If you have ever started a business, whether full time or on the side, you know the feeling of not having enough hours in the day to get everything done.
As a business owner, your time is limited. You’re wearing several different hats and juggling many roles, each of which requires precious time out of your day. And chances are, you probably don’t have many hours to spare.
I know when I was pursuing Elle & Company on the side, and working a regular 9-5 job, the way that I used those hours, whether it was at night, or on the weekends, was extremely important and I didn't (and couldn't) waste any of it.
So, if I could find any work arounds, any ways to save time, I would take 'em.
So I’ve rounded up my 24 favorite time-saving hacks - one for each hour of the day - in hopes of helping you create a little more room in your busy schedule.
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Lauren Hooker: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Ellechat; a weekly power hour of practical tips and strategies to help you start and scale your creative business. I'm Lauren Hooker, the graphic designer, and strategist behind Elle & Company, and I'm really excited that you're tuning in today.
I would love to just jump right in to this week's topic, which is 24 time-saving hacks for busy entrepreneurs. If you have started a business, whether it's on the side, or maybe you are full time; you know that there just aren't enough hours in the day, seemingly, to get it all done.
I know, especially, when I was pursuing Elle & Company on the side, and working a regular 9-5 job, the way that I used those hours, whether it was at night, or on the weekends, was extremely important, and I didn't want to waste any time. So, if I could find any work arounds, any ways to save time, I would take 'em. And so, throughout these last three and a half, four years of running Elle & Company, I've come across a lot of time hacks that I thought would be helpful to share with y'all. 24 of them, to be exact; one for every hour of the day. And I'm just gonna dive right in to the content, not wasting any time here.
1. Schedule social media
Scheduling social media can free up your time a lot. So, if you are just posting to social media whenever you get the opportunity, whether it's to Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook, or even Pinterest; you're having to check in throughout the day. And you're probably checking in not only to post new content, but to comment back, if you get any comments, reply to comments, and just see how that post is doing.
So, what I found really, really helpful was to use a scheduling tool for social media. So, I started out using Buffer. Buffer was great because you could set a schedule. So, for me, we set up 11 tweets on Twitter, because Twitter is a really fast-moving social media platform. So, 11 tweets on Twitter, I think three Facebook posts a day, and so on. So, we came up with a schedule of how often we wanted to post. And back when I didn't have assistants, I would go into Buffer every morning, and just schedule out social media.
And then, it got to the point where I started batching that task, and just spending every Friday afternoon, maybe for an hour, maybe a little less, going and filling up that content queue; filling up that schedule. So, I'd hunt down helpful links. I'd even go ahead and create links for my blog post, so I could link to it in there and create graphics, just to knock it out all at once. And then, maybe, once a day, I would check in, whether it was at the end of the day, to follow up with comments and things.
So, scheduling social media can be extremely helpful. That way, you aren't distracted during your workday, trying to check in, or thinking, "Man, I haven't posted to Facebook today. I should probably post," and jumping on, and wasting time there. So, I found out, too, very quickly ... I don't know about y'all, but a little confession; if I go to post on social media, I'll probably waste another 30 minutes scrolling thorough other peoples' posts on social media.
So, by scheduling social media posts, whether it's using Buffer, CoSchedule ... MeetEdgar is another really great platform that we use now to schedule Elle & Company social media posts. You don't even have to go on Instagram, or go on Twitter, or Facebook, and get distracted; it will automatically post for you. So, that's a great task to go ahead and take care of once a week. Just fill up your queue, and don't worry about it again.
2. Push one post out to several platforms
So you don't have to create new content for every single platform; you can create it once, and use it for Twitter, use it for Facebook, maybe even use it for Instagram as well. Repurpose that content. I know Buffer allows you to create one post, and push it out to multiple platforms at once. So, I would create one post for Twitter with a link, and just push it out to Facebook as well. That way, I wasn't creating different posts for every social media platform. It is good to vary your content. Of course, with Twitter, you only have a limited number of characters, but pushing it out to multiple platforms saves you time.
Something else that I didn't mention with point number one, with scheduling social media was that it also forces you to be really intentional with the type of content that you're sharing. So, I found that, when I was just posting kind of haphazardly, and thinking, "Oh, I need something to post today." I wasn't being very strategic in what I was sharing, and when I was sharing it. But, when I plan it out ahead of time, I can think of how I might be able to use posts to work together, or be more strategic about what I'm sharing, and when I'm sharing it. So, really consider using one of those schedulers. My favorites are Buffer and Meet Edgar, but I know a lot of people who use CoSchedule and Hootsuite and enjoy those, too.
