Time and Task Management: Part 1 – Strategy (ep. 8)
Time and Task Management: Part 1 – Strategy (ep. 8)
Episode 8: Time and Task Management: Part 1 – Strategy
Because entrepreneurs are inherently creative, usually they’re not experts in the areas of organization and time management. Join Pamela as she shares 5 easy-to-implement strategies that will transform your workday, while still honoring your creativity and flow.
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- How to get a task done efficiently, even one that usually takes longer than you want.
- The #1 scheduling tweak that maximizes your productivity.
- The simple system that reduces emergencies and procrastination.
Insider Tip: This is definitely a note-taking episode, so grab your notebook!
03:57: Get Pamela’s breakdown of the ‘working to time, not to task’ concept, and how it will help you GSD (Get “Stuff” Done 😉).
09:32: Discover what will maximize your productivity and enhance your creativity, and how to improve your scheduling strategy with only one small tweak.
14:51: Learn how to manage Emergencies and Procrastination with a Project- and Task-based to-do list to balance your workday.
19:46: [BONUS] Pamela and Gene share how to use the Idea Capture and Task Tracking methods to save you valuable time, money, and resources.
Episode 8: Time and Task Management: Part 1 – Strategy
Time and Task Management Strategy 101
You’re listening to ‘A Profitable Impact.’
Is there actually a way to incorporate time and task management, organizing your day, without losing your creativity? I believe there is, and there are strategies to do just that.
Welcome to ‘A Profitable Impact,’ where every single week we help coaches and healers to expand their reach, to increase their impact in the world, and to be well-paid for their extraordinary skills and talents. My name is Gene Monterastelli. I am the Lead Coach and Pamela Bruner’s Impact Accelerator coaching program. And please welcome my friend, my colleague, and the CEO of Attract Clients Online, Pamela Bruner. How are you doing today, Pamela?
I am great. And it’s such a pleasure always to talk to you. And right now in the new year, we’ve got really cool stuff to share.
This is actually a two-part episode this week (next week where we’re also talking about time and task management mindset), and as I was looking at our documentation and looking into the first season of the show, as you know, these are the two topics that really light me up the most, that I love being able to help people with their time and their tasks so that we can be more productive in the new year. As we have this conversation today, if you recognize the fact that you would like to be more successful or more productive in your business, but you’re not exactly sure what that next step is, we’d really encourage you to book a free conversation with one of our coaches. All you need to do is go to BookMyBreakthroughCall.com, that’s BookMyBreakthroughCall.com, and you can easily get yourself onto the calendar of one of our coaches so that you can have a conversation about how you can move your business forward as we head into this new year. So, without any further ado, let’s, Pamela, start talking about managing our time and our tasks in a more effective way.
Yes. I’m really excited to talk about time and task management because so many entrepreneurs are, by nature, creative and time and task management feels like a burden. It feels like something that interferes in the enjoyment of the business they’re running. And while I am probably a little more structured by nature than a lot of entrepreneurs, when I’ve focused too much on the structure, I’ve actually short-circuited the creative part of me. So, one of the things I’m excited about sharing today is this idea that when you set up time and task management in a way that your structures are a little more automated and you’ve got systems in place, then it allows your creativity to shine. It allows you to, to step into that creative zone because the time and task management is taken care of.
And I really like that idea of recognizing that this is not about us doing things in a regimented way where everything is done exactly, but instead it’s doing it in a way that allows us to have the space to be flexible, to be nimble, and to be creative. I think the other thing that’s really important for us to point out as we step into this is that as we talk about this, the goal is not to do time and task management perfectly (meaning that your life is going to go perfectly). Instead, when you implement some of the things that we’re going to be talking about today, when things go wrong, you’re more resilient to them going wrong, which means that it’s much less of a problem going forward. So it’s not that we’re going to expecting you to do everything perfectly as we talk about this. But these are concepts that are going to help you to be more grounded, more structured, and, like Pamela said, create that space for the creativity that you are so good at inside of your genius.
So, here’s what we’re going to cover today:
How to get a task done efficiently, especially if it is one that usually takes you longer than you want to.
Also, I want to talk about the #1 scheduling tweak that maximizes productivity. This has made such a huge change in my business and how I get things done.
And the simple system, which is something that I learned largely from Gene that reduces emergencies and also reduces procrastination.
We’ve also got a couple of wonderful bonus ideas for you, so let’s dive in.
Let’s do it.
