All posts by Choncé Maddox

Scheduling Self Care When Working From Home

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Scheduling Self Care When Working From Home

Even though many people have already been working from home since before the pandemic began, these past two years have increased the need for remote and flexible work. Gallup’s May 2021 study says that 7 in 10 U.S white-collar workers are still working remotely. In that same study, it was concluded that 4 in 10 white-collar employees prefer the option of working remotely. As remote working numbers increase, the habit of scheduling self-care becomes more and more crucial.

Mental health is a big part of that because working from home can bring a lack of socialization that most people had previously to our words being turned upside down in early 2020. Working from home may seem like it’s better for your work-life balance on the surface. However, it can also blur the lines of work and personal time way to easily.

If you still want to prioritize yourself while working from home, here are some top tips for scheduling self-care.

Commit to a Schedule That Honors Self-Care

Scheduling self-care all starts with creating a daily routine and calendar that leaves room for prioritizing yourself. Create your ideal daily schedule including time you spend working and having meetings, along with time spent on household tasks. Then, be sure to work in breaks and room for self-care as needed.

Define what self-care means to you and add it to your daily calendar so you’re never lacking it. When you work from home, staying active and healthy can easily be scheduled around meetings throughout the day especially if you are in control of what goes on your calendar. Some assignments can be mentally tasking so instead of jumping right to the next task getting a walk around your neighborhood or other exercises in can be great for both you and the next coworker or client you interact with.

Start Your Day With a Healthy Breakfast

A healthy breakfast has been recommended ever since many of us were young and in school. Don’t turn away from this principle now that you’re an adult and working from home. Eating a healthy breakfast is one of the best ways to replenish your body after receiving 8 hours of sleep.

Better Health calls breakfast the most important meal of the day. It replenishes your glucose to help boost your energy and alertness. According to WebMD many studies have pointed eating a healthy breakfast to better memory and concentration which are key ingredients to a successful workday. They also mention the low blood sugar in your body when you wake up and how important breakfast is to replenish it. Some of those items that give you those essential vitamins and nutrients are grains, dairy, and fruits.

Get Up Early

Getting up early could be your ticket to a productive day. Scheduling self-care can be as simple as making sure you get 8 hours of sleep each night. Your body needs time to rest and recover from all you do each day. The key is to make sure you get to bed around 8 hours before you plan to wake up.

Setting yourself up to wake up earlier will also give you more opportunities to practice self-care and adopt a better routine. You could work in 30 minutes of exercise or 10 minutes of meditation which can go a long way in helping keep you focused and feeling great throughout the workday. Or, you could journal, read, or do something that fills your cup during the day. These tasks are just a few of the many that you can use to shift your mindset before starting work or even throughout the day as you schedule self-care.

Schedule a Hard Stop Each Day

Starting your day on the right foot is important, but so is ending it as well. I have heard of plenty of stories when people are noticing work emails come in and out late into the night. It doesn’t have to be like that. Don’t put your brain through that. Find a time that you want to call it quits for the day and make that happen. It’s easy to want to work all hours of the day if you work from home. That’s not something you did when you worked in the office though.

You may not be able to actually ‘clock out’ and head home as you finish your workday. However, you can schedule a time when you can turn off your notifications until the next workday. Those emails and calls can be a distraction that isn’t healthy. We shouldn’t have to worry about work every minute of the day. Working from home should also include taking time for you and your families.

Be Intentional About Rest and Play

Take advantage of the opportunity to work from home. If your schedule allows, get a change of scenery and work from a coffee shop one day. A different place to work might give you just the boost you need to get a big project or task done.

Sometimes, being at home can be a distraction so getting out to somewhere that can help you be more productive can make both your boss and clients happier. Get out and spend time with friends and family for lunch. What better way to promote self-care and socializing than getting together with loved ones?

Create your schedule so you have time to do something relaxing like go get a massage or attend group class and interact with others. People who work during the day don’t have this opportunity so you might get lucky enough to schedule self-care that would be more challenging to obtain if you worked a 9 to 5 job in the office.

Plan to Get Dressed for the Day

Getting out of your pajamas and into clothes for the day can help signal that it’s time to get into work mode. This is part of your morning routine that doesn’t have to change. Getting cleaned up and putting on a new set of clothes can be the simplest but also very effective way to practice self-care. It can act as a mental shift that it’s time to get serious and start getting work done.

Be sure to simplify and plan out what you’ll wear each week in advance. That way, you can get dressed each day with ease while working from home.