3. Close out of browser windows
It seems so simple. I don't know about you, but I could have a million browser tabs open at once; usually about 10. I get sidetracked, and I just have a million on Chrome or Safari. And what happens is, the ones that I leave up the most often ... Well, my inbox, and maybe even social media. So, every time that I get a notification, I can see it in the little browser tab, and I get distracted. Especially with email. If I see a new email has come through, or something like that, I'll go ahead and look and see what the email was, and then return back to whatever I was doing. That can be so distracting. Not to mention if it's an email that I'm thinking about a lot, or needs some attention, but I don't get back to it right away; it's just hanging over my head. So, if I can't get to it, I should just X out of it.
So, lately, especially when I'm working on something like a blog post, and it's just not coming easily to me, if I have other browser windows open, I'm likely to take a break, and go browse whatever it is; whether it's email, social media, whatever it might be. And then, come back to my work. And so, it takes me so much longer to get things done. So, what I'm starting to do is, if I'm working on a task online, like writing a blog post in Google docs, I'll X out of every other browser window, so that I can stay on task. This is especially helpful with email. Again, seemingly simple; so helpful.
4. Disable phone notifications
They're really hard to ignore. I've found that, if something ... And I had to shut them off a long time ago, and I don't even think about it anymore. I had notifications for email. I had notifications for social media. And then, I had people texting me, and calling me, and it was really distracting throughout my workday; very hard to ignore. So, I remove the temptation now by just getting rid of notifications. If I want to see how a post is doing on Instagram, I have to open up the app and look at it, instead of seeing all the notifications pop up.
And I heard of a really cool app this week. I'd never heard of it before. I need to download it, honestly. But, I thought it would be helpful to mention. I saw someone mention it in their Instagram stories; is the Moment app. And what it does is it gives a tally of how many times you pick up your phone, how many times you log into certain apps. And it's really eye-opening, from what I've heard of, because you don't even realize how often you check your phone, how often you go to your phone when you get bored, or when you want to procrastinate on a task. So, disabling phone notifications and using that Moment app can be really helpful for just setting your phone aside, and focusing on your work, and getting it done. If anyone's used the Moment app, let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear how it went for you.
5. Point inquirers to your FAQ page
There was a point in time with Elle & Company when the blog started to pick up, and I was sharing all of these tips and strategies, and so, people were emailing me, asking me questions. And I found that I was getting the same kinds of questions over and over again; which was fine, and I love when people reach out to me, but it just took up a lot of time to respond to all of these inquiries that weren't even client inquiries, it was just people curious about one thing or the other. So, what I decided to do was to kind of merge my contact page and my FAQ page, so people had to read through the FAQs before they contacted me. And I even said something along the lines of, "I may have already answered your question. Feel free to look through the FAQs above before you send me an email."
And what it did, was it cut back on form submissions. It allowed me to go more in depth on whatever question they were asking if I'd already had a blog post I could link to, or I just had more time to sit down and think it through in the FAQs. It also saved time for both me and the person who was inquiring, because they could already have their question answered in the FAQ. And, for me, or one of my assistants who helps with my inbox, it just saved us time in the long run, too. So, if you find that you're getting a lot of the same questions through your form submission on your website, or your contact page, think about having that FAQ page, or the FAQ section above the contact section on your website. And that can help cut back on the number of emails you receive.
6. Utilize canned responses
Canned responses are form replies. So, again; if you get the same questions over and over again, or you feel like you're sending the same emails, whether it's to clients, or whoever it might be, customers, use a canned response. Come up with a form reply, and then copy and paste it into your email, and you can customize it, and make it more personable, so it doesn't sound like a form email. But, it can save you a lot of time.
Gmail, if you use Gmail, has a really awesome app that's free, called Canned Responses. It's built right into the platform, and you can go and turn it on. I don't know the exact steps, but I know I have talked about it on the blog before; you can Google it, "canned responses". And it allows you to save replies, and just go to a menu right in your Gmail reply, and choose the canned response you want to use. It already fills up. So, you don't even have to copy and paste; it just fills in your reply, right in the window, and you can go in and customize it. So, super helpful.
If you don't use Gmail, you might use something like Google Docs, or Evernote, and just keep a list of canned responses, so it can save you time in the long run. You might even go back through old emails that you've written, that you've taken a lot of time to write; go ahead and copy and paste those.
Something else that we do ... And I'm going to talk about workflows in just a second, for saving time. But, I outline all of my workflows in Trello, and I've started to do it using Asana boards. And so, if there's any email in my client process, or in any other process, I go ahead and copy and paste that response right on the back of that Trello card, or Asana card, and that way, I can pull from it right there, as well. So, either Google Docs, or use that canned responses for Gmail app, and that can save you so much time in your inbox.
