Time Management for Dummies

Best Practices, Employees, Employer, Maren Hogan

Anyone who knows me well will probably laugh when reading this title. I am the poster child for mismanaging my available time and I don’t even keep my own calendar it stresses me out so badly. That being said, I am learning and slowly but surely, I’ve been picking up tips along the way on how to effectively manage my time and the time of others.

In other words, the dummy in the title is moi.

1) Set parameters for tasks.

For me, this meant telling my marketing coordinator that new client calls should be 30 minutes maximum, current client meetings, no longer than an hour and “tire kicking” calls eliminated altogether. For my employees, it means saying no to additional hours until they can handle their current goals/workload, setting a time limit for every task and tracking time when it’s obvious that someone (sometimes me!!) is drowning in detail or suffering from “analysis paralysis”. It is my firm belief (this probably goes back to my newsroom days) that a task will spread to fill the time you give it.

2) Prioritize your daily tasks.

We all have stuff. I spend a few hours each week on the road, as does my husband and business partner. We have two very talented designers that job share. Red Branch has work from home Thursdays. All of these make it so that one day at Red Branch proper is never like the next. But we still have the same tasks to complete. So I am working hard to try and TELL people precisely what I need from them next. While there are still tasks they need to do, we try to suss out what is the easiest best thing for them to ship in the time they have allotted. For example, one designer has a 2-hour slot in his day, so he works on social images. I use my long drives for client calls (because I can’t do much else) and another graphics artist works on PowerPoints during her late night hours because she already has all the info she needs.

3) Identify what is NOT work.

Freaking out over a client is not work. Discussing your colleague’s choices in life is not work. Checking Facebook is NOT work and reading interesting articles on LinkedIn is not work. In short, the emotional energy we spend at work is often misdirected and can wipe us out. This is why people always do better right when their laptop battery is about to go or when their smartphone has notifications turned off. Multi-tasking leads to scattered thoughts and missed deadlines. At Red Branch Media we try to build in things that fulfill those social needs while separating them very effectively from other work. We have Red Branch Walkabouts and our weekly Eatin’ Meetin’. (Some things we might try in the future include: desk switching,

4) Build processes, not complacency.

I made a commitment to myself to write daily here for a month. There is no time during my regular workday for this task, so I get up earlier to do it. It’s an experiment that was initially difficult and soon will turn into more of a habit. No, not all of these posts will be Faulkner brilliant, but the time spent thinking and learning to be a consistent writer again is worth the extra time. This can be extrapolated out to other tasks. For example, we had one client who sent about 40 emails per day, which was creating chaos and stress for the team working on the account. So we archived the emails in a folder (ensuring they bypassed the inbox) and set aside two hours per day to go through them. This allowed focused time on the account and ensured that it didn’t affect the entire day with urgent (but not always important) tasks.

5) Stop ignoring your physicality.

For me, there are a lot of categories that affect my ability to manage my time properly. My emotional life MUST be in check. If I’m stressed out or filled with anxiety because of something non-work related, it affect my work. So I am practicing letting things go and realizing at work, I CAN control the outcome of my day. I also try to eat as well as I can. No carbs during my day means I don’t crash mid-afternoon. A smoothie with superfood and vitamins means I’m more alert and can work through breakfast if needed. The time spent working out in the morning wakes up my mind, allows me to answer emails –I stationary bike– AND helps my back and hips chill out during a day of LOTS of sitting.

There a lots more time management tips I could put in there. What are your favorites? Do you have time management tools you use? Are you a fan of GTS or the 1-3-5 lists? Hit me up in the comments.

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