- You were confident that you would always be prepared far in advance of your next meeting?
- You knew exactly what you needed, every moment of every day, in order to make that day successful?
- You finished each day knowing that what needed to get done was done, in the right order, and on time?
- You clearly knew what you could say yes to, and what you could say no to, without much effort?
- You actually had enough down time?
Yes, this magical existence could all be yours with this important activity. It’s called…
Okay, so it doesn’t sound incredibly exciting. But trust us, this simple act could change your life.
If you constantly find yourself with far more work than hours in the day, days in the week, or weeks in the month, we know your pain. We’ve been there, done that, bought the tee shirt, and lost our minds.
We’ve tried listing our tasks in order of importance. This was great because it clarified our priorities. What it didn’t tell us is whether we were actually on track to meet our deadlines, or if we even had enough time to complete all that work in the first place.
We’ve said “yes” to everything that came down the pipeline - because everything is so interesting. We want to help, we want to be involved, we want to be out there building, growing, and getting things done. But we ran out of time. Whether to deliver on those yesses and/or to build the businesses that we wanted, we found ourselves unbalanced and unhappy.
We’ve worked so hard, and pushed so much, and still felt frantic at the end of the day. We pissed off our family members and lost touch with our friends and gained weight and forgot to shower.
Then we decided to ask ourselves:
How Much Capacity Does One Human Have?
The answer is: It’s different for everyone.
This is the type of vital learning and knowledge that we act on at Admin Slayer. Every Slayer and every business owner has different skill sets, different time constraints, and different capacity. Knowing our own capacities, our strengths, and our limitations is one of the keys to great success, both personally and professionally.
One of the best ways we found to learn about our own capacity, and how to manage not only our time but also our energy, is through time blocking.
Seeing all the tasks we need to complete, with enough time to complete them, laid out in our calendars does a lot for us. It tells us what is possible today. It tells our team what we’re working on and when to expect it (OH, the collaboration!). It keeps us from failing to meet our own expectations.
First, just start tracking. There’s no need for fancy software - you can just use the calendar you already have in place through Outlook, Google, or your CRM system.
Track everything. Track your meeting time, your thinking time, your meditation breaks, your meals, those surprise phone calls, the work you do, the breaks you take - everything.
You’ll be amazed at how long things actually take. From our post on planning like a boss:
Our optimism makes us really bad at estimating anything that we do ourselves. All of us. You’re not special (well, you’re special, but not in this specific way). Whether it’s how long a task will take, how much it will cost, or the gain you’ll enjoy from getting it done - if you’re the one doing it, you are going to underestimate the work and overestimate the benefit.
Even familiar tasks that you do all the time. Even tasks you’ve done before.
Don’t feel bad; every other human on the planet has the same biased approach to their own work. It’s actually called the “planning fallacy” and you can read more about it here.
Second, do a little analysis. Understand the tasks you love doing and are great at (see our ebook The Art of Delegation, p.53, for a little exercise on this), and understand when you’ve been most productive and effective.
Now, you can take your schedule into your own hands, and start planning ahead with what works best for you in mind:
Batch Similar Tasks
With so much on the go, it can be really easy to try to do 7 really different types of tasks in one morning. But if one task requires concentration with your hands, another with your eyes, and yet another with your social skills, trying to jam them all into one tract of time could leave you more than a little overwhelmed. Constantly switching mental gears is tough for anyone - be kind to your brain and let it run for a while in one direction before you start taking it in another.
Know Your Energy Levels
Some of our team members are most creative first thing in the morning, so they schedule focused, energy-rich activities for early in the day. For other members of our team, doing much in the morning is a literal invitation to the 7th circle of hell … so tasks that require a lot of mental work and interaction are scheduled way, way…. wayyyyyy later.
Do you get tired in the mid to late afternoon? Many people do. Consider planning easier, lower value tasks for when you know you’re going to be working at a lower capacity, and save those high value tasks for the times of day when you are most productive and effective.
Block It Off in Advance
Really far - as far as you can.
Start with the fun stuff: vacations, holidays, spa breaks, and time with your friends and family. Secure that time for being a whole human so that you can really focus on being present with yourself and the people who matter the most in your life. You need the time to socialize and you need the time alone that works for you and your energy levels so that you can focus on and be really fantastic for your business.
Then start filling in your days of the week. Maybe Mondays are for catch up, team building, and planning, Tuesdays and Thursdays for meetings, Wednesdays for focused customer work, and Fridays for strategic projects and business growth activities.
Even if you don’t yet know the work or the event that will fill up those days, know in advance how you will spend your days and use your energy. This not only tells you how to spend your day - which can be a little tough for business owners, especially in the early years - but also lets you know what you can say “yes” and “no” to, as well as when, and how much time you can actually spend on doing the work that pays the bills and moves you forward. This can also help you answer those tough pricing questions, and help you set strong financial goals.
Time Blocking Saves Lives
Maybe a small exaggeration. But time blocking can help you stay focused, making the best use of your capacity and your energy, while maintaining both your business and your personal relationships.