Summary

Working from home is the norm for many across the nation. While working from home can seem flexible and freeing on the surface, it can also add to your stress levels and deter your self-care efforts. The best way to combat this is to prioritize scheduling self-care.

Set self-care goals, and prioritize your schedule. Make the boundaries clear early on and get a schedule in place so you’re not working up until bedtime. These tips along with the many others we mentioned will play a big part in making sure your self-care is included in your workday.

Scheduling Kids Activities as a Working Parent

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Scheduling Kids Activities as a Working Parent

Being a working parent can make your life extremely busy by itself. That’s not even including scheduling kid’s activities in as well. With students back in school and fun activities now more of an option, it’s only natural that kids will want to do more, and as a parent, this will fill your weekly schedule. However, kids can thrive in these activities and learn so much. They keep children busy and are also a great way to meet new friends.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by scheduling kid’s activities, the key is to establish a routine and start working these after-school activities into your current schedule.

Here are a few ways to help carve out the time and energy for the kid’s activities as a working parent while still balancing and finishing work in other areas of your life.

Specify Your Daily Schedule First

The great thing about scheduling kid’s activities is that you’re in charge of which days and times you sign up for. So be sure to look at your current Calendar first to see when the best time would be to add an activity. Now, you may not be able to fully control precisely when practices or meetings are, but knowing when you’d have free time can help you narrow down the best kid’s activities for the current season you’re in.

Establish a Good Routine Post Work 

Once you have your schedule settled in, a crucial aspect is establishing a good routine once you’re out of work. Your routine is key because if you don’t get tasks done between getting home and bringing your child to a program, you’ll be in bad shape.

Go in with a game plan and use that time block between work to schedule important prep tasks. For example, your game plan could include preparing dinner, household chores, or errands. If you have other kids around the home, assign them a household chore as well and get organized.

If your partner is home around the same time and can help too, that’s even better. Divide and conquer. You can also intentionally schedule fewer things on activity days. By narrowing down your schedule and keeping a detailed calendar, you can prepare by having dinner cooked in advance or ordering out on busy days. You can also have your kids do their chores the night before to clean the house or postpone errands to a less busy day.

Utilize After-School Transportation

If your child is doing an after-school activity and transportation is provided, be sure to take advantage of that. For example, if basketball practice runs directly after school until 5 pm, this can give you more time to finish up work tasks and take care of other responsibilities. In addition, joining activities through the school means your child doesn’t have to leave campus, and there may even be transportation options afterward.

If transportation is an issue, see if you can team up with another parent and carpool. For example, assign a day or two where you can pick up your child and a friend from their activity and another day where the other parent can take over that responsibility.

Limit Activities and Consolidate Other Tasks

Avoid overwhelming yourself with too many activities. No parent wants to be running around across town every afternoon. Know your schedule and limit yourself to maybe one-weekday activity and one-weekend activity. Or, alternate if you have a few kids. For example, one child could do an activity in the fall while another child does an activity in the winter or spring.

In addition to limiting activities, try to consolidating other tasks to free up more time. One example is to prepare simple dinners on activity days. Whether it be 15-minute meals, crockpot meals, or grab-and-go options, these are just a few of the ways to consolidate dinner and make it easier to get back out the door.  For those dinners using plastic, utensils can help you avoid a pile-up in your kitchen sink. Be sure to stock up on paper plates, cups, forks, and spoons. That way, you are filling up the garbage can instead of the dishwasher or kitchen sink.

If your kids have study hall at school, encourage them to do homework during that time or stay after class one day of the week for tutoring from the teacher. Having children manage homework directly at school can limit time spent doing homework at home and clear their schedule for an activity. In addition, I have found that managing homework in a more business-like manager can help teach and prepare kids for working in an office.

Order things online to save time spent at the store and consider using local grocery pick-up options. As a family, you can also deep clean your home once a week or hire someone to do it, so all you have to do is maintain it during the weekdays.

Use Your Calendar!

Another way to get or stay on track is by utilizing your Calendar every day. It may sound like a small part, but this is one of the most important. Life is busy, and things can get skipped or forgotten. So you shouldn’t set an expectation for yourself to remember every little thing and keep every little appointment.

If you have everything on your Calendar, then you should be in a good place. Calendar makes it easy to schedule out your days that way, you can turn your attention to the things that matter. Calendar strives to help you organize your schedule. One tool is the smart scheduling link which enables you to avoid the back and forth emailing to schedule meetings with other people.