7. Boomerang emails
Boomerang is another app for Gmail. There's probably something similar for other platforms, like...what is it? Apple Mail? Why am I not thinking of it? Any other email platform probably has something similar. What boomerang does is, if you receive an email, and you can't get to it right now, and want to think about it three days from now, it's not urgent; you can Boomerang it, and it'll disappear from your inbox, so you can still reach "inbox 0", and it'll reappear in your inbox when you want it to appear. It also allows you more control over when you send emails.
So, maybe you're working part-time in your business, and working in a full-time job, and you can't get to your inbox unless it's eight or nine at night. Well, you probably don't want to set that precedent with clients, that you're emailing them at 9 PM, because then, they're gonna start to email you, and expect responses then. So, what you might choose to do is Boomerang it, and schedule it to go out at 8 AM the next morning, so that it just seems more professional. You can set those work hours and boundaries.
So, Boomerang is really helpful for when you receive emails, and also when you send emails. I know, even when I was working full-time with Elle & Company, and was working some late nights writing blog posts, and just trying to get some stuff done, I would go through, and write emails at night, and Boomerang them to go out the next morning, so I wasn't sending them late at night. And that way, I could batch that task of emails, and not worry about the time that I was actually replying to it, because I could schedule it out.
8. Send short, concise emails
I don't know about y'all, but I have a really hard time being concise in my emails, but I dread when other people send me really, really long emails that I have to read through. Sending short, concise emails saves time for both parties. A lot of times, I feel like I need fillers. Email's really hard, because you don't know how someone's reading it, or reading into what you're saying, and sometimes really short, direct emails, I feel like, could be misunderstood. But, it saves so much time for people. So, use bullet points if you need to. Just focus on being really short and to the point, to save the other person time as well, and save you time.
My friend Chaitra, I was really surprised to see this, and I thought it was really refreshing. When she emailed me one day, I saw that she said, "Why is this email so short? Find out at three sentences." And I was like, "Was is that?" And she had it in the footer of her email. And I visited the link, and it said something along the lines of, "Emails can be too long nowadays. I'm gonna focus on writing emails in three sentences or less." And so, she just added that to the bottom of her emails to explain, "I'm not being short with you, I'm just trying to be mindful of your time." So, three.sentenc.es; "sentence" without an e. And I'll link to it in the show notes, as well. But, I thought that was a really interesting concept, and something that I need to be better about as well; sending short and concise emails.
Again, some of these are pretty obvious, it would seem. But, these little things can build over time, so implementing things like closing out of browser tabs and short emails can really add up, and save you time in the long run.
9. Prevent long email chains by setting up a meeting
So, for instance, a lot of times, with my clients, we'll take a long time emailing back and forth, when it would have been so much easier just to set up a meeting; whether it was a quick phone call, or a quick Skype call. And we could often communicate so much better through a phone call than we could though email. I would spend probably 30 minutes writing an email to outline all the design decisions I made, and one of the revisions I did, or something along those lines, when I could just pick up the phone and give them a call. And this thought didn't occur to me until I had a client who was basically like, "You know what? Email is hard for me, and it takes me forever. Feel free to just give me a call when you send me your revision." And I thought, "Why don't I do this more often."
Same thing with my assistants. If we're just emailing ... Or, we actually use Slack a lot for communication. If we're having to write long paragraphs to each other, or if at night, we're working together on something ... And they're both not near me. So, one is in Alabama, and the other is in Virginia. And so, sometimes it's easier just to hop on a call together. So, that might be a good option for you as well. If you feel like you're taking forever to write emails, especially with clients; jump on a phone call with them.
I actually did this this past week. I did send out some pre-order emails for a freelance academy. And I knew that a lot of people would have questions about the course ... Which launches on Tuesday! I'm really excited about it. But, I told people who were on the waiting list that they could call me. And I set up a Google voice number and allowed people to call me, because I knew that it would be much more personable for em to answer their questions one on one, for them to hear my voice, rather than just through email. So, if at any point you can set up a meeting instead of taking forever to write an email, do it.
10. Implement the two-minute rule
So, the two-minute rule, when it comes to your inbox is, if you're scrolling through your inbox and you can quickly reply to an email in two minutes or less, goa head and take care of it. Otherwise, you might want to save it when you can block out more time for your inbox, put more thought into it. That's just a quick, helpful tip. If you're not putting off email, just go ahead and tackle it if you can in two minutes or less.
