Was one of the reasons that you became self-employed to have more flexibility about how you choose to spend your time?
But in reality, have you found that you still end up working the same hours as you did in your previous 9-5 job (or perhaps even longer?). Are you struggling to carve out time during the day for regular breaks, self care moments, let alone time for those ‘passion’ projects or hobbies you dreamed of starting when decided to work for yourself?
I’ve been there too. Since retraining as a personal performance coach back in 2019, I have set intentions to do more exercise, practice meditation daily, cook more healthy meals, spend more time with friends and family, garden on a regular basis, renovate the house, do more driving practice, and start a new hobby.
After being super motivated at the beginning of each year, because this tends to be the classic time when we start afresh (although any time is a good a time to start working on a new habit, practice or project), my plans often ended up gathering dust or hidden behind posters and leaflets on the noticeboard (if they had been written down of course), never to see the light of day.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. It is possible to make plans and take action, when you’re already busy, without losing out on precious sleep, dramatically changing your working hours, or having to employ a cleaning lady or a dog walker (if you have a dog of course!).
Since becoming a coach, and being a time management geek at heart, I have spent a lot of time working on how to manage my time more effectively. So here are my 5 top tips, from what I have learnt so far on my time management journey, for how you can create more time for joy and still get 8 hours sleep:
1. Work out the daily tasks that if done consistently will make a difference
I have become fascinated by how to ‘make best use’ of my day, and in particular, which activities will actually make a positive impact to my business, my well-being and sense of purpose, if I do them on a consistent basis.
Once I figured out which activities I wanted to do consistently and how long to spend on each one, I started to create a timetable for the day. Even though I love to plan, I also like to have flexibility. Since creating this structure, I actually feel more liberated because I know what’s coming next, rather than having to decide what to do next. One less decision to make, which is good for the subconscious mind.
For example, I have finally carved out time for daily meditation. Before I created my timetable, I struggled to figure out when to meditate. It would be there on my habit tracker but because I hadn’t designated a certain time to it, I would always forget. Now, because it’s scheduled, it happens. Simple as that.It’s set up on my laptop so all I have to do is click on the recording each morning.
A few questions for you:
- Which tasks do you tend to do every day?
- Do you do them at the same time?
- How well does each of these tasks serve you and your business?
- If done consistently, what tasks would move you further forward in your business and support your well-being more effectively?
- What would you like to add to your timetable that would support one of your passions, and only needs 15-20 minutes on a daily basis to make a difference?
2. Decide how much time to allocate to each task
Not all tasks are created equal. For example: 15 minutes to practice meditation; 30 minutes to update my website; 60 minutes to run a client session; 90 minutes* to create a blog or 180 minutes* to write a series of slides for a workshop presentation.
With a realistic amount of time allocated to each one of them, all of these tasks could be completed in just one day. Four hours is the optimum amount of time to spend on deep work in one day e.g. writing a blog post and/or a set of slides for a workshop presentation.
Once I realised that I didn’t have to allocate 60 minutes to every single task in order for the task to be meaningful and have an impact, it opened up my mind to the possibility of creating a more interesting and engaging schedule.
The trick is to be consistent with the task (as I mentioned in my first tip), and then you will start to notice the impact because of the regularity of the practice. For example, doing a 15 minute daily meditation practice will have a greater impact in the long term than attending a silent retreat weekend once a year. It’s a great way to set you up well for the day ahead.
A few questions for you:
- How much time do you allocate to each of your regular tasks each day?
- Are these timings about right, based on the size/importance of the task for supporting your well-being or the progress of your business?
*This doesn’t include time for breaks after every 60-75 minutes of work. Research shows that our brains benefit from a short break of at least 5 minutes every 60-75 minutes.
3. Set yourself up for the day by taking care of YOU first
Once my partner’s son has set off for school, this is the trigger for me starting my self care hour – e.g. showering, getting ready, journaling my intentions for the day, listening to a podcast, doing some mindful gardening. It feels really beneficial (and not indulgent or selfish) to be creating a set of morning rituals which set me up for a positive day ahead.
