Nearly everyone is guilty of at least one of two time-management pitfalls:
- Under-estimating how long it will take to complete a task.
- Over-estimating how much time you have.
I count myself amongst the many. Symptoms include a ‘to-do-list’ with the same tasks appearing week after week after month, and regularly lamenting, ‘Why on earth am I racing against the clock again? I thought I had allowed plenty of time.’
The 4 Week Planner tackles the second symptom. (You can download one from the link at the bottom). However, I have to warn you, creating a clear picture of just how much time you really have is often shocking, at least initially. If you can hold your nerve, it will pay off. You’ll prioritise, you’ll learn to say ‘no’ and you’ll start to create more realistic expectations – for others you work with and for yourself.
First step is to check whether everything on your to-do-list falls into one of these categories:
- Contributes to your business goals
- Is a commitment to help others achieve their goals
- Plays a key part in your personal development
- Is important in your family or personal life.
If not, what is it doing there!
Transfer each task to the 4-week planner, bearing in mind any deadlines you’ve committed to, and assign a realistic amount of time to it.
Remember to allow time for breaks or travel in between.
Add in any other commitments which aren’t on your to-do-list. (Don’t forget to check them against the criteria above.)
Now, I know, this is sounding incredibly basic but it is often the case at this stage that you start to shake as you realise just how over-committed you are. Keep the faith. This is an important step and it’s not the end.
The likely scenario is that everything you have aimed to do simply does not fit into the time you have. Join the crowd! The good news is that you can now do something about it.
- Decide what is fixed and what is flexible.
- Could you ask for help or could you outsource chunks of tasks?
- Could you re-schedule meetings which really aren’t time critical?
- Could you find a quicker way of getting something done? For example, write the follow up email to a prospect meeting straightaway while the steps are fresh in your head.
- Could you combine tasks? For example, invite a group of clients to an end of year social rather than see each of them individually, or create a list of top tips for marketing content from the blog you are writing.
- Could you make better use of templates – emails, proposals, meeting minutes? You can still personalise each one.
- Could you reduce travel time? For example, hold court for a day at a central location and arrange for a handful of client meetings and 1-1s to take place there.
- Could you group similar tasks together and be more efficient? For example, a morning of follow up calls.
Remember, whichever you choose, multi-tasking is rarely the answer. Time and again focusing is proven to be a much more effective time management strategy – even for women!
From now on look to put tasks as well as events straight onto your 4 week planner rather than on a to-do list.
So why are there seven weeks on the 4-week planner template, you rightly ask?
Almost as soon as you’ve mapped out the next 4 weeks you’ll be part way through the first week – so time to look forward another week.
You’ll get busy and, before you know it, you’ve started building another long to -do-list. Don’t get back into bad habits. Keep looking ahead and map out the following week as each week passes.
With a 7 week view you won’t have to start a whole new 4-week plan each week. However, after a few weeks, there is something cathartic about a fresh template.
Whether it is 4 weeks or 7 weeks a rolling plan keeps the momentum going. As that big holiday at the end of December starts to appear on the horizon this is even more pertinent. Don’t let your business drop off the end of the cliff at the end of the year. Plan beyond December 31st and get off to a fast start in 2018.
Download the 4 Week Planner Grid here.