7 OF THE BEST TIME MANAGEMENT TOOLS TO HELP YOU STAY FOCUSED
I’m going for complete transparency here. These past few months have been pretty tough for me. The thing that’s helped me? Time management tools.
For starters, I’ve had a holiday coming up and for those of you who are in the self-employed club, that means doing a lot of extra work in the build-up to it. Evenings, weekends - you name it, I’ve been working it.
I’m also going through a transition with my business right now. And while I know it’s the right thing to do, I’m also very aware of how challenging it is and what a big risk it is too.
And I’ve also had a lot of personal stuff going on with family members going into hospital, people changing jobs…
Not forgetting the wedding that I’m planning which is, hello, only a year and three days away.
Bet you didn’t guess any of that from my Instagram or Twitter profiles, right?
In reality, you could be in a really crazy, bustling period where everything is going really well. But that doesn’t mean that every single part of your life is going well, and sometimes, the busy period might not be a good thing at all.
In each of those situations, you’re going to find it hard to focus.
For me personally? The reason why I’ve found it difficult to stay focused on one single task at a time is because there’s been so much going on. My head has been so full of information that I always feel like I’m full to the brim.
And even if you’re at the absolute best point in your life right now - there are still going to be distractions.
You might just be having a quiet week in your office. But sitting alone with your thoughts means you will lose focus and if things start to get too hard to work on, you’ll look for other distractions.
So because I’ve been going through this from a personal perspective, I thought it would be something good to cover on here. I want to share with you my secret weapons, the time management tools I have in my kit that help me stay focused, no matter what the situation is.
P.S. I've also created a free Time Audit worksheet for you so you can start making the most of your time and improving your productivity today!
MY TOP TIME MANAGEMENT TOOLS TO KEEP YOU FOCUSED
#1 | THE TIME CUBE
This is a hack I learnt from a video by Amy Landino and it’s a game changer.
There are loads of different ones you can get but my favourite is this one, the one that has 60, 30, 15 and 5-minute blocks.
Its purpose? To be a timer. You pick a time slot and you’re good to go.
So you choose the time you want, you flip it over and the timer starts. It’s so great for actionable timing.
You can say, I’m going to spend 30 minutes writing instead of picking up your phone and doing it that way, then getting lost in your Instagram feed. You’re really limiting yourself from using a smartphone to do some of the jobs that it’s great they can do, but that they don’t necessarily have to do.
So if you have a call and you don’t want it to be longer than 15 minutes, you set your timer and when it’s getting towards the end you can say, “okay, I’m going to have to cut this short”.
I think for most of us, things can seem to take longer than they actually need to, but not if you give yourself a certain amount of time. For instance, if you’re journaling, some days this might take you a really long time. But if you set yourself a timer for 30 minutes, then you know you can get in that flow a lot faster and more easily too.
It’s the same for if you want to check your email and you don’t want it to take longer than X amount of time. These timers are great for that because you’re going to do a great job of where you need to be prioritising your time, the things that are hardest and getting those done as quickly as possible.
Or if there’s something you know is going to take longer, and it needs research or moving around, you know that’s not going to happen in the certain amount of time you’ve set yourself.
There’s also another block with 7, 5, 3 and 1-minute slots which would be great for fitness purposes. You could time how long you’re doing a plank or high-intensity interval training.
So if you hate the timer apps you get on your phone, these cubes are going to be some of the best time management tools you can buy. Fact.
#2 | TIME BLOCKING
If you follow me on Instagram, this won’t come as a surprise to you because I talk about it ALL THE TIME. And the reason why I’ve put this as the second item in this list is because it works perfectly with the time cube.
The basic concept of time blocking is that the tasks on your to-do list don’t stay on your to-do list. You block out a certain amount of time on your calendar to get that task done.
So let’s take writing a blog post as an example. I usually say that I want that whole process to take no longer than an hour because I have a lot of other things I need to get done in one day.
I’m going to mark that time on my calendar, follow my calendar and do that thing that I’m supposed to be doing during that time.
This helps me stay focused in a number of ways but let’s put it this way. If there’s nothing on my calendar, then I know I can do anything in that time. But then leveraging the time cube to say, this is your hour for writing a blog post, get started - that’s helpful because you know you’re sticking to that time.
So instead of looking at your phone every time there’s a notification, you’re instead only looking at the timer which is keeping you focused.
#3 | SPOTIFY CHILL PLAYLISTS
I don’t know about you, but I do not have a lot of time to spend finding the perfect playlist or building one of my own. I’d much rather have someone design it for me which is why this is on my list of time management tools.
