I have always struggled with time management and time tracking. Being 100% honest, I have “shiny object syndrome” and tend to concentrate on whatever is shiny at the moment. I do view this as a gift [and love it!] as it allows me to hyper focus on tasks for days, sometimes weeks on end. However, sometimes it backfires and I fail to get other [important] tasks accomplished.
So I started thinking about reaching out to my friends and business associates to ask how they manage their time and get things done. Initially I planned on a few phone calls or lunch convos, but then things started getting shiny. An article from some of the smartest, most successful people I know seemed in order.
This article is authored by 10 very different individuals. From business moguls to writers to database admins, we have a super diversified view on how humans manage their time. So here it is ladies and gentlemen, tips and techniques to help us all with time management. To all the people who contributed, A BIG thank you to you all for your help!
Founder, Soulful PR
Like many entrepreneurs, I'm full of ideas and get easily distracted. One thing that's really helped me to stay focused is time blocking. I know I am at my most productive in the morning, so - unless I can possibly help it -I keep my diary free until midday. That's when I do tasks that require intense concentration e.g. writing blog posts, email marketing etc. In the afternoon when my energy levels are a little lower, I do consults with clients, podcast interviews and tackle tasks like admin, replying to answering emails. This seemingly small change in my routine has had a big impact on my productivity levels.
About Janet - Over the past five years Janet has built a successful blog, podcast, email list and social media following. She has also been featured in dozens of national newspapers and magazines, and on radio and TV – and written a book to help others do the same.
A personal note: While I have never personally met Janet [She's across the pond, did I say that right?], I have listened to countless podcasts and read many blogs by her. She is a super talented communicator and her contribution to this article is greatly appreciated.
As a co-founder of ConnectPay, I lead the mergers and acquisitions team. ConnectPay provides payroll and payroll tax services to small businesses nationwide. My team’s goal is to identify, engage and complete transactions with payroll services companies and accounting professionals that are interested in exiting their payroll business. Retirement or divestiture may be the chief motivating factor. The market is currently driven by changing technology and increased compliance. Timing is critical in establishing a relationship and gaining a competitive edge, so there’s no time to waste.
Time management becomes critical in helping to balance the many tasks that are part of the overall strategy. Identifying, researching, marketing, prospecting, networking and meeting are a few of the components that become part of almost every single day. Establishment of our goals, annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily become the primary driving factor to help me prepare an overall schedule. Our CRM, PipelineDeals, is a powerful cloud database that helps us with all the tasks mentioned above. The task, activity and calendar functions help me to maintain a trail of history and a path to follow. This application integrates with Outlook and becomes accessible as well on any platform; desktop, windows, apple, tablet or smart phone. I’m able to gain a handle on my days, weeks, months and the year once combined with personal calendars. Practice in using the tools leads to habits and that provides predictable outcomes. Taking control allows me the security of knowing that my success is planned and not merely chance.
About Paul - Paul graduated from Syracuse University with the realization that he was meant to be a leader. His goal? To learn every aspect of operating a business. He learned to hate payroll. That frustration dissipated when he was persuaded by the founder of Paychex to outsource payroll. In 1979, he joined the founding team at Paychex to develop the Boston market and participated in its successful 1983 public offering. In 1986 he collaborated once again with the founder of Paychex to build Safesite Records Management Services from the ground up before its sale to Iron Mountain in 1997. He soon returned to his payroll roots with a startup venture that became Advantage Payroll Services, which Paychex purchased ten years later. Looking to build a company of value with technology and service at its heart, he co-founded ConnectPay.
personal note: Paul called me out of the blue one day, we was like “Hey we do payroll and you do time clocks, let's get together”. I absolutely love that attitude, now we are off to a great business relationship!
Content Writer, LiveChat Inc
LiveChat has a unique organization: most of us don't have a direct boss who would check out work out and tell us what to do next. To find out what we need to do next, we talk to each other to find out what needs to be done next. For example, if a development team is working on a new feature, marketing's job will be to send an email notification about it, write a knowledge base article and make sure this feature is visible on our website.
While this kind of working was natural three years ago, when our company was 30-people big, it's quite difficult now, when there are over 80 people on board. That's why we need to make sure that our communication is as transparent as possible.