11. Set time limits on meetings
If you feel like meetings run on forever ... I know that's the case with me. I love talking to people, and I could talk to my clients all day long. But, if I don't set a time limit for when the meeting will end, I've found I can talk to my client for an hour, or an hour and a half; it's happened before. And so, that is not good for either one of us, because we could be spending the time that we're talking about whatever it is, not client work, on other stuff. So, I've found it really helpful to set parameters. Instead of saying, "I'll meet up with you at 2 o'clock," I usually say, "2 to 2:30," and set that time limit, so people know we need to be off the phone by this time. So, that's super helpful.
I do this for my team meetings as well, so that people can have an expectation. So, when I meet with my assistants on Skype ... Every month, we have a team meeting all together. I try to say, "Okay, we're going to meet from 7 to 8, or 7:30 to 8:30." That way, we know that we need to cut it off at that time, and stay on track with everything that we're gonna talk about. Also, because I don't want them to have to give up their entire night, because we could truly talk forever.
12. Set parameters on meetings
Don't go into meetings without having a focus, or something to accomplish. Set expectations for it. If you're emailing back and forth with someone about a meeting, go ahead and tell them what you want to talk about in the meeting; maybe even outline it for them. It'll help you stay on track. I do this with team meetings, too. I don't just say, "We're gonna have our monthly team meeting," I actually create a Google Doc, and I go ahead and outline everything that needs to be covered, I share it with them so we can share notes, so they can prepare ahead of time. But, it keeps us on track, so that if we start talking about our pets, or our families, or whatever it might be, we could come back to the outline and pick up where we left off.
Same thing with clients; I've tried to get in the habit of, every time I do meet with them for a longer meeting, to outline the meeting, so we can stay on track, and so I don't forget anything important. It can save you a lot of time, especially keeping meetings from running on and on.
13. Schedule calls during travel times
There was a season where I was traveling a lot for conferences, and for workshops. And I always underestimated how much time traveling took out of my schedule. I also remember having a really long commute on the way to my 9-5 job, and having so much in the car that I'd usually listen to podcasts, or music. But, that's a great time to schedule calls.
So, if you are jumping on a call with a client, or a peer, feel free to schedule it during those travel times; that I would just put in my headphones, or just put in one headphone, and call them while I was driving, and it was fine. Same thing with layovers at the airport. Sometimes I'd have a really long layover, so I'd just go ahead and knock out a call right then. It freed up my focus time, so that when I was actually in front of my computer without any distractions, I could get some work done, focus on more important tasks. But, it kind of killed one bird with two stones. Two birds with one stone; that's the saying.
So, consider, if you have a commute on your way to work, and you have a lot of client work that's building up, and you feel like you can't talk to client at 9 o'clock at night, maybe eight o'clock in the morning wouldn't be so bad. So, think about scheduling a call during that time.
14. Create templates
Templates are huge for saving time. Whether it's blog graphics, content, client homework, whatever it is; create templates. If you feel like you're creating the same thing over and over again, templates can be really helpful. I set up all of my blog graphics through templates in Adobe Illustrator. So, all I have to do is go in, change the text, I already have the colors and everything ready to go, and save it, and I'm good. If you don't use illustrator, you might use something like Canva. And they save templates, too, and make it really easy on you.
Content; I go ahead and set up a template for every blog post, newsletter, even these Ellechats. The content is different on each one, but I go ahead and create a template and a Google Doc for the title of the post, when it's going out, an outline, a blog post graphic, just so I can remember every single piece. And it really helps with that workflow. So, content through Google Docs is awesome. Client homework; I don't want to have to create that every time, so I created my client homework in a Google doc, and all I have to do is create a copy of it, and I'm good to go. So, consider how creating some templates, even if it takes you a lot of time; at the forefront, it can save you a lot of time in the long run. So, what templates can you create to help save you time in your workday?
15. Utilize workflows
Workflows allow you to work so much more efficiently, because you're following the same order, and the same process every single time. Workflows are crucial, whether it is your workflow for setting up a blog post, or writing a blog post, or client work; super, super helpful to have a workflow from start to finish when you work with clients, instead of just winging it every time. I like to outline my workflows ... I started in Trello, and just use a Trello board. And for each service, or for each different task, whether it was onboarding a new client, writing a newsletter, even these Ellechats, we have a workflow for preparing for it, and then sharing it afterward. It's super helpful; you can return back to it, and it'll save you a lot of time as well. You get faster, the more and more you work through a process like that, too.
Now, we went from Trello to Asana. Asana has board now. And so, I just have one project in Asana, one Asana board, and I have workflows so that my assistants can also see what task needs to be done, and when. So, if you haven't outlined your workflows, even if it's just in Google Docs, or Evernote, or something like that; map out your workflow, so because it's going to save you so much time in the long run, instead of coming up with a new system every time you do something. It allows you to work so much more efficiently.
