One of the most common complaints I hear from busy professionals is “I don’t have enough time.” I’m guilty of this too. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a stage trying to keep 10 spinning plates from falling – and I’m barely making it. It’s easy to find others who will commiserate with me, because most people I know describe themselves as “very busy.” The feeling of never being caught up, always one step behind, barely having our heads above water is not one I want to continue to live with.
All that said, I found Michael Hyatt’s new book, Free to Focus, gives me both hope and practical ways to create some order in my life. While reading this book, I wrote down 26 specific things I can do to take charge of my time, get back in control, and build in margin into my weeks.
Since everyone I know, with just a few exceptions, is overwhelmed with things to do, I thought I’d share three things I am going to implement immediately. I encourage you to read or listen to the book Free to Focus if you would like to regain control of your time.
The one thing we all have in common is that we have 24 hours in the day. We can’t change that fact, yet, we can buy more time. One way to buy more time is to hire people to help us with tasks we don’t like to do. Hyatt describes delegating as “transferring work to someone more passionate or proficient in the tasks.” If you are a leader in an organization, you can delegate to your team. If you are an independent consultant, you can hire people to help you.
Here are some examples of how I have “bought myself” time and removed tasks that are critical, yet stressful and laborious to me. I now have an “extended team” of service providers including:
- A Bookkeeper who takes care of my financial records. Now my books are always up-to-date and accurate, unlike when I did it myself and let it pile up. No longer do I have to spend a week just before taxes are due organizing and reconciling. Can I say bliss? 😊
- My new Virtual Assistant is helping me in many ways. In just 3 months’ time, she is helping me organize systems, market my services, and manage the detailed back-end work required for many assessments I use with clients. My next step is going to be training her to take over my invoicing and expense reports – something I loathe and that takes time away from the creative work I’d rather do.
- I have another part-time Assistant who also helps with social media and other office-related tasks that are time consuming.
- Additionally, I have a handful of service providers who I call on as needed including a copywriter, programmer, graphics designer, and a lawyer.
How can YOU Buy Time?
If you work in an organization, think about tasks or projects you can delegate to a team member. Once they are up to speed, not only will this free you up but you will be developing them.
If you are an independent business owner, think about which tasks drain you or take up too much of your time, then look for people you can hire to do this. Keep in mind, you can hire people on a project basis or by the hour – they don’t have to be employees. In fact, I started my Virtual Assistant with just five hours a week, and now we are bumping up to ten hours a week. Depending upon where you hire an assistant and what skills you need it can cost $7-40/hour.
If you need help with project work, my favorite website is UpWorks. I always select someone who has strong ratings. UpWorks has graphic designers, writers, programmers, web developers, data analytics, customer service and more. I’ve had project support for as little as $50.
If you are thinking, “I don’t have the resources to buy time,” this is a limiting belief. Start small, find one small work task you would like to delegate and then look at your resources. If you can’t find an affordable person, look for ways to “trade” work with others. Where there is a will there is a way. The more you delegate, the more time you’ll have to work on the things that only you can do.
As embarrassing as this is to admit, I have days where I jump tasks every few minutes. For example, I start writing an email and then I get a text. I answer the text, which requires me to look at my calendar. I see something in my calendar that triggers another action, and so on. Two hours later, I realize I never sent the original email, and now I can’t remember what I was going to say. Can you relate?
Every time we jump from task to task like that, we lose momentum. We may feel super productive because we are in “go-go-go” mode – but we are actually less efficient. According to studies in Hyatt’s book, the more we batch similar types of work, the more effective we are.
MegaBatching is all about grouping similar tasks together and doing them in a consolidated time period. For example, blocking a few hours of uninterrupted time to do our creative work. During this time, we turn off emails and phones and only focus on what we are developing.
Here are some examples of areas I am going to MegaBatch:
- Invoicing. Earlier I wrote that I plan to delegate this work, yet for the time being, there are still pieces of that work I need to engage with in order to delegate it well. Rather than invoicing multiple times a week, I’m going to only invoice once a week.
- Writing blogs. Currently, I write one blog each week, then rush to get it edited, create an image for it, write an email to send to my community, etc. It’s a scramble each week. By batching I will write 3-4 blogs at a time. In other words, I will write enough blogs for a month in one sitting. Not only will this eliminate the weekly pressure of coming up with something to write about, it will make my Virtual Assistants life much easier because she’ll have more time to help with keywords, proofreading, and getting them posted.
- Emails. Gulp. This one is going require some serious will power. When I’m not on a client's site, I check my emails CONSTANTLY. I keep my inbox cleared all day – it’s a little bit neurotic. I am going to commit to testing ONLY checking my email three times a day; morning, mid-day and close of day. This will help me avoid the distractions and detours that keep me from focusing on my big projects. My plan is to test this for 30 days and evaluate it.
How can YOU MegaBatch?
Look for tasks that you do every week that are similar. Examples of types of work tasks that can be batched are planning, budgeting, coaching, innovating, designing, meetings, reading, etc. Then, block time in your calendar to do these activities. Hold this time sacred and turn off your phones and emails so you won’t get distracted.
Designate the Weekly Big 3
As I wrote earlier, lately I’ve been spinning plates. In other words, so busy just getting done what is in front of me, I’m only looking out about a week at a time. This means I am not working towards some of my bigger goals, because they are not urgent. Using the Eisenhower Matrix, we need to be sure to spend focused time on things that are Important but NOT Urgent; such as, development, coaching others, innovating, planning, and strategizing.
Hyatt recommends each week we decide what three things we need to accomplish to move towards our bigger goals. Then, we make sure we do them. It’s only three things, so it is doable. When we consciously think about what they are and write them down, and then we calendar them in so that we can move towards our big goals week by week.
I’ll do this on Friday afternoons when I look at the week ahead. You may prefer to do this on Sunday evening, or Monday morning. Find a time that works for you.
How can YOU Designate Your Weekly Big 3?
First, get clear on your big goals. What do you want to accomplish this year that really matters? Then, break that down and figure out what you need to do this week to move closer to that. Big goals are achieved step by step. Ensuring you are focused all 52 week of the year means you are accomplishing 166 actions each year towards that big goal. Break it down and work on it step by step.
I challenge you to consciously take control of your time. When you continuously evaluate what is working and how you can be more effective, you’ll gain more time back. By creating margin in your life, you’ll have more freedom. Freedom will allow you to create balance in your life to spend time on the things that matter the most. I challenge you to try one of the techniques in the blog OR to read the book Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt – then let me know what works for you!
About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and Forward, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.
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