It’s also easy to add any events on Calendar, and you can even connect calendars that sync with Outlook and Google. But, of course, the other benefit to syncing these calenders is having everything in one place, so you know what time slots you have open and what days are your busier ones.

Summary 

Scheduling kid’s activities as a working parent and maintaining your sanity is possible. Work is essential; we all need to make money to take care of everyday expenses.

Working as a team with coworkers — and working as a team, especially in your own home is essential. But, as always, staying organized is your key to success.

Try to make time to allow after-school activities for your children. The reality of after-school activities for our children can make all the difference to their success when they enter the adult world.

Please take some steps to make your child’s world a great place to come from — and remember. Hopefully, these steps can help you make it all work.

Moving? Make it Easier With an Online Calendar

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Moving? Make It Easier With an Online Calendar

Moving to a new city can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. It can also be a logistical nightmare if you’re not prepared for the challenge. There’s no need to make moving harder than it already is. You will likely. move many times in your life for a variety of reasons. Learn how to make the best of the moving process.

To make moving as easy as possible, leverage your online calendar. This wonderful time management tool will help you break down the project at hand, so it’s more easily managed. Check out these 7 online calendar tips for your upcoming move:

Go on a Shopping Trip

What kind of materials do you need to accomplish your move? In most cases, this means acquiring an absurd number of boxes and bags to store your belongings. However, if you don’t have enough, make a trip to get everything you need.

An online calendar can help you plan the most efficient shopping trip ever. Track the best times to miss crowds and traffic, and organize your to-buy list, so you don’t forget a thing.

Hold a Yard Sale

Getting rid of some clutter makes packing up a lot more manageable. Of course, you could throw some stuff away, but you might as well try and land some extra cash by holding a yard sale. Use your online calendar to plan your sale days in advance, leaving enough time to advertise it to the community.

For anything you’re unable to sell, consider donating it to a local charity. This will be one final act of goodwill before you pack up and leave the place you’ve called home for so long. If you have family and close friends around, you can send some gifts to them as well. Many young families will jump at hand-me-down clothes or baby toys.

Organize Your Packing

Once your move is in the works, you’ll need to start packing up your belongings. This will take a lot of time, and isn’t a task you want to put off until the last minute. To ensure it’s all done promptly, organize your efforts with an online calendar.

With this planning tool, you can set aside time every day to chip away at your packing. This way, you can log continuous progress up until the day of the move. Then, stick to your packing schedule, and there will be little to do once that day arrives, saving you a lot of stress and headache.

To further organize your packing, you can break down your time and where you concentrate your efforts. Your schedule can look a little something like this:

  • Monday – Pack any kitchen appliances and dishes you won’t be needing
  • Tuesday – Clear out and box up storage closets and bathroom cupboards
  • Wednesday – Pack the basement and deep clean
  • Thursday – Bubble wrap and box up pictures, wall decor, memory albums, books, and any fragile household items
  • Friday – Pack up guest and laundry rooms as deep clean

Of course, the days and tasks are totally up to you. The important thing here is that focusing on singular tasks will help you be more effective than just chipping away at random little things.

Plan the Trip

Does your move include a cross-country drive hauling a trailer of belongings? If you don’t have the necessary moving equipment, you’ll need to rent some. Moving companies typically charge by the day, so planning an efficient trip can prevent the costs from piling up.

Your online calendar will not only make your drive more efficient but more enjoyable as well. Plan hotel stays and stopping points along your drive, and you’ll make the trip in a timely manner. This will help you get some needed rest and make memories along the way.

Enlist Some Help

On the day your moving truck arrives, there will be a lot of packing and lifting to be done. To get this done as quickly as possible, you can enlist the help of family, friends, and neighbors.

To organize volunteering efforts, make an event in your online calendar. You can share this event with others to collect RSVPs and get all of the work done in a single time period. This will get all hands on deck to complete the project instead of a little bit of help trickling in here and there. You might even whip up a batch of cookies the night before to thank your helpers.

Execute Your Arrival

The move doesn’t end when you arrive at your destination. There will be just as much unpacking to do as there was packing. Everything you did to depart will need to be replicated for your arrival.

You can plan these efforts the same way you organized your leaving. Enlist help, have cleaning supplies handy, set time for unboxing, and make a plan to follow in your online calendar. This will help make it less of a chore and allow you to better settle into your new home.

