Time to get a little more detailed when it comes to mastering the use of your time and focus. We all want to get more done in less time and so free up space to enjoy other things that we enjoy.

Below are a few things that I find help me keep that to do list in check and, more importantly, use my time as effectively as possible. It’s always a work in progress and I love trying out new techniques when I discover them but these are tried and tested over years and my best friends for maximising my day.

Online Calendar

I use Google Calendar, I know others who use Apple Calendar, Microsoft and others. Whatever floats your boat, getting your dates in the diary in an effective way that is accessible wherever you are is incredibly handy. I actually copy my appointments from my Google Cal into my paper planner but my first port of call is always my online calendar.

Not only is this handy personally but it also means that you can share your calendar with others, for example your staff or spouse, so you can avoid the ‘are you free on this day?’ conversations.

Speaking of which, another awesome addition to these is the ability to link it up to an online booking platform like YouCanBook.me, Acuity Scheduling or Calendly. One of my most loved time-saving tools. I instigated it around 4 years ago after I got fed up of the constant email tennis that comes from trying to find a date that suits. Simply hook it up to your calendar, send someone the link and they can book in a time and date that you’re both available, with none of the fuss. Simples!

Online To Do Lists

There’s lots of different platforms you can use these days for this and I have tried a few, including Trello, Basecamp, FreedCamp and Asana. If I could merge Basecamp and Trello together I would be a very happy girly! But I have gone with Trello at the moment because, especially since reading the book Scrum by Jeff Sutherland, I particularly like the way the cards work across the different columns.

This has actually come up in the Facebook group a few times and there’s always a combination of responses from ‘what on earth are you talking about?’ through to people’s preferences for each. Well worth a little nose through if this is of interest to you.

As you know, I love my pen and paper but I also love online project management tools like these. I have them for personal things like bucket list, holidays etc. I have them for work stuff, like planning the next year’s run of the Ultimate Diary Planner and individual boards for individual design and print clients so we can both work together on a project.

They’re a fantastic way of working with a team so everyone is on the same page. No more scrolling through emails and trying to find things, instead, it’s all in one place. Woop! I can tag my team members to get them to work on specific tasks, we can set deadlines, reminders, create checklists and so much more. Absolutely priceless when it comes to keeping on top of your main to do list and what your team are up to.

See some inspiration on how you could use Trello boards here: https://trello.com/inspiration and the principle of how they’ve laid these out works for any of the tools I mentioned above. I’ve included a screen shot of an example board for ‘healthy living’ and you can see how easy it is to map out the important elements of whatever you want to do. Once you can really visualise something you’re far more likely to succeed. 

Good Old Pen and Paper

Obviously I’m bias towards the Ultimate Diary Planner and Minerva Notebook, but whatever planner or notebook your preference, I don’t think anything quite beats getting your to do list and ideas down on paper and being able to cross it out, tick it off, jot down notes etc.

I like to use paper products to get down a few key things:

  • What do I need to do today?
  • What do I need to do right now?
  • What do I need to remember?
  • What do I need to get out of my head to come back to later?

I also love to sketch out ideas, business plans and other big picture thinking and nitty gritty details. If you’ve ever had a 121 with me you’ll know how much I love an A1 sheet of paper and lots of colourful pens to get our ideas laid out so we can see them.

I know there are digital gadgets to help with this but I don’t find them as effective as writing them down. Likely a lot to do with the kinaesthetic experience that comes with the very act of putting pen to paper. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as looking at a page filled with the contents of your brain in ink. #stationerygeek

As I said above, I do use Trello for my to do lists but I think of them as my ‘master’ list. The place I add everything and then update every day. My Planner however is the place I jot down what I want to focus on today or right now without any of the other noise.

I can switch off all digital distractions and work through my list, ticking them off as I go, and get a great sense of satisfaction. Then I go in to Trello and update my main list; moving things from to do to done or from proofed to invoiced etc. It’s a very happy working relationship between the two.

I also use my planner to jot down notes from meetings and phone calls. I usually remember roughly when it happened so can flick through and find my scribbles when I want them. It also gives me the opportunity to play with all different coloured pens and scratch that creative itch.

Time Tracking

If you really want to up your productivity then utilising a time tracking service is incredibly handy. I use Harvest for a few reasons; it integrates with Trello and has some great reports features which work with a team so I can have an accurate log of work time for invoicing.

I have tried Toggl and some other offerings but Harvest ticked the boxes for me. If you want to dip your toe in the water then I would probably lean towards giving Toggl a go as it’s free and nice/easy to use. Also have a look online as there are a LOT of options so it’s worth digging around before committing.

Not only is it handy for invoicing but it’s also a great reminder to focus on getting individual tasks done. I find when I’m using a time tracker I am much more time conscious and better able to ditch the multitasking habit. Because of this, I get more stuff done.

If you’re wanting to be more productive, time yourself, it works wonders! 😉

If you want to incorporate Pomodoro technique into this you can use something like this: http://www.marinaratimer.com/ or this: http://tomatotimers.com/, both are fun timers to keep your eye on the ball.

There’s lots of other tools I know, there’s only so many I could talk about in this without writing a novel, but hopefully this has made you consider how you could utilise some of the technical advances (and old fashioned stuff too!) to plan more easily and so get more done!

If you’ve got some great tools or tips around effective time management I would LOVE to hear them so do let us know in the comments below 🙂

Love, Sophie


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