How to Get a Task Done Efficiently: Working to Time, Not to Task
So, let’s get started on how to get a task done efficiently (and a lot of these ideas are very strategic; this is definitely a note taking episode), and that is the concept of working to time, not task. So, when I have to write my blog, for example, I don’t sit down with five hours open on my calendar in front of me. Instead, I will give myself a very set period of time. It’s half an hour, 45 minutes, or something like that and say, “This is the time during which I will write my blog.” Now I may or may not produce something that needs to be edited, needs to be revised, and I may need another session to get something better. But the more that I train myself to produce in a certain period of time, the more effective I get with my time.
And for me, I do the exact same thing, particularly with creative processes, because for me, my creativity has a shelf-life. For me, my creative juices are in a sponges. As I’m sitting here, I’m slowly ringing the sponge out. And if I have made the commitment that I’m going to sit here until this article or this blog post is done, for the first 45 minutes, I’m sharp and I’m creative from minute-45 to minute-75 (and this is just me personally). For a minute 45-to minutes-75, my creativity starts to diminish. And then after 75 minutes, that sponge of creativity, most times, is completely rung out. If I am telling myself, “I have to sit here until the task is done,” and I don’t get it done in that first 45 minutes, then I’m forcing myself to work in an ineffective way because I’m not resourced to be creative for huge chunks of time. Now, I can do it multiple times in a day, but just not long stretches. And so by doing this, I am preventing myself from forcing myself to work on something when it is the worst possible time for me to be working on that thing.
And I feel like this is also a way to keep your calendar fresh and moving forward. Anytime I see a two-hour, three-hour, or four-hour block on my calendar, “you’re going to do this,” I know that I’ve been a little lazy in scheduling my calendar. Because the truth is, I don’t do anything for two, three or four hours. I do things for an half an hour or 45 minutes, like you, and then I move onto something else. And those kinds of breaks and shifts are essential to keep my mind fresh. And when we talk about time and task management, part two, in the next episode, we’re going to be dealing with the mindset and taking breaks and how you come back refreshed. And that’s all the mindset part right now. We’re just talking about the strategic part.
But this idea of working to time, not task. Now, it does require you to set yourself up and not do things last minute. Because if you give yourself, you know, 45 minutes to be creative on a project, maybe you’ll get your blog post, your article, or a part of your new product done in that period of time, and perhaps you won’t. If you’ve scheduled a couple of different sessions, you’ve got time to do a draft in the first session, and then you’ve got time to revise that draft in the next session. If you only have one time, and this is all the time you have before your deadline, you may end up working less productively. But a lot of the things that we are suggesting in this episode, I think are going to help you work more productively and schedule things earlier.
I’m glad you said that thing about the last minute, because that was the caveat that I wanted to tag into this as well: that you can’t work in this way and do things at the last minute. Because there’ve been times in my creative process where I have sat down for 45 minutes to work on a creative process where I have an idea and after 45 minutes, the only thing that I’ve learned is, “That’s not the way that I want to share it.” Like, my idea wasn’t as good as I thought, I need to go back to the drawing board and start over again. Well, I can’t just walk away if that’s at the last minute, because if some things do, then I have to sit here until getting it done. So, this particular strategy works and probably only works if we’re doing it in a way where we’re not doing things at the last minute.
You have a quote that I absolutely love that I think is relevant here, and that quote is: “Inspiration is for amateurs.” And I love that idea that if you think, “Well, you know, I say, I’m going to work on my blog Tuesday morning at 9:30, but what if I’m not inspired?” That’s okay. The more you sit down to write, or produce, or create in some kind of task, the more you’re going to get used to writing, producing, creating on a schedule and on-demand. And some of your work will be very inspired, and some of it will not be. But the idea that you have to be inspired and you can’t sit down and you can’t put time on your schedule until you feel that spark of inspiration, you’re going to have a hard time getting the work done that you need to do in your business if you rely on inspiration as the key.
And for me, and this is something that I learned from creativity expert, Linda Berry (she teaches creativity at the University of Madison, Wisconsin). She says, “When you sit down, if there is no inspiration, start moving.”
And so for me as a person who writes, I literally just sit here and I’m just clicking and clacking on my keyboard, and it’s not even like, I’m doing words, I’m just moving my fingers, which is starting to get the juices flowing so that I have some, some action, which then gives the opportunity for me to be open to that inspiration that’s always floating around. But it’s important that I’m not waiting for the inspiration then acting. But I actually physically start moving in a way that allows me to be more open to all of those ideas that are bumping around inside of my head.