Get Familiar With Your New Home

Unless you’re moving back to a previous residence, there will be a lot of unknowns in your new hometown. You will need to get familiarized with key locations such as gas stations, schools, and grocery stores. You’ll also be interested in hitting up local sites like movie theaters and parks for entertainment.

Schedule times to hit the town in your online calendar. This way, you can see as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. In addition, the more comfortable you get with your new surroundings, the sooner you can call it home.

Leaving one place in favor of another is a challenge in itself. There are so many things to get accustomed to, and the difficulty of moving shouldn’t stop you from making the transition as positive as possible. Use these tips and your online calendar to make moving a cinch, and get down to business in your new home.

How 15-Minute Meetings Can Keep Freelancers and Solopreneurs on Track

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How 15-Minute Meetings Can Keep Freelancers and Solopreneurs on Track

We’ve all probably heard that meetings may not be best for productivity. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that 65% of the senior managers they interviewed said that meetings kept them from completing their own work.

While most people can agree that poorly-run unproductive meetings can be a waste of time, I’d argue that short, focused, and intentional meetings can be very effective. With virtual meeting technology advancing, shorter meetings will save time and are proven to help most workers become more productive.

If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur working from home, short 15-minute meetings can help you too. Here’s how and why you should consider giving meetings another chance if you’re still struggling with productivity, efficiency, and overall focus during your workweek.

15-Minute Meetings Can Be Great Braindump and Planning Sessions

I’m a very type A person and a planner, but sometimes taking too long to plan something out results in a major delay in terms of what I’m able to produce. I’ve found that short 15-minute meetings are great opportunities for me to brainstorm and plan with clients and other team members.

If you’re a freelancer with a client who is planning a big project, short meetings can help you set deadlines, divvy up responsibilities and go in with a game plan. Plus, it can eliminate lots of long email chains that could result in you missing out on some important information.

As someone who’s also a solopreneur, I run my own financial education company and hop on short meetings with companies and other clients to discuss speaking opportunities, upcoming content, and more. Even if the meeting is short, it’s important to have a clear agenda and desired outcome so you can stay focused and leave the meeting with more clarity and direction than what you had coming in.

Get to Know Your Clients Better

Working from home has its perks, but the constant isolation can be a real disservice to your business and mental health. Brief 15-minute meetings can also be a great way to get to know your clients better and humanize yourself as well as the other people you send emails to regularly.

As a freelance writer, I find that it can be so easy to just get lost in the shuffle with some of my editors. Whenever I get a new editor, I like to go the extra mile and propose a quick call or meeting to learn a little more about them, their goals for content, and the ways that I can help. This helps me avoid becoming just another email address that could be easy to forget when sending out writing assignments for the month.

While I don’t think it’s necessary to have virtual happy hours with your clients each week, sometimes jumping on a quick call to ask a question or gain clarity can be helpful and allow you to build a better professional relationship with the people you work with.

Short Meetings Help You Get on the Same Page With Team Members

If you work with larger teams, short 15-minute check-in meetings can be a great way to make sure you get on the same page. Plus, again, it allows you to feel like you’re part of an actual team or community when working from home. I have one client who likes to have monthly meetings and while they’re effective, they don’t last too long.

It just opens up the floor to share any new announcements, check in with deadlines and make sure that everyone is on the same page with the workflow. Sometimes, if there’s not much to discuss, the meetings don’t last for longer than 10 minutes.

As a solopreneur, I also hire a few virtual assistants so I can delegate tasks. Over time I noticed that one of my VAs was often late turning things in or would message me during times when I wasn’t working and it slowed down a lot of my processes. I didn’t want to delay certain projects due to a lack of timely communication so we decided to start having weekly or bi-weekly 15-minute check-in meetings.

This allowed us to touch base, adjust deadlines, discuss questions and become more efficient with the workflow overall. After committing to regular quick meetings, I noticed an uptick in productivity for both of us all around and more tasks were able to get accomplished. This also helped me get more value for the money I was paying to outsource as well.

It’s Easy to Schedule and Automate Short Meetings

Almost everyone has a 15-minute time block available in their daily schedule. This means it will be much easier for you to propose a short meeting to clients and team members in order to boost productivity. People don’t want to lose an hour of work for an unproductive meeting – and luckily they don’t have to.

Schedule your 15-minute meetings through your online calendar and even consider recording them so people can review them later if needed. So long as you record audio from a meeting, you can even get this audio transcribed so it can be even easier for team members to digest if they need to catch up and stay in the loop.

