By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life
Nothing comes more naturally to the human mind than procrastination. We all do it on a daily basis, and evidence indicates not only procrastination is widespread but also not that bad — unless you’re facing a deadline, that is.
But when you’re on the clock, the last thing you want to do is disappear down a clickbait rabbit hole because some list promises “you won’t believe No. 7.” When you need more focus and a better filter, here are several ways to improve your time-management skills.
Budget Your Time
The 40-hour workweek might seem to have come and gone (especially if you’re working from home under quarantine), giving way to the 42.5-hour workweek and then the 49-hour workweek and then the workweek that simply doesn’t end. You may not have the luxury of setting your own hours, but you certainly can decide how to use those hours.
Take time every day to plan out the blocks of time you intend to spend working, and use a good scheduling system to track your tasks and hold yourself accountable. You’ll find when you plan out how to spend your time, you’ll have fewer opportunities to get distracted as you go.
Just about every office in the world seems to be painted beige, simply because it does not distract employees from their work. We don’t recommend painting your home office beige — in fact, we don’t recommend painting anything beige, ever — but we do recommend eliminating distractions in your workspace.
Be ruthless about it. The less clutter you have, the less hard your mind has to work. This might require moving furniture or even trashing things on a large scale, but don’t be afraid to do so. Clearing a physical space opens up mental space, too, and reducing the number of things that divert your attention will leave you more time to focus on your job.
Give Yourself Breaks
You’ve probably heard plenty of stories about CEOs who wake up at 4 a.m. and don’t come home until after dark; our business culture has decreed if you’re not a workaholic, then yours is an unproductive life. In reality, people are far happier when they work to live instead of living to work, and that can mean taking time away from work in the middle of projects.
Breaks matter a lot. They allow us to not only recharge but also to adapt our attitudes and find new processes. Take a break from work by physically distancing yourself from your workspace and using the time to do different things, especially if they have a physical component to counteract all the sitting most American workers do.
Longer breaks are also important after the workday’s done, too; everyone needs to disconnect completely after working to “power down” and focus on other aspects of life. We recommend using after-work time to pursue new capabilities, like driving a stick shift (not only a practical skill but also fun!) or learning Italian (ditto). Your brain works best when it’s facing varied and multiple challenges, so log off, get out, and try something new — and moderately difficult!
Let Your Brand Do More Work
If you run your business from your home garage, you might be able to handle everything yourself, from planning to marketing to the production. But whether your company is small, big, or somewhere in between, you can save a lot of time by facilitating organic growth with good branding practices.
Think carefully about how and what you brand is so something as simple as a pen can be as effective as a full-payroll salesperson. You might find you spend less time each day on advertising, and more time meeting and serving new clients or customers.
Learn to Say No
Eagerness to please should be a default attitude for any business owner. After all, we want our companies and services to solve problems. Yet overextension doesn’t help anyone, and trying too hard to make others happy leaves us unhappy — sometimes deeply so.
Being able to say “no” — to a partnership only results in “exposure,” to taking on work because someone else doesn’t want to, to spending money that could be better invested elsewhere — will save you a lot of time and anguish. Remember “no” is a complete sentence, and you don’t have to justify using it once those two little letters have left your lips.
How you choose to use your time is entirely up to you. So why not choose to form good habits, even if you need to be ruthless at first about changing things up? Remember lost time adds up in a big way: Missing 15 minutes of life per workday results in 65 lost hours per year — the equivalent of a full week and a half of vacation.
Plan to better invest your time on all fronts, and you’ll find yourself looking at the clock and planning the best ways to use the time available instead of wishing you had more.