The #1 Scheduling Tweak to Maximize Your Productivity
I love that suggestion, and it dovetails into the next point I want to bring up, which is the #1 scheduling tweak that maximizes your productivity. And I think that when you do the scheduling tweak, not only do you maximize your productivity, but you enhance your creativity. And that is smart scheduling or heatmapping, the way that you organize your day. So, for example, I am the most creative, the most productive, the most well-resourced between about 7:00am and 9:00am. You know, that’s a really early time in the morning time when most people are not working. But I’ve found that if I need to go over a handout, if I need to produce a blog, if I need to come up with a creative, new marketing campaign, that’s my time to do it.
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And so I have been aware of, “When do I feel really creative? When do I feel really well-resourced? When do I feel perfectly competent, but maybe not quite as creative?” Gene, I think both of us really like working with clients more in the afternoon, because that is a time when our energies are particularly in sort of responsive-mode, and we do very well with coaching and with Q&A, but the creative endeavors are in the morning. And I want to point out that just because Gene and I are that way, doesn’t mean that you will be. I know I had a client once whose most creative time was 9:00pm to 11:00pm and I’m asleep by then. I don’t know how she created at that time, but she was very aware as she heatmapped her life that her best time was after dinner, after the kids went to sleep. Not just because kids were gone, but because that’s when her brain woke up. So, this is something that is unique for every person.
And you’re absolutely right – I’m just like you Pamela. There only two days a week that I regularly do client calls before lunch, almost all of my client work is done in the afternoon, because I like having the morning in that creative way. And I think it’s also important to caveat that this is not something that we do 100% of the time. We’re recognizing the way that works best for us. You know, for example, I have a client in South Africa and I have a client in Australia where, because of the time zones, we regularly do calls at 8:00am Eastern Time for me because it works great for both of us. So even though that’s a peak creative time for me, it doesn’t mean that I am absolutely Orthodox about that and only do those things. It’s important that I recognize that and I’m building my time, and then if exceptions need to come up, we allow those exceptions to come up. But by knowing what it is, I have built my client calendar around the way that I work best. So then I’m serving them most effectively and I’m serving my business most effectively by lining things up in a way that makes sense.
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How Do You Determine Smart Scheduling for Yourself?
Right. So, how do you determine smart scheduling for yourself? How do you heatmap your day? One of the things to look at is, just simply how you feel at different times during the day. Try different things. Experiment with setting a creative time for yourself in the early morning, late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, and see which time, all of the things being equal, you feel great about creating. Now, if you didn’t get sleep the night before, or, you know, if you had a fight with your best friend or something like that, you’re probably not going to be as well-resourced. But all of the things being equal, what time do you know as the best time for creativity? What time is the best time for client work? And just to dispel any fears or concerns, “Well, shouldn’t, I do client work at my most creative time?” Not necessarily because there’s a part of your brain that your creative-mode brain isn’t necessarily a mode that you need to interact with people in it’s more of, I don’t want to say an introverted-mode, but it is more of an inward-looking mode.
And then the client work will usually be something where what you’re doing is you’re relying on your empathy, and your sympathy, and your listening skills. And those may be enhanced at a very different time than your creativity is. I would never suggest that you want to short-change your clients. But I find that creative times and client times are usually going to be very different.
And I think one of the things you’re touching on there that’s really important is, when I am working with a client, even though I’m the one who is showing up as the guide, the coach, and the helper, the energy that we experience there is a co-creation. So it’s a really radical, different type of energy. It’s an engagement; it’s exchange. Where when I’m writing, it’s reflective. Most of the stuff I create, I create by myself. And those are really different head and emotional spaces for me. And one’s not better than the other. It’s just applying the tool that is my energy in the exact right way.
Managing Emergencies and Procrastination with Projects and Tasks
So, let’s move into emergencies and procrastination. Because when I talk to people about time and task management – and Gene, we have taught this more times than I can count together – a lot of the resistance, or the challenge, of the fear around this comes up. “Well, what do I do when emergencies come up?” Or, “What do I do when I just,… you know, I seem to be procrastinating this.” And as I said, we’ll talk more about mindset in the next episode, but I really love the example that you give about the difference between a project and a task. So, can you share that example?
Absolutely. So when I am looking at my to-do list, on a subconscious level, I am not going to want to start a task that it doesn’t feel like I can finish. Like if you told me right now that I had to run 37 miles this afternoon, I would not put on my running shoes because I know the physical state that I am in, I’m not going to complete 37 miles, so I resist even starting the task. And so if I have something that’s on my to-do list that takes more time than the amount of time that I have, then energetically, I’m just not going to start because I don’t want to fail at doing that thing. And the biggest way that we do that is, we put things that are projects (things that are too big on our to-do list to be done in a single step).