Summary

Fifteen minutes can really fly by, but it has been so helpful in several areas of my business. If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, realize that short and intentional meetings can really help boost your productivity and help you stay accountable for certain deadlines and goals.

Have you tried 15-minute meetings in your business yet? Why or why not?

Small Business Owners and Social Media: How Much Time to Spend Online

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Small Business Owners and Social Media: How Much Time to Spend Online

Are you running a small business or offering freelance services? One thing you’ve probably heard by now is to establish a strong social media presence and start marketing yourself online.

It’s true, many entrepreneurs have been able to make a name for themselves and grow their customers and client list by effectively utilizing social media. Social media is free, but it can also cost you quite a bit in terms of your time. Social media was designed to help people connect online, but its algorithms today are often geared toward keeping people scrolling mindlessly all day long. So how much time should small business owners spend on social media truly?

Are you spending too much or not enough time on social platforms or do you even need social media at all? Here’s how to consider the right amount of social media for you.

Setting Social Media Goals

If you’re going to get on social media for your small business, it’s important to set clear goals that you’d like to achieve as a result. For example, most people just go online to see what they can find or gain some new followers. However, you’ll need to get more specific than that if you want to make the most of your time.

Do you want to post 5 promotions per month for your products or services? Do you want to gain 500 followers organically during the first 90 days? Is your goal to build yourself up as an authority figure and lead people back to your website to do business with you?

Narrow down what your true goals for social media are and how they contribute to the success of your business. Having a clear focus can help you eliminate time wasted browsing on social media or getting stumped on what to share.

Decide Which Platform You’ll Start On

I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t try to be on every social media platform if it doesn’t serve a purpose for your business. If you’re selling clothes, you may not find a ton of value on Twitter but find that Instagram helps you communicate with your target audience.

Look at the type of business you have and the services you offer. See how certain social media platforms might fit in with your offering and goals is key. If you’re wondering how much time small business owners already spend on social media, a Vertical Response survey indicated that 43% spend 6 hours per week on social media marketing.

If this fits in with your schedule then great, if not or you find you’re spending a ton of hours on social media, try to limit the numbers of platforms you’re on to only the ones that serve you best.

Allow Extra Time to Implement a Launch Plan

Realize that actually getting established on social media may take up more time than maintaining your profile and scheduling posts. Allow extra room in your schedule to complete and optimize your social media profile(s) and create some cohesive branding.

For Facebook, you may want to create an offer or make sure your phone number and address are added to your page details. For Instagram, you may want to create a bio link that leads to some of your top content, advice, or service pages on your website. With Pinterest, you’ll have to set aside time to create images for your content and write all your board descriptions.

That said, small business owners may spend much more time on social media in the beginning stages until an effective strategy is determined.

Spend Less Time With a Social Media Strategy

So now you know the good is that you don’t have to spend more than 1 hour per day on social media if you don’t want to. Yet, you can still get some great results from having a social presence. Small business owners don’t even have to get on social media each day if it’s not the main driver of profit for the business.

Instead, develop a proven strategy based on your goals and what works. Find out who your ideal follower or customer is and what they’d like to see on your social profile. Track analytics to see how much traffic or business you’re already getting from social media, then make tweaks and test out new strategies.

One thing I enjoy doing to save time is scheduling out my posts on social media in advance. This helps me stay active on the platform and continue to provide value to others without spending too much unnecessary time on social media.

Allocate Time Fairly Among Other Marketing Efforts

Small business owners and social media can be a great mix but realize that social media is often just one aspect of a marketing plan. Sure, adding social media to your marketing tasks may help you save money, but you should always diversify your marketing and test out other strategies.

If you’re marketing in several places, you won’t be limiting yourself to certain clients or customers who will find your business another way. Take email marketing for example. Some people are actually more responsive to emails than they are on social media. In fact, email marketing converts better for some business genres and unlike social media, you actually own your list and can’t get kicked off the platform.

Summary: Small Business and Social Media

In summary, I wouldn’t spend too much time on social media unless it’s returning sizeable profits for your business. Even 5 hours per week is 260 hours per year. If you calculate the value social media has added to your business, you’ll have to determine if that time is worth it to you. I would ramp up social media efforts as business leads and profits grow as a result, but get clear on your goals and narrow down a specific strategy first.

Find ways to work smart while establishing your social presence and don’t neglect other forms of marketing as well.

What’s Your Most Productive Work Time? Here’s How You Can Find Out

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Should You Offer Unlimited Vacation Time?