16. Create an editorial calendar
Editorial calendars are awesome, because they force you, just like with scheduling social media, to really be intentional about the content you're sharing, and when you're sharing it. So, come up with a list of topics for your blog, and schedule them into your calendar. Whoops. There we go. Schedule them into your calendar. What I like to do is brainstorm topics across my different categories. So, try to come up with a topic for my design category, try to come up with a topic for business, social media, so that I can kind of spread out the content a little, so it isn't all heavy on one category. Then, I look at the month, and try to schedule out the posts in advance.
And that allows me to not only prepare for the content, instead of the night before a blog post is supposed to go live, scrambling, and trying to figure out what I'm gonna write about, but, it's also really helpful for batching tasks. So, if I know what I'm going to be writing about, I can sit down all at once, and create blog templates for the entire month, I can create those Google Doc templates for the outlines for the entire month. And batching those tasks can save you so much more time, instead of doing them at random here and there. So, creating an editorial calendar will save you so much time and stress, whether it's for your blog, or whether you host webinars, or your mailing list; any type of content that you're creating, consider mapping it out ahead of time, and batching tasks to save you time.
17. Focus on one task at a time
So many of us, especially because we have so many things to do, try to multitask. And, actually, Harvard Business Review claims that focusing on more than one thing decreases your productivity by 40%, and lowers your IQ by 10 points. I found that so interesting. They claim, also, that only 2% of people can multitask efficiently. I think, in our culture, we're so used to multitasking, and trying to do more things at once. But, really, if you just focus on one task at a time, you can get so much more done, and you can do a better job at what you're working on. So, try to focus on just one task at a time. Like I said, close out browser windows when you're working on something. Turn off phone notifications. And just focus on getting it done.
Also, consider setting a time limit. So, if you are, for example ... Keep bringing up blogging, but I'll go there again. If you're wiring a blog post, set a time limit. Say, "I want to be done writing this blog post in an hour," and focus on just that blog post. I know when I cut out distractions, I'm able to write so much quicker than I thought I would be able to. So, focus on one task at a time.
18. Utilize time blocking
So, time blocking is setting a certain amount of time, or setting really a time limit, on your tasks. It's kind of putting bookends on your time. Instead of saying, "Okay, I need to write this blog post." Instead, you're saying, "I'm gonna block out one hour to write this blog post." So, it puts a little pressure on you to get the task done in the allotted amount of time. It kind of forces you to cut back on distractions. I like to play a little game with ... Maybe it's just me, I have to play games with myself in order to get tasks done. But, I like to play beat the clock. So, if I know that I have a bunch of tasks to do that day, I kind of go through the top priorities, and set a time limit for each one. And then I try to play beat the clock, and get them done under that amount of time. And if I get it done in less time than I allotted, then I don't know if I really win a prize. Maybe I should start providing an incentive, like I get to go to Starbucks, or something like that, and get my favorite drink.
But, I like to play those little games with myself, and see how much time it will really take me. So, look at all that needs to be done. Set your priorities, maybe set your top three priorities; I find that really helpful. Look at how much time you have to work. So, if you're working part time, and pursuing your business on the side, if you come home, and say you're gonna work from six to eight, and you have a blog post to write, and some client work to do, maybe you set an hour aside for the blog post, and an hour aside for client work, and block out your time that way, and try to play beat the clock, instead of leaving it open-ended. I've found that that's a great way to set boundaries, too, on your time. So, utilize time blocking.
19. Utilize time tracking
So, this is kind of the opposite of time blocking. Instead, you're just tracking how much time things actually are taking you. I found that I tend to be really generous when I estimate my time, and say, "Oh, that task only took em a couple hours." And then, when I actually time track, using something like Toggl, I found out, "Oh, it took me five hours, instead of the two hours that I thought it was gonna take me." So, tracking time is super helpful, especially with client work. I found that, when I was working on client work, I would think it was only taking me an hour or two to come up with some logo concepts, when in reality, it was taking six hours.
So, I was pricing myself way too low. Because, when I counted up all of the hours that a project actually took me, from start to finish, I was getting paid way less than minimum wage. So, start tracking your time, especially with client projects. Especially if you don't do pricing by the hour, and you do packages, start tracking your time so you see how much time you're actually spending on projects. I bet it'll be super eye-opening for you. It was very eye-opening for me.