And the example that you were talking about is the one from last month, which is setting up the Christmas tree. Now, I could put, set up the Christmas tree on my to-do list, but in actuality, there are multiple steps to that. There is: Get the tree out of the garage; there is, get the ornaments out of the attic; there’s, move the furniture in the living room out of the way in vacuuming so I can put the tree up; there’s setting up the tree; there’s putting the lights on the tree; there’s putting the ornaments on the tree. And so, if I take “set up the Christmas tree” and then put a bunch of bullets underneath it on my to-do list, which are, “get those various things done, clean up, and set up in those various steps,” then I might have 15 minutes where it’s like, “Oh, I can do two or three of these steps right now,” and so I’m more emotionally engaged with that because the tasks that I have listed on there are things that I can do.
And so, if you’re in a circumstance where you have things that have multiple steps to them, that have been sitting on your to-do list for multiple days in a row, more than likely you have a project that is listed on there and not a task. Now, as you do this in the beginning, more than likely you might actually put too many tasks down because you’re breaking it down too fine. And as you do that, you’ll start to discover, “Oh, I always do these three or four things at the exact same time. I can list that as a single step. I’m never going to do them separately.” And so it becomes a skill that we learn how to break that down. But by thinking in this way, you put yourself in a position where it’s like, “Okay, I have a short period of time. There are a couple of things that I can get off of my list that helped me to move forward towards my goals.”
And one of the ways that I see this show up for people in business is, they’ll put on an hour or two hour task like “Work on my book.” Or, “Work on my High-Ticket Signature System,” and you’re not going to work on your High-Ticket Signature System for two hours. What you might do is, “Outline chapter one,” or “Come up with names for all five modules,” or “Create an outline for one of the modules or milestones in my Signature System,” so that you’re doing a fairly specific task during that period of time. And as you said, Gene, that’s going to enhance your willingness to do it and your lack of procrastination for it. It also helps you create a scope – which is a strategic way of looking at time and task management – it helps you create a scope for this project.
The other thing that it does (and this is just a fun, little psychological game that I like playing with myself), is by having lots of things in my to-do list that I get to cross off, I get that good little endorphin rush of crossing that thing off of my to-do list, which really creates a sense of momentum throughout my day. So much so, I am guilty of doing a task that is not on my to-do list, and then I’ll go add it to my to-do list just so I can cross it off so that I can get myself in a position where I’m actually getting the opportunity to see “Yes, I’m being successful,” “Yes, I’m moving forward in this way.” And so, by breaking these things down into these discrete parts, I’m getting an honest accounting of what today looks like. And because I have an honest accounting of what today looks like, it’s easier for me to engage with that sense of momentum because, you know, I am one of those people that when I’m doing something it’s easy to do the next thing, because I did the last thing well, and it’s helping me to build that momentum throughout my day to be successful.
Right. And why I call this a simple system that reduces emergencies and procrastination is, I believe, that once you’ve got your projects broken down into tasks, it’s much easier to see that emergency (something that keeps you from working on something) has only prevented you from doing one part and that part can be rescheduled. So, I believe that it reduces the stress around emergencies, and it also reduces procrastination.
Idea Capture and Task Tracking
So, now let’s go into those two bonus ideas: idea capture and task tracking. So, with ‘idea capture’ (and I think you and I do this a little bit of a different way), I’ve got a number of different places that I keep ideas and then I consolidate them later. How do you do this, Gene?
So, I do it two ways. If I’m capturing ideas – and these could be ideas for content tasks that I need to do, people I need to reach out to – if I am not sitting at my desk, the way that I do it is, I send myself an email. Because very rarely am I more than an arms distance away from my cell phone. So, I just quickly fire up an email, put it in the subject line, and, like you, when I sit down at my desk the next day, I consolidate those things. When I am sitting at my desk, it is right here, I’m touching them with my right hand, I have a giant stack of note cards. And every single time an idea of some sort pops up during the day, same type thing, I just capture it on a card. I make sure I put as much information as I can. I make sure I write clearly, because I hate being in a circumstance where three hours later, I’m like, “What did I mean by vanilla cucumber?” And so, I want to put myself in a position where it’s easy for me to access those things. And then at the end of the day, I take all of those things and I move them into lists of content, people I need to reach out to, marketing ideas, and I capture them. Because if I don’t, my brain thinks it’s really good idea and it holds onto it really tightly, which doesn’t give me the space and capacity to do what’s in front of me at this moment.
