No matter what tools you use, how efficient you are is always going to come down to how well you plan and prioritise.
You can use all of the best electronic tools available to help with scheduling and automation, but at the end of the day, how effective they are comes down to you. It comes down to how well you set the tools up and then how well you use them and execute your tasks.
There is no value in having an electronic tool to help you plan your day, your week and your projects if you then don’t allocate time to do what is needed.
So I’m going to tell you what tools I use and how I use them to make me as efficient as I am. This has been fine-tuned over time and it is what works for me. And it is what is working for me at this point in time. Give me another year and I might have tweaked it some more!
I also want you to keep in mind that what works for me might not work for you, because we all operate differently and have different priorities in our lives. But I do expect that there will be something that you can take from this to help you become more efficient!
I use both electronic and paper calendars. It might seem over the top, but let me explain. As I work full-time, run two businesses and have a family to organise, every calendar has a purpose and they all feed into one calendar that I use as my central point of reference. Having the central electronic calendar allows me to see everything together. And it allows me to see where my time is allocated so that I don’t double book myself.
Having a separate work calendar and family calendar allows me to see what I need to for those areas without being distracted by other things. It also allows me to share them with the people that need to know. My paper calendars are on my desks (one for work and one for business) and a family one is on the wall. I only write important “must meet this deadline” items on my paper calendars as they prompt me without needing a phone or computer open to do it.
I use an electronic booking system that allows clients to book their own timeslot with me. My central calendar is linked to this which is why it is important to have all of the non-negotiable time slots filled on that one calendar. But to use it effectively, I use colour. The colour is linked to if the time slot is for a family, work, business or personal so that I can see at a glance what my time is being allocated to.
Are you with me still?!
I also use an electronic project management tool. And this I colour code too so I can see at a glance if the task is for work, home or business. This is probably one of my most needed tools as it allows me to plan and priorise for months in advance! And being electronic it saves time and improves efficiency by allowing me to set tasks I do every week or every month to automatically repeat. This tool also synchronises with my central calendar so that I can see everything together.
These calendars and the project management tool would be useless to me though if I didn’t use them effectively and keep them up to date.
So how do I plan and prioritise to make sure the tools keep me efficient?
Each Sunday night I sit down and plan out my week in a week to view paper diary. I use the electronic calendar to see what is due when and I write it down on the day it is due in my paper diary. If anything is set to a certain time, eg a doctors appointment or meeting, then I include the time in the diary too. This then becomes my point of reference when I plan out my day.
Each night I sit down and plan out my next day. I have tried doing this in the morning but there were times when I would realise too late that something should have been done already. By planning the night before it means I know as soon as I open my eyes what I have to do that day. My day gets planned out in a blank A5 notebook. And again I use colour to distinguish what area of my life the task relates to. I also highlight what is a big task by circling them and keep the small “to do list” tasks separate as a list. As my day progresses I refer to this planner as it keeps me focussed on the big picture items that need to be completed that day. It also allows me to reorganise things if an “emergency” item comes up. Emergency items are usually things that other people haven’t planned effectively for and need “right this minute”.
Each day or two I update my electronic planning tool. If I didn’t do this then the tasks that are set to repeat wouldn’t appear and the tool loses it’s value.
By planning and prioritising like I do it also means that I get more done! And it means I meet my deadlines and I’m not left rushing around trying to get projects completed on time. Big projects get broken down into smaller, manageable tasks. And each task gets prioritised when it is needed to be done.
By planning and prioritising effectively it has allowed me to be consistant with publishing items for my businesses. Daily social media posts for 4 pages, weekly blog posts for two blogs, a weekly and a monthly newsletter for my businesses. I meet work and client deadlines for projects. I have time for exercise and relaxation every single day. I am never left wondering how I am going to fit everything in because I know exactly what I need to do when.
Does all of these sound overwhelming and impossible for you to achieve? It shouldn’t! If being more efficient and being more effective at planning is something that you want to achieve then why not book a session with me? I can review what it is you’re currently doing to plan and prioritise and help you come up with solutions that will work for you. I can even help you set things up if you need it.
All you have to do is ask yourself “what is my time worth to me?” If you value your time you will do what you can to make yourself more efficient and to do that you need to become the master of planning and prioritising.