Hands up if you have ever used the sentence "I need more hours in my day"? And now if you often feel that you finish the day with a longer to-do list than the one you had at the beginning?
Lacking time to do things is certainly a common factor across all businesses, and one that can actually cause quite a lot of harm both to the company and the person itself. On a personal point of view, it can raise stress levels and cause serious health issues, plus having to work all the time will ultimately degrade your personal relationships. On a business level, a stressed workforce will be a lot less productive and harmful to the business, plus it means that you don't have time to implement new ideas that are vital for your business growth.
Here are some ideas that will help you freeing up your time and focus it on what really matter, such as growing your business or spending more time with your family!
Keep a time log
This doesn't mean that you should forever be bound to recording every single thing you do in your day, but a test you can do for a short period of time. For one week, start writing out what you do every hour and how long that takes you, and at the end of the week analyse it. What could you have delegated, or eliminated or automated?
For instance, if you notice that you are spending an hour per week writing follow-up emails to people, why don't you think about investing in a CRM that automates your follow-ups to your contacts!
Keeping track of your time also helps you see how you can batch things together, which will ultimately help you be more efficient.
One of the greatest enemies of productivity and time management is distraction. This could come from a colleague asking you lots of questions, emails that keep popping up, LinkedIn notifications, YouTube videos, and so on so forth. Well, you can't really do much about the colleague asking you questions, a part from telling that person to go away with the risk of sounding really rude, but you can certainly do something towards eliminating all the other distractions. Try and set some time aside every day when you turn your computer offline and just focus on the task at hand. Once you have finished that, you can turn everything on again and deal with it all together, but in this way you don't have pop-ups appearing left and right all the time and distracting you.
If for your specific task you need to access certain websites in order to complete it, you can use apps like Self Control for Mac or Freedom for PC that allow you to temporarily block all internet access to a list of specified websites.
Lifehack suggests that instead of saying "yes" to everything, you should start saying "I'll get back to you". In this way, you can start making more informed decisions about the new requests that come your way, instead of saying yes blindly.
Treat your days off as... days off
It is so easy when you are at home in the week-end or on a day off to say, "let me turn on the computer for a sec to check that there is nothing urgent," and suddenly two hours have passed without you even realising.
Make sure you force yourself to switch off from work, leaving your days off completely blank in your diary and organising some outdoor activity, so you don't have the temptation to reach for the computer.
Try the pomodoro technique
As I have an Italian background, pomodoro (which means tomato in Italian) for me is a very odd term to use when it comes to time management, but as I discovered from Lifehacker, this is actually a highly-respected productivity technique that was invented in the early 90s.
When faced with a large task or series of tasks, this technique teaches to break them down into short, timed intervals that are spaced out by short breaks and timed with a timer, traditionally one that is in the shape of a tomato, hence the name. This trains the brain to focus for short periods and helps to stay on top of deadlines. In time, it improves your attention span and concentration. To find out more about this weirdly-named but effective technique, have a look at this post by Lifehacker.
In conclusion, it's all about identifying what is "wasting" most of your time or refraining you from being very productive, and find a solution to it, may it be to delegate it, automate it, postpone it, or stop getting distracted. And don't forget to get a rest from time to time and enjoy life outside of work!