Time is our most elusive resource.
Unlike money or even health, once it’s gone, there’s no reclaiming it. These days, I find that time is more elusive than usual. I have long workdays and have to squeeze in personal time between assignments. With the economy in recession, I find it much harder to turn down work when I know there is no promise of what the next week will bring.
To get all this work completed in time and without sacrificing quality, I have to find ways to make the most of the 24 hours I have in a day. If you work from home, you might also struggle with this more than others. Whether the urge to take a nap, the kids screaming in the living room or the desire to do nothing is your kryptonite, these tips can help.
1. Make a To-Do List
I’ve been using to-do lists to organize my life since high school. There was a time when even date night and social appointments needed to be added to my to-do list or risk being forgotten. Knowing exactly what you need to get done every day or week makes it so much easier to keep up.
I keep my to-do list for work on an excel spreadsheet. This allows me to track exactly what assignments I need to work on for the day. I also track the total word count, the pay for the assignment and what the hourly rate works out to. When I complete an item on the list, I change the color of the cell and move on to the next.
If you don’t need to track as much information as I do, then consider using a whiteboard or even a piece of paper. Some people have also had great success with using apps, but I find apps to feel a little less involved and, therefore, not as satisfying.
2. Track Work Information
As I alluded to in the point above, I track a lot of information. Here is some additional things my spreadsheet can tell me:
- Average hourly pay for the quarter
- Average amount of time spent on each project
- What projects pay well or poorly
- How far I am from my bi-weekly goal
I don’t record this information manually. My spreadsheet has formulas that do that for me. These formulas rely on data I enter anyway to keep track of invoices. If spreadsheets are not your thing, productivity apps can help with this too. Using this data helps me make decisions about what projects to take on and how much time to budget for them.
3. Start Early
When I was in college, procrastination and my name could never be used in the same sentence. I did my end-of-semester projects within the first month or so and spent the rest of the semester coasting my way to A grades. Meanwhile, other students scrambled to get their work done. These days, I find that fighting procrastination requires a bit more effort.
If you know you’re prone to procrastination, then you’ve already identified the main thief of time from your day. The problem is that when we procrastinate, we rarely do anything productive. We’re stalling.
No matter how much you stall though, if you start early enough, you can get things done. The trick is starting with a task you dread less than others. Once you get your foot through the door, the rest follows more easily.
4. Take Breaks
Working long hours can do wonders for your own business and someone else’s, but it won’t do wonders for you. Always schedule breaks. One of the reasons my full workday is so long is that I schedule long breaks in-between my assignments.
Right now, most of my clients are law firms. On occasion, I might get something in human resources or medicine, but primarily, I write for lawyers. This is extremely technical and it fries my brain cells. It’s one thing to sound like an attorney when you’re an attorney and another thing to sound like one when you’re a business school graduate.
Subsequently, my meal breaks are about an hour and a half long on average. During these breaks, I don’t just eat. I talk to friends, listen to music, read and fall down internet rabbit holes. These brain breaks keep me sane. For the past three weeks, I’ve also been taking two days off for the first time since … well … maybe before I left Jamaica.
Are you struggling to keep track of your days as it flies by you? Or, has COVID-19 made it feel as if your days last longer than they should? Share your time management woes with me in the comments below!