The Easiest Time Management System You’ll Ever TryJun 07, 2021
This post is dedicated to my good friend Caitlin, who always makes me feel like the most organized person in the entire world.
We can all admit it — finding a good work/life balance as a creative entrepreneur requires intention. Your business isn’t going to run itself, but on the other hand, you can’t expect to operate your business successfully or in good mental health without finding a good balance that allows you to feel in control of your life and to actually make a dent in your to-do list.
When my life feels insanely busy, I have developed a system to clear my head and make sure I’m really getting stuff done, and not just filling my time with “busy work”. I actually just developed this practice over the past few weeks, but it’s felt impactful and significant enough that I wanted to write a post about it!
My method isn’t anything super mind-blowing or ground-breaking, but it does work. And the best part is it doesn’t require any fancy planners or apps! I fleshed out this system all by myself, but it is partially based on or inspired by the Stephen R. Covey method of prioritizing, as well as on an object lesson I had at church when I was really young.
In fact, you’ve probably seen something really similar! You start with an empty jar. Then you have a big bag of rocks and a bag of sand. If you put the sand in the jar first, there’s not enough room for the big rocks. But, when you put the rocks in first, then there is plenty of room for the sand to fill in the spaces.
Treating your day like the “jar”, the rocks represent the things you absolutely need or want to get done — the “Big Stuff” that fills up your schedule. The sand represents all the other “Things to Do” or things you could spend time on, but that isn’t as important. When you separate your tasks into these two categories, you can easily recognize how to prioritize your time and see where you’re prioritizing sand that’s obstructing your “Big Stuff” rocks from taking up space in your day.
How to Put This Plan in Action
First, take a piece of paper and divide it in half (either with a line or a fold). Then, add headers to each column. The left side will be “Things I HAVE to Do Today” and the right side will be “Things I Would LIKE to Do Today”. List all your tasks for the day in the appropriate spot.
The left side represents the big rocks, while the right side represents the sand. If you focus on the rocks first, the sand will naturally fill in the cracks. Sometimes I find myself doing a list like this for my entire week, but often I do it each morning for my day, as well.
A few tips:
- Try to be really strict with yourself. The “HAVE to Do” list is usually full of appointments, events, phone calls, and meetings that will happen whether or not I even show up, whether physically or mentally. If there is something that doesn’t have to be done today, I put it on the right side. That was, you can really see how much spare time you have when you finish all the “HAVE to Do” things each day.
- The right side, while full of things that aren’t time-sensitive or don’t have anybody waiting on them, can’t be filled with things you know you often procrastinate. I used to leave Grocery Shopping on my list because it really didn’t matter what day I did it, but then it always ended up getting procrastinated!
- Be smart about how you organize your sections and prioritize your time. Modify this system to best suit your own interests and preferences, and your weaknesses.
Once my list is made, I don’t do any color-coding or prioritizing. Dividing into these two categories is all the prioritizing I need — ”Big Stuff” has to be done first. (Usually, I do organize my “HAVE to Do” list with time stamps because those things often have to be completed at certain times or by certain deadlines throughout the day. It helps me to have that little bit of scheduling.)
While time management can feel like an overwhelming and scary topic, I believe it’s one of the most fundamental things you can do to make sure you’re using your time effectively in both your business and your personal life. I even find it fun to organize my schedule! I’m always amazed by how much more I can get done when I prioritize my time. This method really helps me focus on the day-to-day aspects of running my business and organizing my life as part of greater efforts to plan and reach longer-term goals.
I actually made an editable template of this schedule so I don’t have to write it out by hand each time I want to get organized. You can download this template by clicking the link below! I hope this helps you manage your time efficiently just as it has helped me!
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