Running your own business has many benefits, but it also has its pitfalls. I set some of these out in my post back in November, where I looked at Lucidity's performance over the past year, warts and all. Now only three months later and we're at the opposite end of the scale - with projects and contracts galore. It's a fantastic turn around, but it also means organisational skills need to be perfectly honed to cope with all the competing priorities. So, with everyone from the NHS to Wikipedia offering advice on how to manage your time effectively, I thought I'd share my ideas about how not to panic.
1. Make a list
First things first, I have a truly awful memory. If I don't write things down, then they don't get done. So I'm a big believer in the value of lists. I have them everywhere. I use Trello, an online task board, to send me reminders. I carry a notebook around with me to make sure I can jot thoughts down as they emerge. And I usually have lists dotted around my desk, plotting out what I need to do that day. It's so busy for the next few weeks that I've even taken to mapping out each day, so I know what needs to be done by when. You don't have to go to these extremes with your lists, but they can provide a really valuable tool to help plan out your time and, in turn, keep you calm. The worst thing you can do when you're busy is worry about all the tasks you need to finish. Putting them into the order of a list - whichever format you choose - will help you approach them more systematically.
2. Do something
While I'm a dedicated fan of procrastination, I also believe that to manage your time effectively, you need to get on and do something. Making lists and then just looking at them - or worse, adding to them - is worse for me than not having a list at all. Seeing all the tasks you've got to do can be really overwhelming, so the trick for me is to just dive in. I've read a lot of guides that tell you to start with the hardest thing first. And others that suggest you start with the easiest. I think that's entirely down to how you're feeling on each particular day. Rather than follow any particular pattern, I find the best way is to see what grabs my attention most of all - and then just get it done. Some days I'll feel like tackling admin, while on others I'll want to write, or catch up on some reading, or have meetings. As long as I'm doing something on my list, it feels like progress. And that feeling is really important when you have what might seem like an endless list of tasks. Do the thing, and cross it off!
3. Do something else!
If you've managed step 2, then step 3 will be easy! Once you've done your first thing, follow it up by doing something else. Again, it doesn't really matter what, as long as you're making progress. But what about deadlines, I hear you ask? I've found that my 'do something' approach really helps. I either get all the other tasks out of the way, leaving me with enough time to work towards a deadline, or I get the things with the deadline underway first. All depending on which work I'll be more productive with at the time. And while I'm in an enviable position of managing my own time, I've found this approach works whatever employment situation I've been in. Sometimes there is a need to take a more forced approach to the tasks you do, but mostly it's your choice. And if you keep going with step 3, crossing things off your list as you go, you'll hopefully feel much more in control of your time.
It may not be rocket science, but this method really works for me. Setting out what I need to do - and by when - gives me the freedom and flexibility to work through tasks when I'm best suited to doing them. So, if you find yourself panicking at your workload, why not try my 'do something' approach? It might just work!