Back in 2010, my daughter was an adorably cute 4 year old who rarely sat still for more than a second or two.
With only the time after she went to bed and the 3 hours of pre-school she had a week, free time was scarce.
I always thought that once she started school full time, that would be the time to grow the blog and work on the business since I really wanted to be fully present, when she was present.
When my little bundle started school a year later and I was rolling around in 6 hours of alone time, 5 days a week something became abundantly clear, really, really fast:
I had been more productive in 2 hours a day than I now was in 6.
Fast forward nearly 4 years later and I've learned some very valuable lessons about focus, productivity and making it all work when the only person holding you accountable is the person in the mirror.
When you only have a limited amount of time to write, research, build relationships and maintain your blog, how to manage your time becomes the single most important thing you can learn.
The most beautiful blog, the most engaging content ideas don't add up to much if none of your ideas ever make it out of your head.
And let's be 100% honest here, time management is really all about self management.
So, the question then becomes, how can we better manage ourselves to get through a never ending to do list?
The blogging productivity game changer
Have you ever heard of Parkinson's Law? It states that:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
This was the exact issue I had when transitioning from part time business owner to a full time one.
For a blog, that means if you have 1 hour to write a blog post, chances are it'll take you about an hour. If on the other hand, you've got all day to get that same post done, it's gonna take you all day.
Now if you think about that a minute, that's like 1 hour vs maybe 3-4 hours for the same task?
That's a huge difference, and just imagine the dent you could make in other blogging to do's if you had 4 hours available and still finished your blog post in 1 hour!
The way I turned this situation around for myself and the way I still manage my time is to use this one simple technique:
Let's break this down a bit.
1. We need time frames to direct our focus. If you know that you've got 20 minutes to get a blog graphic made you're not going to spend 15 of those minutes reading the latest updates about “insert random topic of the day here.” Not gonna happen, you've got your eyes on the prize (and the clock).
If you have “all day” to get the graphic done there's no boundaries for your brain to work inside of. It's free to pop all over the interwebs and fall down rabbit holes.
2. We need to know what we should be doing the moment we sit down. Should we be writing a blog post, researching guest posting opportunities, updating plugins or improving the about page? When you know what specific task you should be focusing on the moment you start working, you open the right programs, don't open social media (unless of course that's your task!), turn off your phone alerts and just start working.
In order to keep up on my to do's, I use a project management tool called Asana but there are a number out there like Trello, Wrike and Nozbe (free plan is hiding here). They all perform essentially the same functions but chances are you'll like one better than another just because of how your brain works and how you like to view information.
The particular program you use to organize your to do's is secondary, the main goal is to get them all out of your brain and together in a way that works for you.
In a practical sense, knowing what I need to do translates into checking Asana for my next to do and working my way down the list, checking items off until my time is up. I don't necessarily need to know the exact thing I'm going to do, but I do know where to find it, and the first place I need to go.
For example, today I had 2 hours of working time scheduled and before doing anything else, I opened up my daily to do's in Asana and checked out what was on tap:
Instead of spending 15-20 minutes figuring out what I should be doing, I already know what to do and can just start working.
When you know what you need to be working on at any given moment it makes your time spent online infinitely more productive. As of right now, I'm 40 minutes into my 2 hours and just about done this blog post. Once that's complete, I'll move onto the other 4 tasks I have to do and then shut it down for the day, likely a bit ahead of schedule.
Time frames and knowing your task ahead of time are game changers but it's going to take a bit of work to get all your to do's out of your brain and collected together in one central place. But it's worth it. So worth it in fact that I would strongly suggest making your next to do, picking a project management tool you like and start emptying out your brain, making a list of all the to do's that have been nagging at you.
And of course, we do all need down time online too, but it's a lot more fun to surf around online when it's not taking you away from other work!