by Lydia Makepeace
I recently filled out an Etsy seller survey asking how much time I spend doing various tasks - I had to guess. Time easily slips away when you’re a creative and/or running an online business from home. Here are some strategies I’ve developed to better manage and track my time this year:
1. Check email only once a day.
I go through my inbox at the beginning of each day. It’s much more efficient to respond to emails all at once rather than constantly check in throughout the day. In addition, I have email notifications set up on my phone that alert me when I have a new message and what the subject is. If it’s a time sensitive email I reply. If not it, it’ll still be there tomorrow.
2. Create designated times/days for each task.
I use the morning to respond to email and check my social media accounts. It keeps me up to date on my followers and what they’re responding to while keeping it from distracting me throughout the day.
On Mondays I write a rough draft of that week’s blog post, and on Wednesday I reread and edit it. To prevent wasting time trying to come up with blog post ideas I've created a secret Pinterest board and add a pin whenever I have a new idea. Then all I have to do is select a topic from the board to write about.
I also photograph, edit, and post new artwork to my shop in batches, which I’ve found to be a much more efficient workflow.
3. Schedule social media posts.
Social media is a must for marketing, and posting regularly is essential for maintaining a loyal following. Posting across a wide range of accounts can be daunting and time consuming. Sometimes it’s more efficient to schedule posts. Facebook and Tumblr have schedulers built right in. For Twitter you can use a website like Twuffer. And if you can afford it, tools like Hootsuite and Buffer are excellent ways to manage multiple social media accounts all at once.
4. Use a time tracking app.
This year I've started using a phone app called ATracker, and I’m in love! I create a task and set how much time I’d like to spend on it. Then I click on the task which starts a timer. When I finish the task I click to stop. Then, when I’ve reached my preset time an alarm sounds which proves useful in several ways -
- When I know I’m “on the clock” I’m more apt to stay focused and complete the task within the allotted time.
- In the midst of creating I tend to lose track of time and the alarm serves as a reminder to take a break.
- The alarm is also helpful if I forget to click the task to stop. Editing the time spent working on a task is easily edited.
Keeping track of your time is important for realistically estimating how much time it takes to make what you sell and how much you pay yourself hourly. ATracker even integrates with my calendar, which leads me to my next tip...
5. Create a calendar.
I get easily overwhelmed with all that I want to accomplish and need to do. I’m a HUGE list maker and I use a calendar to schedule the items on my list. It eases my mind so I don’t waste time worrying about forgetting something or missing a deadline. Using a calendar also allows me to make sure I’m spending time on what’s most important to me. I make sure to schedule time for activities that are refreshing and bring me pleasure.
6. Save it for later.
One of my biggest distractions and time sucks is a rabbit trail through the internet. I find an interesting article, which links to something else interesting, which interests me in another topic, which leads to reading multiple Wikipedia entries...Before I know it my afternoon is gone and I haven’t accomplished the initial task I set out to do. The best solution I’ve discovered is using my internet browser’s reading list or bookmark bar. (Alternatively, you could create a Pinterest board for later reading.) This allows me to stay on task. When I drink my morning coffee or find myself in a waiting room I just pop open the list on my computer or phone and I’ve got instant reading material. Easy peasy!
7. Take a day (or two) off!
Being a creative entrepreneur can become all consuming and exhausting. When you’re running on empty everything takes longer. Be sure to take a couple days off for rest, friends, and family time. And while you’re at it, maybe tackle that pile of dishes in the sink...
Share your own time saving tips below!