Spotify has such a huge selection of ‘Chill’ and ‘Focus’ playlists and you can decide which is best for you. It might be coffee music, classic, or electronic vibes which is what I’m loving right now.
I definitely prefer to have something instrumental, although I do find my current favourite playlist does have lyrics but they don’t distract me at all, due to the type of music it is.
The point is you’re selecting a purpose that’s designed for a specific purpose and that’s so useful.
#4 | DO NOT DISTURB
This is only something I’ve started implementing recently and I’ve already come to love it.
If I have my phone next to me, I just want to pick it up. All the time. Constantly. You get a text, then you go down the rabbit hole and when you’re done you think, well I shouldn’t have even looked at it.
Having do not disturb is so good because you won’t even know you have those text messages. You won’t get a notification through to disrupt your train of thought, because you turned on do not disturb on your phone.
But lately, this has turned into me leaving my phone on the window ledge, or sometimes even leaving it in another room. It’s just so tempting to touch!
If you’re in the middle of something and you want to stay focused, honestly the best thing you can do is turn do not disturb on and/or put it in another room.
#5 | FOCUS MODE
Now, this is only in case of those emergencies when you can’t stop watching funny cat videos on YouTube, or there’s something trending on Twitter that you can’t stop looking at.
There’s an extension you can get for your browser called Focus Mode. With this, you can turn it on and in the Settings, and it will have a list of the websites you don’t want to work while you’re in your focus mode. Here are some ideas:
Basically, anything you go on that takes up way too much of your time and makes you distracted when you’re trying to get something done. And what’s great is that when you try and go on one of those websites, it tells you to get back to work.
#6 | SET BOUNDARIES
This is a tough one when it comes to time management tools, but it’s still so important.
Let’s say someone isn’t being respectful of the time you’ve outlined to work on something and they don’t understand you can’t multi-task.
I for one, definitely can’t multi-task. Seriously, world’s worst multi-tasker over here.
The only kind of multi-tasking I can believe in is doing something and listening to a podcast. So cooking and podcast, workout and podcast, walk and podcast.
But if you’re talking to me and I’m working on something else or doing something else, I’ve got to be specific with people. You can say, look here’s my timer, I need another 30 minutes, and I’m gonna’ need you to respect that time.
It’s so hard for a lot of you to do, I get that. Especially because some of those people you might be talking to could be your boss. And that can be difficult because your boss might think otherwise.
But the thing is, you do have the ability to set those boundaries. You might need to find the right way to go about it for your own situation, but you do have the ability to do that.
And also, if you ask for the respect of the people around you, to allow you to do your best work, you will definitely be seen in a much higher capacity. But if you’re spreading yourself too thin and being pulled in loads of directions, you’ll start blaming everyone else.
This is going to be different for everyone but if you know those boundaries and communicate them, it’s going to be make you feel so much better about how you’re approaching this. You’ll be doing it for the best of your ability, not somebody else’s.
I know this isn’t the be-all and end-all. I know that there will be different things going on in your life that will reflect the things I’m saying differently.
But what you’ve got to make sure of (and what I want to make sure of), is that you’re not putting your needs aside. You don’t have to completely love what you do and I get that you may not.
You need to know that getting your work done, doing it to the best of your ability and focusing on something that’s going to take you to your next breakthrough is only going to happen if it’s got your 100% attention.
#7 | GIVE YOURSELF A TREAT
But only allow yourself a treat when you’re doing your creative work.
I love this analogy.
It might be coffee for you. So let’s say you don’t have a coffee in the morning. Let’s say you leave it right until the afternoon when you hit your slump and that’s when you have your first cup. And that’s your creative time.
You’re going to start associating your creative time with coffee.
It’s associating a reward with a task that is usually a little bit harder than the rest. This could be writing a blog post, filming a video, or maybe you’re applying for a job. If you can have a really creative period of time but make sure you’re working at the best of your ability, you can introduce a bit of a treat for yourself.
So one of my best time management tools if I feel like I can’t do something justice, then sitting down and working on a specific time block from my calendar and pairing it with a good brew just allows those things to happen well together.
I do this every afternoon without fail. You don’t have to do it every day, but it’s something you’ve got in your tool box in case you need it.
If this works for you, I’d love to know because I fully believe in this.
Those are 7 of my best time management tools to help you stay focused. I’d love to add some more so what are some of your favourites? Leave those in the comments below.
Remember to continue working towards your next breakthrough and be sure to blog it, boss it.
Don't forget to download your free Time Audit worksheet!