Previously, I would spend at least 30 minutes mindlessly checking WhatsApp messages (but probably not responding), scrolling through my phone and reading the news (which isn’t great for our brains first thing in the morning); and doing some housework, but what I did was often very ad hoc. Now, I have dedicated time in my day for each of these activities and the difference is that I do them mindfully which means that I spend less time on them as a result.
A few questions for you:
- What are your morning rituals before you start work?
- How often do you do them?
- What impact do they have on the rest of your day, when you do them regularly?
- What self care practice would you like to start?
- What ONE thing could you add to your routine to help you start work excited and invigorated, ready to be truly present for your business today?
4. Make a note in your diary or planner of your next action
How often do you sit down to start working on your next task and it takes you a few minutes to remember what it is that you’re meant to be doing? Does this tend to lead on to being distracted by the latest post on social media?
We’ve all been there. If I’m not 100% clear on what I am meant to be doing next, I can happily spend the next 30 minutes looking through my emails (and hopefully actually responding to a few whilst I’m there), signing up for a new ‘bright shiny course’ (I hope I am now a ‘recovering magpie’) or even better still (and this really is my guilty pleasure) putting pen to paper and writing another action plan.
There’s definitely a time and a place for each of these activities, but is it at that moment (in my case – when I’m meant to drafting my next blog post) and how much time are you dedicating to these distractions? What are you not doing as a result, that would serve you, your well-being and your business better?
My top tip to counteract this temptation, is that I write down the next action at the end of each activity session, so that when I refer to my planner the following day, I don’t need to remember what I was doing the day before or get distracted by my email, I can get straight into the next action.
Questions for you:
- If you look at your schedule for tomorrow, how much of your day is already planned?
- How easily do you get distracted when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing next?
- How much time is eaten up every day by these tendencies?
- What ONE thing could you do right now to plan in an hour of your day tomorrow (if you don’t have a structure in place already)?
5. Get to know what time of the day you are at your most creative, energetic, inspired self
I’m reading a fascinating book at the moment called The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook Holistic Healing Rituals for Every Day and Season by Sarah Kucera. In one of the opening chapters, she talks about the types of tasks that are best suited to us, depending on the time of day, based on ayurvedic principles.
In brief, she describes the morning (6-10am) as a good time to carry out tasks such as journalling, focused reading or deep cleaning the house. From 10-2pm, choose tasks that require focus such as looking at your accounts, organising your calendar or study. 2-6pm is an opportunity for creativity. And a good time for exercise is between 6-10pm.
Since becoming self-employed, I have enjoyed trying to figure out when is the best time for me to study, work on developing my website, engaging with potential clients, and be creative. I think I’m starting to create a good balance of activities, to keep me motivated and energised throughout the day.
Questions for you:
When you think about how you spend your day, do you feel that you are doing each activity at the best times of day for you? e.g.:
- Working on creative activities
- What ONE change could you make right now?
In summary, it is possible to find time for the activities that bring you and your business a sense of joy and purpose.
Creating a structure to your day can take away the temptation to let ourselves be distracted, a habit that can often set in, if we’re not clear on what activities we’re doing, and more importantly, how they will help us to move forward in our business, support our wellbeing, or get closer to fulfilling our purpose.
Each of your key daily activities don’t have to take 60 minutes or more, we can also allocate a shorter amount of time to some tasks, particularly if they are done consistently, so that you can develop a schedule that works for you.
Creating a set of morning rituals is a great way of setting you, your mind and your body up well for a successful day ahead. Knowing what you have planned for the day ahead also helps to:
1) keep your mind on the task and avoid being tempted away (by your phone for example)
2) give you more freedom to schedule in tasks when you are at your best e.g. energetically or creatively.
I hope that these 5 tips will help you to make good use of your time, and find new pockets of time (5-15 minutes is a great starting point) for other projects that support your well-being and sense of purpose.
Would you like to create more focus and flow to your day and your week, and feel more fulfilled and less frazzled by the end of your working day but don’t know where to start?
Join my weekly Monday momentum meet ups. Click here for more information.
© Louisa Daubney Coaching 2022-23
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Louisa Daubney disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.