The first important thing is the organization. My team works in weekly sprints: every Monday, we sum up what we did last week and plan our work for the upcoming one. We use different channels on Slack to report our progress so every person that's interested, can see what was done in marketing lately.
Another good tip to organize your work is to plan the next day before leaving. I find it very effective because when I know what I have to do today, I just do it instead of giving it a second thought. I guess there's still room for improvement though because I am always far more busy on Friday than on Monday ;)
An organization is one thing, but I also mentioned communication. We use Slack as an internal communicator, Trello as a project management tool, Dropbox Paper (and Google Docs) to share ideas and plans, and Octopus (https://developers.livechatinc.com/blog/octopus/).
When you're the master of your work time, it might be difficult to focus on work. Luckily, some methods help us to deal with that:
- a good way is to check your email / Slack every 50 minutes,
- another good trick is to extend the tab you're working on to the full screen, so you don't see open tabs, messenger notifications, etc.
- cut yourself from entertainment (e.g., Block Site),
- you can try one of the productivity methods, e.g., Pomodoro (https://www.livechatinc.com/blog/how-to-be-more-productive-at-work/)
- turn off all notifications and hide your phone!
About Justyna - Justyna is a LiveChat Content Writer and the author of the book "The Survival Guide to Starting a Business in the Online Jungle." She believes that good writing should be like a good teaching: based on data, beautified with good storytelling, and seasoned with a sense of humor.
personal note: I met [virtually, she is in Europe] Justyna because OnTheClock uses and loves LiveChat for our support chat needs. Reading her awesome writing inspired me to try to write better, thanks Justyna!
Founder, MaximizeYourMoney.com (formerly founded OrcsWeb.com)
The largest impact to me staying on task (or not) is my calendar schedule. I put everything on the calendar. Seriously. Even our personal recycling pickup scheduled for every other week is on there!
If something is on my calendar, it gets done. By blocking off as little as even 30 minutes to handle a specific task, that assures it will get done. It also helps me take a quick glance to tell if I’m overloading part of the week and need to shift things around to better balance activities.
For me that’s a life saver.
In the past I created lists, but I found the lists just increased in number and length. Until I put actual dates and times to tasks, they far too easily slipped off my radar.
About Brad - Brad helps entrepreneurs create and execute a plan to achieve their personal financial life goals. He can be reached at Brad@MaximizeYourMoney.com or visit his website at https://MaximizeYourMoney.com/.
personal note: I worked with Brad when he founded/ran OrcsWeb, a world-class website & database hosting platform. I only communicated occasionally with him in the beginning, but it made a lasting impression
Founder, AI Software
As a father of two young kids, husband and an owner of the business wearing multiple hats, it’s certainly not easy to manage time. It’s only in a family life one realizes the importance of time over money. One of my mentors brought up this question that “are you managing by scarcity or by abundance?”. And that kind of opened up a whole new stream of thoughts about how to manage.
Many times we spend too much time in making decisions that ultimately revolves around saving money no matter how well we sugarcoat it by saying it’s about finding the “right” solution. Our habits are developed on this and every decision gets delayed due to this. And that takes up time of ourselves as well as everyone around us who is waiting on it. Here are some tools to make decisions and save time:
- Can you outsource? Can you outsource your tasks to someone who can do it cheaper than you doing yourselves? If you invest the same time in doing something else and generate more revenue then you should outsource it.
- Do it Now: When you have a pending task, ask yourself if you can do it now? If it’s easy to spend 5 minutes now than planning to do it “later” – it will overall save a whole lot of time in future. Any decision delayed seems to multiply itself in terms of time investment in future.
- Make a list: Spend some time in the morning to make a list of things you need to do. Also spend time weekly and monthly to plan out the work or tasks for week and month. I use Trello for the daily task list. Use a running Word document for a weekly and monthly list. Sunday evenings work out the best for me to plan next week. 3rd weekend Sunday works out best for planning next month.