And I also have my assistants track their time. Not only for their hours, that I can pay them accordingly, but also so I can see how much time tasks are actually taking them, and if it's worthwhile to assign them those tasks. So, it's really helpful for me to be able to monitor their time, not to micromanage them, but just to see if certain tasks are worth passing off, or if we should be focusing our time on other areas. So, 19 was utilize time tracking.
20. Conquer your least favorite task first
My husband, Jake, and I have been married for five years, and it didn't take me very long to start realizing that, when I would cook a meal, he would eat his least favorite part of the meal first. And he would just try to get it out of the way. Usually, it's like salad or veggies, so that he could focus on his favorite part of the meal, and enjoy it for thereon out. So, I had thought that approach was so funny, but if I went ahead and did that with my work, and got my least favorite task out of the way, I'd probably enjoy the rest of the day a lot more. I've found that I tend to procrastinate a whole lot more on the tasks that I don't look forward to doing. I think all of us are guilty of that.
So, if we just focused on doing those tasks first, and getting them out of the way, we'd enjoy the rest of our workday, and we, of course, aren't going to procrastinate on tasks that we really enjoy doing. So, my challenge to you this week is to focus on your least favorite task first, so that you can just get it out of the way. And it'll give yourself something to look forward to; especially if you have other tasks that you're excited to work on. Just go ahead, and get the other tasks out of the way. So, eat your vegetables first, and follow that same practice in your business.
21. Use a project management system
This is huge, especially with workflows, tasks; a project management system, if you're not already using one, will be revolutionary for you, and how you spend your time. We use Asana, and I'm a huge fan of it. It's free. It's really easy to use, and user friendly. It keeps track of all of your tasks and projects, so that you aren't overlooking anything. We really ... Our home base for Elle & Company, is Asana. And if you don't keep even just a to do list of what you should be doing, you're gonna be wasting so much time, not spending your time wisely, because you aren't keeping track of what needs to be done. Again, sounds so simple, but can really be revolutionary.
I've found Asana helpful, too. I have a planner, and I list important tasks in my planner. But, Asana is super helpful, because I can see it from my desktop. I can see it from my phone. It plugs right into Slack for my team. It's huge. So, especially, if you hope to hire an assistant somebody, have a team, using Asana will be really helpful, too, because you'll already have a system and a home base for your team though Asana, or whatever you use; whether it's Dubsado, Basecamp, a project management system will be extremely helpful and revolutionary in your business. And if you're interested, I have a couple posts on Asana that I'll link to in the show notes, so you can see exactly how we use it, and set things up, and hopefully that will be helpful for you.
22. Batch small tasks and errands
I've found that a lot of really simple tasks that might only take me 10 minutes tend to cut into my time that I'm spending doing more important tasks, so I like to batch them, and kind of block out a time to go ahead and tackle them all. Or, if I have to run errands, I try to keep them all to the same day of the week, and go ahead and run them all at once. So, if I have to go to the grocery store, and the post office, and do all of those things, I'm gonna knock it out all at once, so I don't have to make multiple trips. My mom would be so proud, because that's what she would do, too, and always recommend to me. So, knock them out in one fell swoop, if it's small tasks that keep adding up; because, again, the small things can accumulate and suck up a lot of your time.
23. Delegate tasks
This is one area of my business that I wish I had got on board with a whole lot quicker. Especially because of finances and everything, I was really scared to delegate tasks, and felt like I had to do everything myself. And delegating is incredibly helpful, because it not only saves you time, it saves you stress. And a lot of times, when you delegate certain tasks, you end up being able to spend your time on things that are gonna make you money, and you end up bringing in more income. It's kind of a scary step, because when you're outsourcing, you're kind of putting your trust in whatever you're outsourcing, taking up ... Somebody else is taking the time to do it, and you're freed up to make more money. But, in order to make more money, you need to be delegating, and not spending your time on tasks that someone else could be doing.
So, I wish that I had bought on an assistant a lot faster. I wish I had outsourced legal things a lot faster. So, think about tasks that don't require your touch. I realized I was spending a lot of time setting up posts, and replying to emails, and doing all of these things that could be done by someone else who could do them a lot better than I could, and just take them off my plate so that I could spend time writing new content, working on client work; the things that only I could do.
So, what are the things that only you can do, and what are the things that you're doing that anyone could do? I would recommend starting to write down your tasks. Maybe keep a Google Doc, or a place in your planner, as you come across tasks that you're like, "This doesn't need my touch, anybody could be doing this. Someone could be doing this task so much better than I could," write it down, and consider delegating it. Especially when it comes to branding, when it comes to your contracts and legal stuff. To me, that is so scary. I am happy to hand it off to an attorney, or a bookkeeper, or someone who could do that a lot better than I could.
