Time management is something that comes up a lot when I talk to clients about their barriers to getting online.
I have to admit, I can relate - sometimes it feels like I have one too many balls in the air and sooner or later one of them is going to come crashing down. But you don't need to sacrifice your sanity for the sake of a to-do list! I've outlined my tried and true time management tools for digital professionals and creative entrepreneurs!
OK, first up is Asana - I highly recommend organising your life on some kind of online time management tool. If you find you don’t like Asana, that’s fine - this procedure I’m outlining below could be replicated with any calendar, whether it’s Outlook, Google Calendar, an Excel document or whatever. Other popular time management tools include Trello and Zoho but I find the free version of Asana to be the most comprehensive (plus I like all the little creatures that dance across the screen when you’ve finished a bunch of tasks)!
So basically, I would recommend creating a Project for each aspect of your job. I prefer the “List” project type, but you may prefer the Sticky Notes (plus some projects just make more sense as Sticky Notes). A list project type is literally just a list, pretty self explanatory. You can add Sections to your list, for example in my future blog posts project, I have a Section for each "category" of blog posts. This helps me to see where I need more content and where I maybe have too much.
The Sticky Notes are like if you just had columns of Sticky Notes on your desk. You can name the columns different things, like Upcoming Instagram Posts, Items for Laura to Action, Items that are Pending etc. Some people prefer it because it's quite visual, but I find it restrictive given I have such a small screen - I don't like have to scroll left and right to see everything. Up to You!
Split the Projects up in a way that makes sense for you. I have projects for each one of my clients, then a project for general tasks I have to do for Lucent Connections (like invoicing, social media scheduling, printing business cards etc), then a project for Business Development ideas and future clients, and also a project for upcoming blog ideas. I recommend highlighting each project with a different colour so you can easily tell them apart when looking at your calendar - this way you can visually understand what projects are taking most of your time.
Now just keep adding tasks as you think of them, whether they’re “Must Dos”, “Should Dos” or “Would Like to Dos” (you can categorise them later). All tasks can be dragged between columns or sections, and even between projects, by dragging them down to the left sidebar.
Now here's the cool bit and what may be my favourite feature on Asana (aside from the dancing creatures). I can attach a document to any of these tasks from my Google Drive. I primarily work on Google Drive especially for blog writing, because I like having everything in the cloud basically. This also works for OneDrive, Dropbox, Box and your local computer drive. If you're part of a team, you can share the live document or an entire folder with your team, attach the document and then they will always have the latest copy attached to Asana. Great for collaborating!
Once you’ve got your list of tasks categorised in a way that makes sense to you, find what tasks must be done, assign them to yourself, and give them a due date, whether it’s firm or just a guess. For recurring tasks, you can set them to repeat (for example, I have a daily task to interact with my followers on Instagram and another one to make sure I pin at least 5 things in Pinterest). Leave all other tasks as unassigned and without a due date - they’re just there so you don’t forget them. As you work through the Must Dos you can start adding due dates to the Should Dos and the Would Like To Dos to help keep you on track.
I then click on “My Tasks” in the top left sidebar to view the full list. If you click on the little icon on the top right side of the list you can change the view. I set mine by due date so I know what's coming first. Then click on “Calendar” in the top menu. In this view I can see exactly how much I’ve overloaded myself on which day. Where I have overloaded myself on a specific day (which is often), I can drag tasks between days and weeks to better spread out my schedule. This is where the colour coding comes into play as well!
I also find this useful - you can add emails you receive to “My Tasks” in Asana using this guide. I’m notorious for forgetting to reply to people so this is a life / reputation saver.
One last tip on Asana, if you do work as a team, you also have a Team Calendar. If you click on your Team in the left sidebar and then Calendar you can see every task your team is working on. However, you can only see tasks that are assigned to a Project. If you’ve added a task directly to “My Tasks” and not assigned it a Project, it’ll only show up in My Calendar. Handy for private tasks like calling your doctor or whatever.
If This, Then That
So IFTTT is a useful little app that can also help you organise your life. Basically it works with different apps, and different actions you take can trigger the IFTTT applet to perform an action on your behalf. So the most common one is probably an applet that posts a native image to Twitter automatically, when you post a photo to Instagram. At the moment if you share directly from Instagram, it only posts a link to Twitter, so that’s handy for a quick bit of marketing. But, another one that may be useful for tracking your time is this one I found that adds any tasks that you “complete” in Asana to a Google Spreadsheet. It could be an easy way to keep your boss up to date with everything that you’re doing, justify your time and worth to clients or just give you a sense of worth for your achievements.
There are so many applets you can find that may be helpful for your specific situation. There are ones that create tasks when you receive an email or one that adds songs you listen to on Youtube to a playlist on Spotify. Just search for the apps that you use and see what you can find to make your life easier.
If you're charging clients hourly, Toggl is essential. It’s free to sign up, and you can sync it with Asana, Google Drive, Outlook and many more! It's an easy way to track how much time you spend on each task or project. When you sync it with another website, you'll notice a little power button icon appear somewhere. For Google Drive, it's in documents, in Asana it's within tasks - if you click it, Toggl will start timing you until you turn it off. There’s a Chrome Extension as well so you can start the timer from wherever you are on the internet. Whether you use this as evidence of your time with your boss or just as a self-accountability tool, it does make it easy to see where your time is disappearing to.
StayFocusd is a Chrome Extension I've recently started using to reduce the amount of time I spend lingering on Facebook, ASOS or news websites. Places I don't need to be, basically... and it works! Basically you can add websites to your "allowed" sites, which should only be work related, and block websites that are time wasters. You set a timer for how long you're allowed to spend on the time wasting websites in your work hours. I allot myself half an hour, which gives me time to do necessary social media outreach on Facebook but ensures I don't just hang around watching the cooking videos I'm seriously obsessed with...
Blocking websites on your computer is all well and good - but what about the oh-so-tempting apps on your phone? Enter Forest. Forest is a cute little app that grows a tree for you 25 minutes at a time while you're not touching your phone. If you interrupt your phone while the tree is growing, the tree will die! Forest blocks any app notifications from coming through, to help keep you on track. You can of course white-list some notifications, like incoming phone calls if you're worried about missing something very important. The clever thing is that once you've been forced not to touch your phone for 25 minutes, you'll usually go on much longer not touching it. By the end of the day, you can revel in your newly grown forest!
I want to hear from you! Tell me what life-saving apps or websites you use to stay on track and manage your time. And definitely let me know if you find any of the ones I've mentioned here today useful for you too!
Cheers, Laura x
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