Time is something that can slip away from you pretty quickly. It doesn’t matter if you’re building links, writing content or auditing a site. When you’ve got “x” amount of time allotted for a project and you get focused on it, it’s easy to go over. Or if you keep checking the clock to make sure you’re not going over, the work itself can be compromised. So how do you stay on top of a massive to-do list while pumping out quality work for your clients?
Make a schedule and stick to it:
This seems like a no-brainer (and should be) for many; but once you’ve made a schedule it can be easy to get distracted with pings from your co-workers or your boss asking you for some help here and there. While it’s great to be a team player, you also want to be dedicated to your clients. So the next time you get an IM or email asking for your attention, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask how important the task is or if it can wait a few hours. As a matter of fact, it’s smart. It’s called prioritizing and staying on task. Stopping completely to work on something else can be really distracting, so if you must do so make sure it’s something worth your time. Being pulled all over the place just spreads you too thin where you can’t be 100% effective in any one area.
Keep like projects together:
Once you’ve got a schedule in mind, try to keep the items that are closely related together. That way when working on them, your mind will be focused and in the gear (thought patterns) you need it to be. You’ll be able to stay strong, effective and creative. For example, I try to schedule as many link building tasks as I can together so I can stay focused on link building for as long as I can. The same goes for content writing. Even if it’s for a different client, having my mind set one topic will help the creative juices flow and I end up generating better quality work.
This may seem weird to some, but I’ve grown to like background noise when I’m working. I don’t mean kids screaming upstairs or the chatter of the office but music, white noise or even rain sounds. Lisa Barone mentions this in Copyblogger’s How Lisa Barone Writes. I’ve found it helps keep me focused and sane. If you must have a hot cup of coffee/tea/whatever, grab a big mug and get started.
Staying on track:
I have a habit of checking the clock or a reminder every 15 minutes or so. It’s a bad habit but I’m getting better with it. I’ve started pushing my reminders back to 30 – 45 minutes. I’ve also started to be okay with going over 10 minutes or so on a task if I’m at the end of it. Just because I’m close to finishing out a task and time allotted for that task has expired doesn’t mean “stop, pencils down.” I have to finish what I was in the middle of. When this happens to you, just finish it as quickly as you can and move on to the next task. If you’ve been using the allotted time wisely then going over just a bit shouldn’t matter much.
If you need some help keeping track of your time and Microsoft Outlook isn’t your cup of tea, there are a few other options out there:
Project Insight – This is a paid software, used mostly to manage projects and tasks but it comes with a nifty stopwatch for projects. Just click start when you begin a project and stop when you finish it or take a break. This will record all your time spent on it and truly let you know how much time you’ve gone over or have left. It also lets you know what project deadlines are being missed by turning the task to red. You can also view team members time on any shared tasks.
Klok – A software that works with Adobe AIR (there is a free version) that lets you create blocks of time for projects and timelines within the project for each task needed to be done. This doesn’t take much space and works with pretty much any OS.
ZOHO – This is an online tool (both paid and free versions), that lets you track your time and view teammates times on projects. It’s great for seeing how a project is coming along and being able to identify what areas could be slipping.
Keep it consistent:
If you’ve never kept yourself in a routine like this, it’s best to start now. It’s just like with exercising or eating right. You have to develop a routine, stick to it and be disciplined and everything else will fall into place.