Whether you call them your golden hours or peak work times, or biological prime times, these are when we have the most concentration and energy. As such, we shouldn’t waste these hours. Instead, we should spend them on our most important and challenging tasks. But, before we get there, we first need to identify when you’re actually the most productive.

The most productive hour, day, week, and month of the year.

You likely already know when your most productive time is. For example, I’m a morning person, and wake-up at 5:15 am every day. Because of this, I’m more alert in the A.M. But, I also have also worked with people who are night owls, and forcing themselves to wake-up as early as I do would be counterproductive.

However, after analyzing 1.8 million projects and 28 million tasks gathered from Priceonomics customer Redbooth, says that the most productive time of year is at 11 am on a Monday in October.

That timeframe is extremely specific, but they also found “that most people don’t really get going until 7 am (a typical start time). The study shows that after 5 pm (typical finish time), work quickly tapers.”

However, the “percentage of tasks completed (9.7%) peaks at 11 am — just before the typical person takes lunch.” The data has shown that productivity takes a hit between 11 am and 1 pm, “and after 1 pm, productivity never quite returns to its peak.”

“The highest percentage of tasks (20.4%) are completed on everyone’s favorite day of the week: Monday,” Priceonomics reveals. “Tuesday (20.2%) is just behind — and after that task completion perfectly tapers off as the days progress toward the weekend.” Fridays are “nearly 20% less productive than Monday.”

“We complete far more tasks in the latter months — September (8.8 percent), October (9.5 percent), and November (9 percent) — than in the earlier months,” notes the post. “We only complete 7.2 percent of our yearly tasks in January,” The reason?

Priceconmics suspects that it “maybe because the early year is typically for setting goals, not completing them — and as we near year’s end, we’re struggling to get everything done.” You have to learn how to work smarter — not harder.

How to find your most productive hours.

Hopefully, the data from Priceconomics can be of use. For example, instead of scheduling a meeting on Monday mornings, you do that on Friday afternoons when most of us aren’t as productive.

But what if you want to find out when you’re most productive? Well, here is a simple process that can help you figure this out.

Choose a time tracking period.

The first step you need to take is to determine when you want to start tracking your time and for how long. Some suggest that you can get away with just tracking your time for a week. But I disagree. The longer you follow your time, the more accurate of a picture you’ll have. Ideally, you should do this for 30 days.

Get the right tools.

You can honestly stay old school and use a pen and paper for this activity. You could also use a notebook or index cards. Other options would be creating a spreadsheet (or this one from Chris Baily) or premade worksheets like the 168 Hours Timesheet.

If you prefer to go digital, you may want to try out time tracking tools. Some of the best available are RescueTime, Clockify, Toggl, or ATracker — and of course, Calendar.

Maintaining your time log.

Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, actually tracking your time.

Jeremy Anderberg writes that there are two necessary frameworks for tracking your time. The first tracking is using the time of day. If you go this route, “you’ll write down your activity for a set chunk of time, say 9–9:15 am. Set a timer for every 15 minutes (at first, at least; it can be longer as you’ve gotten into it), and take a quick second to jot down what you’ve been doing.”

The second is by the task. “With this method, you’ll go about your day and activities as normal, and simply write down what time you change tasks and start something new,” explains Anderberg.

Jeremey suggests that you try both out and see what works best for you. “For my first few days of time-tracking, I did so by the task. I’d write down, to the minute, when I started and stopped doing something and moved on to a new activity.” For him, this helped “figure out how long things actually took, and how my day was naturally being structured

“After that, I went into tracking by time increments, which is more useful for planning purposes, understanding what times of day you’re more likely to waste time, how to structure your breaks, etc.,” he adds. “Another benefit is that when you have a timer to “remind you to write down what you’ve been doing, it re-focuses you if you’ve gotten off track.”

Regardless of which approach you take, there are some essential things to keep in mind:

  • Be honest and consistent.
  • Record your activities in real-time.
  • Note when you start and end an activity, as well as the duration.
  • Be meticulous and include as many details as possible. For instance, instead of just writing done “working,” record the specific thing that you were doing. But, you don’t have to be perfect.
  • Don’t just focus on your workday. Create categories and subcategories for home, family, social, commuting, and health and wellness.
  • Make sure that you write down how you feel for each activity.
  • Leave room for additional notes like what interrupted you or if a task took you longer then expected to complete.

Chris Bailey, the author of “The Productivity Project,” also suggests that you eliminate factors that may affect your productivity, such as caffeine, diet, waking up without an alarm, or staying up too late. He also recommends keeping a log of your energy levels every hour.

