If nobody has said it yet, shame on them. Ian Lurie is a content marketing genius. The founder and owner of Portent, Ian is an extremely insightful business owner and a time management wizard. On top of that, he’s an innovator, entrepreneur, and fellow gamer. Really, I just can’t say enough about how awesome he is. This past spring, Ian teamed up with Moz and created an extremely informative webinar, entitled Time Management, 2.0, where he provided amazing tips, insights, and tools on ways to better manage your time.
As a business owner, I can relate to so many examples he gave about interruptions costing valuable time, having disorganized tasks floating around in your head, and frankly just feeling like you’re spinning your wheels and overwhelmed with tasks. For time’s sake, let’s get down to these helpful tips.
1) Projects, milestones and tasks, oh my!
A significant theme in Ian’s webinar was identifying projects, milestones, and tasks in order to perfect your time management skills. Projects are major objectives, milestones change the status of something else in the project, and tasks are the basic units of productive time that may or may not be related to a given project. A simple example is as follows:
1. Project – Publish an e-book.
2. Milestone – Deliver first draft to editor next month, complete revision two weeks after receiving feedback from editing, etc.
3. Tasks – Research topics, create outline of chapter one, outline chapter two, etc.
Earlier this year, PC Mag provided its list of the top five free task management systems, which included Remember the Milk, Wunderlist, and Google Tasks. Although I currently prefer a legal pad, Ian suggested managing your list with todo.txt, which is accessible on multiple devices and practically future-proof (unlike PC Mag’s recommendations).
2) Handle 80% of tasks in 20% of the time
Personally, I’m still working to perfect this one myself, but it’s a great mantra isn’t it? Exactly how to do this takes different forms depending on your business and responsibilities, but Ian points out the importance of doing a “sweep” every day of what your identified projects, milestones, and tasks are. By doing so, you can easily identify the most challenging or involved and power through it to get to everything else.
3) If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now.
Honestly, the simplicity of this statement (and the realization that it never occurred to me) made me feel silly. Then I started thinking about things that take less than two minutes to complete (generally), and came up with a list of my own. Here are just a few: schedule an appointment, check email, pay a bill online, organize a drawer, sort mail, send a text, check social media feeds, etc. Once a task goes over two minutes, according to Ian, add it to your list.
4) Work in sprints.
For me, this has been an extremely helpful way to achieve personal discipline. We can all get burned out. When that happens, we get distracted – a lot. Working in sprints is a great way to get focused while providing the opportunity for much-needed breaks. I’ve found a good balance working 45 minutes with a 10 minute break, but Ian points out your sprints can be longer or shorter. An easy way to keep track of your time is to set your phone timer or an egg timer. If you’re more tech-savvy than I am, you can use online tools like Toggl or Workflowy.
5) Eliminate interruptions.
A big part of managing your time is controlling what you can control. Interruptions cost time and create a significant distraction from identified tasks. As Ian pointed out, interruptions last beyond your actual encounter as it will take 5-10 minutes to get back in the groove. Believe it or not, most interruptions can be controlled. Consider setting up a system and communicating it to employees, which will easily designate whether or not you are available for questions. Carve out certain times during the day when you’re available and communicate these times with your team.
6) Don’t try to remember everything.
As a writer, I receive much-appreciated feedback from the team at CEM. Although I receive feedback piece by piece, I add it to a “compiled” feedback list, which is categorized by subject. This way, I can refer to it when needed without searching through email. Ian does something similar, where he keeps a notebook on Evernote for questions and answers, which keeps the information handy the next time an issue crops up. Limiting the amount of information in your head will help increase your focus and save time. Struggling to remember multiple passwords is frustrating and a waste of time. Ian suggested 1Password, which creates unique passwords for sites you specify and stores them on your behalf. Personally, I use an encrypted excel file stored on a flash drive, but admittedly Ian’s way seems more efficient.
7) Say goodbye to the mouse.
Well, not entirely, but close. Ian stresses the importance of using your mouse less which can save you a significant amount of time when all is said and done. By learning your email provider’s shortcuts and shortcuts for office software, small amounts of time are lopped off each task. Using a mouse wastes even more time when we need to find websites. Ian uses tools like Text Expander (for MAC) or Texter (for Windows), which allows the user to assign short keys to different websites. This way, one or two key strokes take you to your desired destination.
It’s Worth the Time
Content Marketing Institute recently reported that “lack of time” has become the top concern for content marketers, with 57% of content marketers reporting this barrier. Honing your time management skills with Ian’s brilliant tips can help ensure your business doesn’t become a part of this percentage.
Do you have any time saving tips to share?
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