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“If only there were two of me!”

Have you ever said that to yourself? I know I have – lots of times!

We all want to be more productive and get more done in less time. After 25 years in business, I’ve learned a few tips that have helped me.

I’ve found an important first step is to have a daily morning routine. Best practices suggest starting your day an hour earlier than normal so you can include time in your day for you. Things you should consider including in that hour would be:

  • a time of prayer or meditation
  • visualization – seeing and saying your goals to internalize them
  • walking or exercising for 30 minutes outside or on a treadmill
  • journaling
  • writing a list of 10 – this can be 10 of anything like 10 things you learned recently or 10 places you’d like to go and is designed to help you become a better idea generator

As you start your day, take the first 15-30 minutes to plan your day in time blocks. Just as you assign a time to go to the doctor or see a client, assign yourself a time in your day to do tasks, such as working on a marketing plan or calling clients or learning a new skill to grow your business.

I’ve found that Evernote is a valuable tool for organizing myself and my business all in one place. (Microsoft’s OneNote works, too, but I’m a Mac-addict so Evernote was my first choice.)

I’ve been more successful at planning when I set aside time first thing on Mondays to plan my whole week. First I do a “brain dump” where I just go through all my emails, notes, phone messages, every scrap of paper or electronic list to find all the things I need to get done – ever – and make a giant list of everything I can think of, both work and personal. Then I start assigning them places on my time-block grid in Evernote. I try to estimate the amount of time each task will take and assign it that many blocks of time in my week.

Some things need to be done daily. Trying to do them the same time each day will help it become more of a habit, ensuring you actually get it done.

Notice that I keep my weekends on the weekly planner. Sundays are reserved for church and relaxing or visiting with family and friends. Saturdays are open to all possibilities depending on how busy we are in our business. Usually that’s the day I catch up on house projects.

I use color blocking to visually represent times not available to work. I choose colored text to alert me to the purpose of different tasks. Red is for “hot” items that need immediate attention that day. Blue is business as usual. Purple is personal items. I bold and italicize and change fonts as I feel the need. You get the idea.

I leave some blank spaces to allow for things that happen as I go through my week. On good days, this works beautifully. On other days, I move things around a lot. I also save each weekly grid so I can copy and paste it into the next week and simply update it. That way I don’t have to set up the formatting from scratch again every week. Plus I don’t have to type in repeatable actions each week.

See below for what a sample week can look like for me.

Once I block out my time, I have all the important tasks I need to do in front of me and easily accessible. And because I do this in Evernote, my grid is available to me on any web-enabled computer and my mobile devices.

We all make time for what’s important to us and I’m no exception. If growing your business is important, you need to plan your work and work your plan.

I’ve tried a lot of systems over the years, and this combination of block planning my time and using Evernote is making me more productive at a time in my life when I truly need help staying focused and completing as much work each day as I can in as little time as possible.