After you’ve done this for around month, go ahead, and analyze your data. Pay close attention to patterns — primarily when there’s a surge or dip in focus or energy. For most of us, because of ultradian rhythms, this would be after working for 90 to 120 minutes.

You should also be on the lookout for how much time you’re dedicating to low, medium, or high impact activities and where you can improve. Think about using time tracking — don’t think of it as time policing.

How to create more “peak” hours during the day.

That may seem like a lot to take in. But, after a week or two, tracking your time should become a habit. But, the main takeaway here is that you also listen to your gut. As I’ve said, you probably have a clue when you’re most productive without having to track your time. But, it’s still worth doing to see what exactly you’re doing and spending your time.

Knowing this, you can then use your “peak” hours more wisely. For me, I’m ready to tackle the day before 8 am. So, I block out from 8 am to 10 am for the most critical task of the day in my calendar. I then take a 30-minute break and get back to work until noon.

Since my energy may start dropping by then — my afternoons are spent on lower energy tasks like meetings. Then I have a snack later in the afternoon, take a break, get revived, and get going again for several hours.

I’ve also been able to create more “peak” hours in the day by taking care of my health — mainly getting enough REM sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and finding ways to relieve stress like meditating and exercising. The reason? All of these can impact your productivity.

Additionally, I also remove the unnecessary items from my calendar. The easiest way to do this is through delegation or dropping them entirely. It’s an effective way to ensure that you aren’t wasting your golden hours on things that aren’t important.

8 Steps to Planning Digital Content in Less Time

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I’m a planner. I love writing things down and preparing myself for the work week in advance. Still, as a content producer myself, planning website content isn’t always an easy task.

When you do finally force yourself to sit down and start planning content for your website, blog, email list, etc. it can be a very time-consuming process. If the major brain dump method doesn’t work for you either, check out these 8 steps to planning digital content in less time.

Step 1: Use Current Copy as a Foundation

The best place to start is to look at your existing content for your business. Even if it sucks, you have someplace to start. Look at analytics to see which content resonated well with your audience and what didn’t.

For example, if you’ve been getting some great feedback on social media for a particular article, see if you can expand on the subject and plan to produce some follow-up content in the future. Keep a running list of topics whenever you gain inspiration or think of ideas that could be useful. It only takes a few minutes to do this each week and it’s the best way to jumpstart the content creation process.

Step 2: Make Sure You Understand Your Audience

Don’t waste time planning digital content before you get to know your target audience. Interact with them on social media, ask your email list questions, save helpful feedback, and ask your audience to a short market research survey every few months. 

This will help make the content planning and creation process much simpler because you’ll know who your audience is and what they want. Sometimes, I practically drive myself crazy trying to brainstorm content ideas. Ever since I started asking my audience what they wanted to see and listening to their recommendations, the digital content planning process has been pretty painless and quick.

If your audience is telling you multiple things, segment your website visitors into the primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences and determine how you’ll address their needs in future content types.

Step 3: Use a Calendar to Map Everything Out

If you’re planning digital content without a calendar, you’re doing it all wrong. Using a calendar tool can help you stay organized and begin to work ahead.

I like to set up days dedicated to brainstorming, outlining, creating/scheduling, polishing, and promoting. Yes, the content production process is pretty tedious, but having a solid plan laid out in writing can make all the difference.

Coming up with headlines and outlines at this stage is very important. It’s interesting to note that doing this in advance will literally cut a lot of time out of the content creation process and keep you focused so you can finish and release your content more efficiently.

By storing everything on a digital calendar, you can set reminders to hold yourself accountable for meeting specific deadlines and allowing yourself enough time to prepare what you need to complete the content.

Step 4: Work With Others

Ask others to help you research, edit and review when you’re planning digital content. This will save you a ton of time. For example, if you’re writing for search engines or trying to rank some of your web pages, you may want to have someone do SEO research. 

If you’re producing social media copy you may want to have a consult with a social media marketing expert to help you come up with a clear strategy so you don’t waste time making rookie mistakes.

This can be ongoing or just a one-time thing depending on your needs.

Step 5. Storytelling vs ‘Storyselling’

You don’t have to use your website to merely tell your own story. The stories that matter are those of the people who have used your products and services and found them beneficial.

Nobody is interested in knowing how wonderful a business you have. Give your audience results and evidence. The language you use should speak to them. Offer your products as the solution to their products.

