It's just me, doing what feels like 500 things a day, all on my own. I’ve figured out how to delegate and drop various tasks, but I still have long lists of stuff to tackle. Are there shortcuts to maximize my time and still enjoy what I love?
It’s a universal challenge: getting it all done while feeling whole and sane. I asked several peers whom I admire to share their most useful time-saving tips that might get you rethinking how to structure your day and how to approach all the tasks on your plate.
1. Follow your body clock. For years, Diane White struggled with writing her public relations pitches first thing in the morning. Then it came to her: She is not a morning person. Her creativity peaks at night. So she restructured her day to maximize creativity, which has eliminated frustration and saved countless hours of wasted attempts.
“I write my pitches in the evening, leave them in drafts, and then first thing in the morning, I review and proof one more time,” says White, owner of Diane White Public Relations and Events in Tulsa, Okla. “Then I hit send.”
The takeaway: Figure out the time or times of day that are best for you to tackle your most important tasks and set up your schedule accordingly.
2. Find an app for that. As the owner of a Texas-based marketing firm, Tori Johnson (yes, our names differ by just one letter) initially had paper to-do lists to manage her life, including business meetings, play dates and school activities. When all those papers became unwieldy, she transferred the information to her desktop calendar. But she could only access it at work, a frustration for any busy parent and business owner.
Her solution: She manages her work and family life by using a smartphone app.
“Microsoft OneNote is my lifesaver,” says Johnson, whose firm is Tori Johnson PR. “I’m able to take notes, write blog posts, draft press releases and make grocery lists all on my phone. I can access all of those items on my laptop or tablet. It’s my answer to being a working mom on the go.”
3. Crunch numbers and your body. Dani Beckerman, creator of JARS by Dani, the layered desserts in jars that grace events thrown by Diane von Furstenberg, Helmut Lang and Tiffany & Co., among others, says there’s a downside to her hip company: making thousands of the decadent treats each week takes time and personal focus. Plus, being surrounded by sugary sweets threatens her waistline.
On days when she can’t get to the gym, instead of sacrificing her workout, Beckerman does abdominal crunches and squats in her commercial kitchen in Manhattan. “Sometimes I will just get up and do 10, usually while simultaneously doing something business-related,” she says. “People who work for me think I’m a little crazy, but at least I am staying in shape.”
I bet you can sneak in exercise on the fly, too, if you give it some thought.
4. Multitask during routine chores. Colleen Mook, founder of Baby Be Hip, an online personalized baby-gift retailer, fields many requests from current and aspiring mom entrepreneurs who want to pick her brain. This mother of four found herself helping them more than working on her own business. “It wasn’t a good use of my time, but I didn’t want to say no.”
Then she thought about the time she spends dropping off and picking up her kids from various sports activities. “I have four evenings a week when I am in my car, so now I offer my time when I am driving alone. It’s the perfect solution.”
We all have empty minutes; determine when yours occur and use them to check something off your to-do list.
5. Journal in short bursts. I love to journal my thoughts, but I found it to be extremely labor-intensive. I didn’t have the time or energy to write page after page of thoughts every night. My solution: I write just one sentence that sums up my day—a high or low, a special moment, or perhaps just something little that made me feel great. Even with this abbreviated journaling, I can look back on my reflections and develop important business and personal insights about the emotions and achievements that drive me—and you can, too.
Start now by treating yourself to a beautiful notebook and trying out the one-thought, one-sentence, one-reflection approach.
6. Hold on to that hobby. Many business owners dump hobbies because they think they have no time for indulgences. But we all need creative diversions.
Elana Brynes loves knitting and needlepoint, but as the busy owner of Kings of Cole, a clothing company favored by A-listers including Jennifer Lopez and the Kardashian clan, she could never find a big chunk of time to do it. Her solution: “I decided to knit a scarf and only do five to 10 lines of stitches a night,” she says. “It is an achievable goal, so I never feel guilty, and then when the scarf is done at the end of the year or however long it takes, it makes me feel like it represents that period while I was making it. The scarf has more meaning to me this way.”
If you’ve given up something you love, see if you can do it in more manageable chunks.