- Put it in Calendar: If you want to do something in future, put it on the calendar. We are normally scared of putting into the calendar as a thought comes into back of our mind – what if I can’t do it then? Ask yourself – what would happen? Absolutely nothing different. You will raise the chances of getting something done by putting it in the calendar than not putting in your calendar and wishing you did it. I use Google Calendar for a family calendar that is shared with my wife as well as Office 365 calendar for all work appointments. Syncing that with mobile phone helps a lot.
- Review where you spend time – Many times I use Screenshot Monitor to track what I am doing whole day. Review it weekly or monthly to see what drains your time and whether it can be automated or outsourced.
With all these, I don’t say I am very good at managing time. There are many things that don’t get done and fall through the cracks. But that’s the point – see your inefficiencies, learn from it and improve it. You are the owner of your time and you only can manage it.
About Piyush - Piyush is Founder and Owner at AI Software LLC – a custom software development company based in Troy, Michigan. He helps businesses modernize their Applications, develop SaaS products and make them profitable by leverage outsourcing.
personal note: I have only know Piyush a short time, but we hit it off immediately. We share many of the same traits and aspirations. He is a truly gifted person when it comes to software and people.
Editor of Simple Talk, Redgate Software, Microsoft Data Platform MVP
I usually don’t believe I am very good at time management, even though I have accomplished many great things in my career. For the past three years, I have worked part time while also writing and tech editing books, traveling around the US to present at tech events, teaching at a non-profit, leading a virtual user group, and developing recorded courseware. Somehow, I also find time to spend with my family and travel for fun. Just recently, I decided to go back to work full time, so I have cut down a bit on my extra projects.
The techniques I use to stay on track are simple. I just make sure that my calendar stays up to date and use a whiteboard to keep track of big project progress and upcoming speaking events. Seeing these deadlines each day ensures that I keep the big picture in mind. I also like to set big and small goals for myself. A big goal might be to write a book. A small goal might be to spend the weekend getting the first draft of a chapter completed. Putting goals in my schedule helps me get started and avoid procrastination.
Another very important technique I have learned over the years is the ability to say “no”. For example, right now I am saying no to any book or courseware projects since I have recently begun working fulltime. It’s likely that I’ll take up one or both again in six months, but, for now, just learning my new job is enough. I need to make sure I save time to have fun, because, otherwise, why am I working so hard?
About Kathi - Kathi Kellenberger is the Editor for Simple Talk, the online technical journal, and has over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry, focusing on data. She is the author of several books on SQL Server and a volunteer with LaunchCode.
personal note: Kathi is one of the smartest people I know. Speaking from experience with her, her attention to detail is awe inspiring. Her and I are on opposite ends of the personality spectrum, but she has always had patience with me. Thank you Kathi!
We all know that running an organization, especially a smaller one where key individuals wear too many hats, can at times feel like a rat race that the rats are winning. Tracking the things that matter, from small tasks to larger projects can seems overwhelming and if not managed well, can lead to missed deadlines and opportunities. Most importantly I have found that not being to clear my head of the long list of items stifles the ability to be creative. I have tried several methods, both traditional and digital. None really worked well for me as they would eventually breakdown, not matching the way I work.
Some years ago, I came across the method I use today called Getting Things Done (GTD) by Dave Allen. It works for me because it acts as a place to collect all inputs and to regularly review them. It starts with going through your Inbox (email, notebooks, stacks of paper, sticky notes, etc. and asking some simple questions: What is it? Is it actionable? If no, it’s either junk, a someday/maybe or a reference items. If it is actionable, is it a multi-step project or a simple one step action. Record the actions in a context location such as @work, @home, @errands, @agenda (your next meeting with someone.) @phone, etc. When you are in that context, check that list for activities.
I use OneNote online and on my phone to hold my lists. I easily add items to my “inbox” with the OneNote badge on my phone. GTD is easy to use and straight forward to understand. Model it first on paper then support with a system. See gettingthingsdone.com
About Richard - Over 35 years in the business of simplifying payroll, taxes and benefits for small business by building leading edge technical solution with teams large and small. Married almost as long and a father of 2, I enjoy making the complicated simple, sailing, wood working and photography.
personal note: Richard has struck me as a steadfast and enduring individual. I am honored that he participated in this article.