One of the easiest ways I work storytelling into my digital content planning process is to simply be authentic. When I experience things or have conversations that I believe could be pivoted into inspiring content for my audience, I add the idea to my content calendar with a date and a brief outline. In less than 2 minutes, I have quality content planned that I can produce quickly.

Step 6. Write For Search Engines and Humans

SEO is important. However, crowding your content with too many keywords can only render it unreadable. Include the keywords as naturally as possible to avoid coming out as a robot. If anything, you don’t have to stick to your specific keywords. Use variations that will still give the same meaning.

As you’re planning your content for the web, it helps to determine a focus keyword ahead of time so you know what to base your content around. I like using the Google Adword Keyword Planner tool because it’s free and easy to use when you’re researching keywords and narrowing them down.

Step 7. Have an Action-Oriented Copy

All of your content should have a goal behind it. It’s likely that you want to help turn readers into leads and paying customers. To do this, you need to make sure you plan out content that has a clear call to action.

This will prompt your audience to do something. This is something I failed to do in the beginning stages when planning content for my business and I regretted it. It’s important to focus on providing value, but you also want to let people know what you want them to do. Is it to call you, email you, or make an online purchase? Show them the step they need to take next. Provide links or email address so that they can find it easy to reply and take action.

Step 8. Make It Visually Appealing

Content and visuals go hand-in-hand. When you’re planning digital content, be sure to include ideas for illustrations, charts, and images to support the text. Alternatively, use testimonials, bulleted lists or larger pull quotes. Divide sections with subheadings and use short paragraphs.

Again, planning all this out on a calendar will help you stay organized and on track. Remember, you don’t have to actually follow through will all of your ideas for content, images, SEO, etc. All you have to do is jot them down and organize them. 

The whole process can be done in under 20 minutes weekly or once a month as a huge content overhaul.

Do you plan out your content at all for your business? If so which one of these steps to you find most valuable?

 

Originally posted here.

Productive Things to do During Downtime

By | Scheduling, Time Management | No Comments
15 Ways To Kick-Start 2021

Even the busiest workers have a noticeable amount of downtime. Yet, there are ways to still accomplish productive things in that downtime. Whether it’s been scheduled or it’s your body’s way of saying “slow down, take a break” downtime during your workday can often be used as an opportunity to tie up loose ends and be productive with low-effort tasks. Here are 5 productive things you can do that make you feel good whenever you find that there’s downtime in your schedule.

Exercise

Exercise has a ton of benefits which is probably why successful people make time to stay active. While I used to find it easy for me to get lost on YouTube to start binging Netflix during my downtime, I started breaking up my day to exercise during the early afternoon slump instead. Exercise will help you stay healthy and keep your mind sharp and motivated to crank out some more great projects during the remainder of the workday. It doesn’t require a huge time commitment either. Even if you only have a few minutes, you can go for a walk around the corner or do a few exercises before starting back up again.

Read

It’s no secret that successful people read. The average millionaire is said to reads two or more books per month. Take the time to read blogs, news sites, fiction, and non-fiction during downtime so you can soak in more knowledge. If you’re often on the go, you may want to try audiobooks or listen to podcasts for fun or to learn about things like personal development, personal finance, or entrepreneurship.

Network

Networking can be valuable when done correctly. It shouldn’t always be your main focus but it’s important to squeeze in time to attend networking events and reach out to other either online or in person. Downtime is the perfect time to do some networking, maintain current relationships or follow up with people you’ve reached out to previously.

Open and Respond to Emails

Checking emails throughout the day can be tempting, but it’s an easy way to waste time and energy. I check and respond to my most important emails when in the morning and toward the end of the workday. I save the rest for small moments of downtime when I just need to do something easy and catch up. Managing emails can definitely become overwhelming if you don’t take time to stay caught up throughout the day. However, this doesn’t mean you have to waste time by checking in every 10 minutes. Focus on what’s important throughout the day, then save the rest for downtime.

Reorganize Your Calendar

Unexpected downtime like a meeting cancellation can be a great time to look at your calendar to make sure you’re on track and even plan for the next day. Planning your days in advance is one of the best ways to stay organized, motivated, and get a lot done. Successful people don’t waste time wondering what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it. They already have a plan scheduled out and ready to execute. If you are experiencing way too much downtime throughout the day, you may want to reorganize your calendar and make sure you’re working efficiently and making the best use of your time.

 

What productive tasks do you do during downtime?


Originally published here.

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