How I do it: Time Management

As a mother of three who runs her own business and travels a lot and still keeps sanity I get the question quite often: “How do you do that?”

To be honest, sometimes I don’t know :)

When I analyze how we live, our family schedule, the way me do exception management (there’s always something unexpected happening in a family of five!) I always conclude the number one “secret formula” is time management.

My task lists

I have two primary task type: work and personal. I know there are some people who prefer to use one tool for everything, but I like to separate these two.

For my personal stuff, I use Wunderlist (but you can use any tool by your preference, really). It’s easy to use on my phone, I can add tasks very quickly, and set something “done” when I’m done with it. I have several lists there, just to name a few:

  • Finance — everything that I/we have to pay on a regular basis (monthly bills, afternoon classes, etc.) or occasionally (school field trips, etc.)
  • Family — everything I have to get done for the family. For example buy a new pair of jeans to my son, fix something, or volunteer for the school.
  • Shopping lists — yes, shopping lists. Technically it’s shared with my husband, too, but guess how often he actually opens it ;)
  • Personal — everything that I have to for myself. Check a book on Amazon, a video on YouTube, write a postcard to my friend’s birthday, etc.
  • Christmas — yes…

For work, I use a more complex tool, TeamWork Projects (TWP). Again, it’s your preference what you like to use.

What I usually don’t like in project management tools is that they’re too complex and robust. Not TeamWork Projects! — It’s easy to use both for myself and with my team members. I have all my tasks here, organized into “projects”.

I also have my content calendar in TWP — which is one of the most critical asset of my business. Now I can overview what I have, what I have to write, what I have to do research for — and when. Very handy!

Moreover, I have also created a CRM board, too, for “follow-up” like tasks:

Not a “real” CRM software, but again, I don’t need a robust thing optimized for large enterprises, and I am more than happy with this solution.

Daily and weekly schedule

My days are quite short, since I am the one who is responsible to take the kids to afternoon classes every day. (I call myself the “afternoon taxi driver”…)

Therefore, I need to focus my energy and attention. This led me to have a “theme” for every day. Some examples from my recent weeks:

  • Blog: The day is dedicated for writing. No meetings, no calls, no interruptions. Just me and my keyboard.
  • Customer day: When I work on something I prefer having 100% focus on, and not being interrupted. When I know I have to do something for a client (create a script, write document, etc.), I book a day or two for only that. The rule is, no blogging, no (other) customer calls that day.
  • Meetings day: I like grouping my meetings to one day as much as possible. For example if I dedicate Tuesday for meetings this week, that means I share my Tue availability with my clients, and they can book my time for that day only. Usually I end up having calls and meetings back to back these days, in most cases until late evening, but this also means I am “free” the other days of the week.
  • Planning & retreat: Now that the end of the year is approaching, I have to plan for 2018. New courses, new client offerings, content calendar, marketing plan, etc. — So much to plan for! Yes, I book full days for this, too.
  • Learning: I am the type of person who doesn’t feel good if there’s nothing new to learn. I have dozens of (professional) books on my Kindle I’d like to read, hundreds of articles I’ve saved for “read later”, and a couple of Udemy courses I’ve bought to study. If I don’t dedicate a few days every month for learning, there’s no way I can get to any of these.

There are many other types of days on my calendar (for example, most of the days are for “develop new course” in Jan and Feb next year. You name it. Dedicate your day for something and stick to it. It makes me so much more productive!

“Me” time

Since most of my weekends are “family days”, I have to admit I also book a few “me days” every month, too. I try to stick to the same day every week, book the whole day for myself. This is when I can have a coffee or lunch with friends, go to Christmas-shopping, or just sit down in a café with a good book for an hour or two.

Before I started to do this, I was constantly exhausted. On weekdays, I was working AND taking care of all the family logistics (being the “afternoon taxi driver”, making sure we have something for dinner, etc.). On weekends, I was doing family chores like cooking, doing laundry, playing with kids, cleaning, etc.

You name it.

There was no time to relax, there was no time for myself.

Since I started to add “me days” to my calendar, I can slow down and focus on myself at least a few times a month (preferably one day every week) and get re-energized. As a result, I am more relaxed, have more patience, and much more energy for everything, including family as well as work.

Win-win for everyone, right?

What I have to learn, though, is to add some “me time” to every day. For example, I read every night before going to bed. That’s a good start. What I’d like to improve is to add 30min to every morning, to do exercises and getting ready to the daily madness. I’m working on it…

Expecting the unexpected

This system works fine, however, I always have to expect the unexpected. A kid can get sick, my car get go wrong, my husband can be late, etc. I have to have a plan that is flexible enough, and I always have to have a “Plan B”.

Or at least, I should.

In most cases it works. My eldest son and daughter can come to the office with me if needed. The nurse comes when my youngest one is sick and cannot go to the daycare. Or my husband stays home.

And yes, sometimes, in worst case, I have to cancel something. Which I really hate, I have to admit. But this is why I run my own company, this is why I do what I do, and the way I do.

This is how it works for me, and my family.

How about you? What are your “survival” tips for juggling all the things? Please let me know, I love learning new stuff… ;)