VP, Producers Choice Network
Regarding time management, simplicity is key for me. When it comes to managing time, I tend to do what comes easy and fun, first. Time management is finding an effective way to complete the tasks that don’t come as naturally, or aren’t as enjoyable. To accomplish this, I find simple methods work best. I try to schedule meetings in the morning, as I tend to be more alert and mentally present in the am. I try to complete “mindless” tasks later in the day, as my mind tends to be tired and distractions loom.
I update my tasks in Outlook every morning, but not throughout my day. I have found managing tasks electronically to be difficult. Upon arriving to my office, I open my tasks, update my list, prioritize the items, then print my calendar and daily tasks on a single page. As I complete a task throughout the day, I cross it off the list. There is a feeling of accomplishment when I am able to strike the pen across the page, as if the list becomes something to be conquered. When tasks need to be added throughout the day, I write it on the paper. I use the previous days printed page and information to update my tasks each morning.
About Dwight - Dwight eberts is the VP of Producers Choice Network, a massively successful annuity/life insurance marketing firm based in Detroit MI.
A personal note: I met Dwight as a customer and now he is a true friend. His ability to bring people together and get things done has alwayjudgmentme. I am blessed to have meet Dwight!
Account Executive, VIP Clients at Sherweb
Things don’t always go according to plan. It’s a lesson I learned early in my career and it’s something that has helped me manage my time more effectively. I try to be organized and flexible every day because you never know when an emergency will pop up.
I start my day revising emails in Outlook and prioritizing my tasks. This helps me stay productive. Working with tools like Dynamics 365 CRM also helps me save a lot of time because it reminds me of important issues I have to accomplish every day.
Exercising good judgment is vital. It’s a key aspect of time management and it’s a quality that all employers look for.
You have to be able to decide which task to tackle first in your daily routine by asking yourself the right questions:
- How long will it take me to solve a problem?
- Should I call the person involved or just send an email?
- Have I really explored all the options to solve this issue?
About Eric - Eric Brazeau has 28 years’ experience working as an Account Executive and Business Development Manager in various industries, such as Hotel Marketing, Food and Beverages, Advertising and IT. He has worked with well-known companies, such as Labatt Breweries, Pepsi and Bell Media.
personal note: Eric is our main contact at SherWeb, the hosting company OnTheClock chooses to use for our mission critical time tracking solution. His dedication to customer success is off the charts.
Reliable I.T. Solutions, Inc.
For me the quest to keep control of the amount of time I spend working has always been a priority. When I first started my company one of the main motivations was a desire to control my own hours. There were and still are days/weeks when I work many hours. But the ability to schedule when and how much work I am willing to do allows me to spend a large amount of time with my wife and children. There are three tools that I find indispensable to running my business and controlling my time management. The first is “QuickBooks Online” the ability to add expenses, track billable hours, pay employees, print reports and send invoices from anywhere on any device is amazing. Quickbooks Online really reduces the bookkeeping part my business. The Second tool is Office365, which similarly allows me to have instant access to all my business documents and email from almost any device and to collaborate with my employees in real-time on those documents. Lastly, is really five connected tools from Apple and Google. The Apple iPhone, Watch, iPad and AirPods, and google voice accounts. The impressive amount interconnectivity between the Apple devices allows me to access Calendars, Emails, Messaging, social media and other Apps seamlessly and discretely when necessary. I can simply look down at my watch to see and respond to messages. The AirPods allow me to continue using my hands while talking to customers and employees. The IPad allows me to see and zoom in or out of photos and other media. The iPad also allows me a convenient way of researching problems, ordering supplies and keeping up on new technologies and processes. I find the speech to text capabilities of Apple devices indispensable, and I use Siri to help me with reminders and notes. I use the google maps App and the WhatThreeWords app to get and give precise locations for myself, my employees and my clients. Adding a google voice account allows me to give out the company main number but port that number to any cell. To listen to messages as they are being recorded and to decide whether I want or need to respond immediately or delay as needed.
About Gerald - Gerald is the founder of Reliable I.T. Solutions, an successful IT consulting company based in Michigan.
personal note: I have worked with Jerry for almost 10 years now. His dedication to his clients and employees is second to none. I consider Jerry a close friend and a admirable business leader.