me or bringing me enough fulfilment to continue. Food for thought. Discipline can be a painful barrier to breakthrough. This where forming habits can help you maintain productivity and success without relying on motivation – read more about creating habits in my Habits over Motivation post.

18. Clear vision/goal

{Don’t worry we’re nearly there!} My next tip is to have a clear vision and/or goal in mind. And a bit like scheduling your time this might be something you keep really accessible as a reminder of why you do what you do {bee-do}. Feeling a bit afloat or not sure what task to start with one day? Head back and reconnect with your vision or goals and remember what’s important {then jot down your top 3 and eat the frog!} I have a private Vibes board on Pinterest which I check in with every so often and then transfer my favourite images and quotes to the Vision Board section of my Life Planner.

{Sneak peek of the Vision Board I created in my new Life Planner}

19. Stop multi-tasking

There was a time when having the ability to multi-task was seen as a huge positive. However, it now seems people are veering more towards single-tasking as a way of “less haste more speed”. A bit like batch working, single-tasking allows you to fully concentrate on one task at a time rather than flip between jobs. This may not always be possible {hello #mumlife} but I can definitely see the benefits and this is something I now try to practice. It has also helped in terms of my time blocking mindset and being in “mum” mode or “business” mode.

20. Block out distractions

Last but not least. The good old turn your phone onto silent/do not disturb or pop it in a drawer in another room technique. An oldie {well as far as smartphones go…..} but a goodie. Still working from home now restrictions are lifting? Maybe consider setting up in your local library or coffee shop for a morning of uninterrupted work time. Turn off notifications for your phone apart from phone calls {if you have kids at school/nursery etc.} or need to be contactable. Move shiny objects out of sight {if you know you know right?!} I’ve also just started using the Pomodoro Technique which is a time management system where you break your day into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks.

And remember – Done is better than perfect!


Want more time management tips? This Splendid Shambles’ Confident Content Creation course includes a whole module full of tips and tricks for successful time management plus ways to stay consistent, organised and motivated when it comes to creating content for your blog, business or social media.

Find out more about the incredible Confident Content Creation course HERE and use the code TWINTASTIC20 at the checkout for an exclusive 20% off for ALT followers!

What techniques do you find help you manage your time? Are there any tips in this post you’ll be trying? Let me know in the comments or over on Instagram!

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