So, think about that, as you move forward in your business, and as you continue to grow; outsourcing and delegating will be huge in your business. I'm hoping to do another Ellechat on hiring and bringing in help soon, and explore this in a little more detail, and even bring my assistants on. So, if that's something you're interested in, stayed tuned. That'll be coming up in the next month.
24. Plan tomorrow today
Before I leave my desk for the day, and I'm finishing up, hopefully around five o'clock ... I'm trying to get better about that. I try to go ahead and plan the next day. I try to map out what are my top three priorities going to be. I clean up my desk. I clean up my desktop. I go ahead and get everything in order, so that when I start in the morning, I can hit the ground running, and I don't have to try to plan everything out. I can kind of be thinking through what needs to be tackled the next day. It's like laying out your clothes for work the next day, or packing your lunch the night before; it just saves so much mental space. When you wake up in the morning, you don't have to think about it.
So, plan out tomorrow today. Go ahead and take care of it at the end of your work day. Set some goals for yourself the next day, so you can just dive right in, instead of wasting time in your morning routine.
So, those are my 24 time saving hacks. And I'm gonna jump into your questions, and try to answer as many of them as I can in the next 13 minutes. So, here we go.
Jessica asks, "When you're starting out, and running your business single handedly, how do you stay on top of social media, blogging, and an email list, as well as client work? I feel that social media is a full time job in and of itself these days. Any advice on a well-organized management system for the above?"
Yes. So, scheduling social media will be so helpful for you. Buffer, like I said, CoSchedule, Meet Edgar; super helpful for taking care of social media. Blogging and an email list; I think scheduling out what you're gonna be sharing. I love using Asana for that, and Asana boards. I, every week, map out the content, set sub tasks on it. So, I'll say, these are the blog posts that need to be written, and I have sub tasks for "outline it", "write it", "edit it", "set it up", and "schedule it". And I try to batch those tasks. So, if I'm gonna outline one blog post, I might as well go ahead an outline three to five blog posts in one sitting, and get it all done. If I'm gonna create graphics for them, create them all in one sitting, instead of just doing one at a time.
And then, I like to time block. So, try to set aside time, and I've found it really helpful to be consistent with the day of the week. So, Monday; Monday evenings, if you're working on your business part time, and on the side, you might set aside a few hours, maybe from six to nine, on just blogging, and getting all of your blog posts done, or your blog posts and your emails done. So, just create ... I found when I was working on Elle & Company part time, just creating some consistency at night, and on weekends; blocking out that time, and trying to get as much done playing that beat the clock game. But, as much as you can automate and batch as possible, go ahead and do that. I think that's extremely helpful. I found that extremely helpful. So, I hope that's helpful for you too, Jess. Thank you for tuning in with your question.
Susanne says, "I fall in a time-consuming trap of thinking I get better at my own business game by looking to others in the industry. And I do get better from inspiration, blog posts, great webinars, et cetera, from others; no doubt. But, how do I find an ideal balance of spending time being educated and inspired by others, and spending time working on my own business?"
That's a great question, Susanne, because I feel like continued education and learning is huge in business, and it's something that I need to spend more time on, actually. I would say set aside time. So, whether it's an hour every week, or 30 minutes every week, or maybe 15 minutes each morning reading blog posts, and getting ideas and inspiration from a book, or online; do it.
I try to make a practice of ... Before we moved ... We just moved a month ago to South Carolina. But, before we did that ... I'm trying to get back into routine. It's been a little bit difficult. But, before we moved, I was trying to get in the habit of, every day after lunch, reading a book dedicated toward business for 30 minutes. And I found that extremely helpful, to just go ahead, and block out that time, and focus on Elle & Company, and continuing my education with that. So, you might find that helpful, too; whether it's 15 minutes a day, or an hour a week, or something like that, to try to work on your own business.
Things like podcasts are also really helpful. Not trying to put in a plug for the Ellechat podcast, but, you know. But, things like that can be really helpful for listening to while you're at the gym, or cooking dinner, or things like that, too. Again, that's kind of multitasking, and going back on what I said. But, for things like cooking, that don't require a lot of focus, that can be really helpful. So, try to plant them into your day that way; map them into your week so that you can stay on top of what's going on in your industry. Great question, Susanne.
Glorianne says, "In terms of scheduled social media posts, Instagram, Facebook, what do you suggest for those who do things like art and hand lettering perhaps daily, or every other day, such as daily and monthly art challenges? I find that I'm not able to schedule those posts, unlike blog posts that are done in advance."