Right. I kind of went into this whole idea of idea capture with the assumption that people would know why it’s a good idea. And I should probably backtrack a little. If you have an idea and you try to hold it in your head, one of two things will happen: either you will lose your focus for the activity that you’re supposed to be doing, or you will forget the idea and that will frustrate you later. So, idea capture is just a way of allowing you to release an idea from your mind because it’s recorded somewhere – digitally, on a note card, whatever.
Pamela, it’s the reason why I call my pile of note cards “my external hard drive.” It’s because I’m freeing up the processing power of my brain and I’m just moving that data to that external hard drive that I’m going to access later.
Exactly. The last concept that we wanted to talk about was task tracking, which sounds like you’re examining your tasks, but it’s not examining your tasks as much as it is pre-scheduling your tasks. So, if something you know has to be done every so often – whether it’s once a month, once a year, once a week – you put it on the same time and the same place in your life, every single week, every single month, every single year. And you’ve got a couple of great examples of this, Gene.
Yeah. So, I have some daily tasks, I have some Monday tasks, I have some first-of-the-month tasks, and it really helps me frame what is going on. You know, the beginning of my week tasks are just looking at a high-level of what’s going on in my business and making sure I have everything in place to be successful over the course of the week. My beginning of the day tasks are talking about exactly what we talked about earlier, which is making sure on my to-do list I have tasks and I don’t have projects. So, I do some mindset stuff with my to-do list, which I’m sure we’re going to talk about next week when we do the mindset piece.
But strategically one of the questions I ask myself every single morning is making sure, “Do I have these things structured in that particular way?” And then I also, as part of my business, I do a lot of content marketing, which means that I produce a podcast regularly, I produce articles regularly, I produce newsletters regularly. And so since those things always come out on the exact same day, I have due dates for myself and I have due dates for my editor, and I know in that publication calendar where everything fits in. So that when it’s a Friday, I know that I need to have everything done and sent off to my editor, so when I get back on Monday, I’m ready to start having my team put things on my website and things like that after they’ve been edited over the week.
Unless this sounds overwhelming as you’re listening to Gene talk about it. It is something that you can use technology to help you with. If you set a reminder in your calendar saying, “Every Friday, put this appointment on,” or the first of every month, “Remind me of this.” You can use technology to really help you get that set up.
And for me, Pamela, anything that happens once a year (at least once a year, and some things happen daily), but if it happens at least once a year, it gets a reminder in my calendar. Just so that I can just set it and forget it, and when it comes up, I can integrate it into my to-do list. But things like taxes, reading certain books, reaching out to people on their birthday, and stuff like that, it’s just easier for me to just have the technology to tell me what to do.
Yeah. I can see that, that can create a lot of relaxation and really open up your creativity. All right. Awesome stuff.
Well, great. So, today we have talked about lots of really productive ways for you to structure your time and to be more effective. But there’s a completely different question we need to be asking as well, and that’s making sure, “Am I doing the right tasks to move my business forward and to be successful so I can have the impact that I want in the world?” If you’re in a situation where you can see how you can structure your time better, but you’re still struggling with, “What are the best actions I need to be taking to have the impact I want with my business?” we really encourage you to reach out. We’re offering free coaching calls with our coaches. All you need to do is go to BookMyBreakthroughCall.com, that’s BookMyBreakthroughCall.com. Get on the calendar of one of our coaches so you can have a conversation, not only about how to do the tasks more effectively, but also how to make sure you’re leveraging your time by doing the tasks that really make the most sense for you and your business.
If you enjoyed the conversation today, I’d really encourage you to come back next week, because we’re going to take this into the mindset arena of doing work. And, I’d encourage you to think of someone in your life right now who could use the conversation that we’re talking about. I’m sure you know, someone who’s frustrated with the fact that they’re not being as productive as they’d like, and the tips and tools that we talked about today might be the perfect thing for them. If you haven’t done so, we’d also encourage you to subscribe to the show. ‘Subscribe’ in podcasting is always free. You can subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, Audible, everywhere you get audio. All you need to do is search for ‘A Profitable Impact,’ that’s ‘A Profitable Impact.’ Click Subscribe, click Follow, and turn on the Notifications, so every single time a new piece of content comes out, you don’t miss it. If you have a question, a comment, a topic you’d like us to talk about in the future on how you can be more successful and more impactful in your business, please reach out. If you go to AttractClientsOnline.com and click on the Contact link, that’s AttractClientsOnline.com, drop us a note. Thanks for joining us. And until next time, I hope you have an impactful week.
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