That's a great question. If you could go ahead and batch that task, and get it done ahead of time; great. If not, that might be something that you choose to do every day, and that you can go and post. A little thing that I need to be better about with Instagram, I usually post those at random from my phone. I don't usually schedule those like we do with Facebook or Twitter. But, it's something that I would love to set aside time for every week, and just go ahead and get it done.
But, yeah; as much as you can schedule out social media, do it. There will be days when you want to post something, something comes up, something new that you want to go ahead and share, apart from the schedule. But, as much as you can, try to schedule it; it'll save you time.
Susanne says, "Are there free scheduling programs?" Yes. I think Buffer is free up until a certain extent. Meet Edgar is probably the priciest, but it recycles content, so it's super helpful; that's what we use with Elle & Company. I'm not sure about CoSchedule and Hootsuite. It's been a while since I looked into those. If any of you tuning in live have any feedback on that, feel free to chime in in the comments.
Sheila says, "How many breaks do you take throughout the day? Do you take breaks?"
I used to not take breaks, actually. And it'd be like 3 PM, and I hadn't eaten lunch. And; crazy. Don't do that. I like to schedule one break in the morning, to kind of break up my time, before lunch. And I like to schedule one break in the afternoon, after lunch. And I take an hour lunch break now, just to step away. I used to eat lunch in front of the computer. Not good. You'll burn out pretty quickly. I also found that, for just time blocking, and getting tasks done efficiently, breaks are huge. Because if I know that I'm taking a break at 10, I'm gonna try to get as much work done before 10 AM as possible. So, those breaks are great for just breaking up the day, and trying to get tasks done in a timely manner, as well. And it’s usually like a 15 minute break in the morning, and a 15 minute break in the afternoon; maybe a little bit longer, and then, an hour long lunch break. Great question!
Susanne says, "How does Trello and Asana work differently?"
Asana is more of a project management system, so you can assign tasks, and look at a calendar. Trello, you can kind of do that. Trello I found to be really helpful for just organizing information; brainstorming, that sort of thing. I honestly don't use Trello anymore, because Asana has all of those features and more. So, I tend to use Asana now more than I do with Trello; especially now that Asana has boards, just like Trello.
Elizabeth says, "What's Toggl?"
So, Toggl is a time tracking app. And it's free. You can set different categories for your time. So, I have a category for design clients. I have a category for coaching clients. I have a category for blogging, newsletters, Ellechats. And I haven't been as good about this lately, but I need to. I just log onto Toggl, and it has a little timer. I choose the category, and I just click "start" to track my time; so, to see how much time I'm spending on each area of my business. And it's really eye-opening, because I saw I was spending way too much time in my inbox. I was spending more time on my inbox than any other task. And so, it showed me that I needed to delegate that task, or come up with better systems for handling my inbox, just through tracking my time with Toggl. There's other time trackers out there, too, but I really enjoyed using Toggl. I feel like it's very easy to use. It's actually T-o-g-g-l, is how you spell it. So, yeah; I hope it's helpful for you guys.
And Yale asks, "I've found that, since I started taking on clients for my VA biz, it's been much harder to invest time into my blog, because I'm so busy investing time into everyone else's."
I can see how that would be difficult. "What do you suggest for balancing client work and your own personal business growth?" This is really hard. And I've found myself ... My husband is very business-minded, and extremely helpful when it comes to Elle & Company. And especially in the beginning of my business, I found myself putting so much time and effort into client work. But, something that Jake would tell me is, "Lauren, if you don't focus on blog posts, and newsletters, and that kind of content, you're not gonna have any clients to work with. You're gonna be out of luck with clients." So, it is really hard to balance.
I probably spend half my time doing blog posts, newsletters, that sort of thing, and half my time pouring into design work, and courses. And that might seem crazy, but it's really paid off my business; especially if I want to do more courses, and passive income, and less one on one client work. So, it depends on your goals, too. But, I think spending like a third of the time focusing on your own personal business growth, and two thirds of the time doing client work is probably a good balance. It may seem a little crazy at first, and maybe even a little selfish with your time; it's not. The marketing aspect is what's gonna keep your business growing, and keep clients coming in the door. So, great question.
All right. Well, we're coming up on the time, and we're out of questions. I hope that this Elle Chat was really helpful for you guys. In the comments, whether you are tuning in live, or catching the replay later, or listening to the podcast; come back to this webinar window, and share your helpful time saving hacks. There's definitely more out there that I would love to heard bout. And so, we might even include those in the show notes as well. So, feel free to share them with the Elle & Company community, through these webinar comments.
Thank you all again. I hope you have a great remainder of the week. Best wishes with saving time. And I hope to see you in another Elle Chat very soon. Bye, guys.