Chelsea McKenzie considers time management one of her biggest weaknesses. But she’s made it her business to become an expert at it.
“I work really hard at managing my time effectively,” says McKenzie, who graduated from KPU’s bachelor of applied design in graphic design for marketing program in 2007. Her company, McKenzie Design, specializes in graphic design, social media, marketing, promotions and branding.
As a freelance design professional, McKenzie is driven by deadlines and directed by the wishes of clients. Still, she maintains both a rich personal and professional life by organizing her life into “billable hours.”
That doesn’t mean McKenzie mentally calculates what it costs her every time she goes to the gym for a workout. It just means she maximizes her time by keeping organized, staying focused and setting clear and concise expectations with her clients.
“One of my beliefs is to be aware of your weaknesses and own them, and one of my weaknesses is time management,” explains McKenzie. “By implementing a few tools and techniques, I’ve become much better at organizing my time.” McKenzie tells her clients when she is available to them, and any unforeseen expectations they have for her outside those days or hours carries an additional fee beyond her hourly rate. The penalty isn’t outrageous, but it protects McKenzie’s time and helps keep her clients on track. “I would rather be punitive than aloof or unresponsive,” she says.
While clear expectations keep clients on track, McKenzie herself stays on track with time-tracking software. She uses an application called Harvest on her laptop and her iPhone, and another app she recommends is Office Time.
Be clear with clients: Clients have no idea what your schedule is like unless you let them know. Agree to the scope of the work and when you will be available, and charge accordingly for additional time or demands on your time outside of reasonable hours. Need to pull an all-nighter? Charge a little extra rush fee, and they’ll think twice about pushing that work on you next time.
Get a mentor: Whatever your field, chances are you can find someone who would be thrilled to impart their many years of experience and insight on you. A request accompanied by a humble approach works best. “The no-nonsense practical advice from my mentor gives me the confidence to make bolder business moves than I might make on my own,” says Mackenzie. “When someone starts to believe in you it’s a powerful thing.”
Don’t neglect sleep: Sleep is crucial to recharge your energy, and energy is essential if you plan to think clearly, make good decisions and stay creative. Without it, you’re running on empty. Sooner or later your work and life will suffer.
Don’t be late: Your time is valuable, but so is everyone else’s. Meetings are the most expensive cost-for-personnel-time activity any team can engage in. They also have the potential to be the most productive. But don’t’ be late. If you have a meeting with someone, be on time, take copious notes and be ready to contribute.
Don’t fall into the social media wasteland: Social media is an excellent tool for many things, but when it starts to negatively impact your social, personal and professional life, it’s time to revisit its usefulness. Turn off your social media alerts for a certain period each night. If there’s really something you need to know about, someone will call instead. Constant alerts, are changing the way we think. We have to fight to maintain concentration in this digital age – learn to take a few hours away from Facebook, Twitter and Texts each week. Try to go for a walk or visit with your friend without your smart phone occasionally. Teach yourself the pseudo-emergencies of life can wait. Your not as important as you think you are.
A Must Read: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen. The book offers Allen’s system for maintaining a healthy work and personal life. This has been a life-changing book for many, from solo entrepreneurs to CEOs. Even if you don’t adopt each tip, many insights will transform the way you sort emails and organize papers effectively.
Always be learning: Check out www.lynda.com. Here you will find online tutorials on almost anything in the creative and digital world.
Try out various time-tracking tools and see if one is right for you: Harvest and Office Time are options. When someone is trying to trim their wasteline, they track calories and observe their indulgences – similarly if you are wondering why you are stressed and overworked – track your time for a few weeks. You’ll be much more aware of better ways to spend your time.
Make lists to help break down and prioritize tasks: Evernote and ASANA are two available tools, and McKenzie has used ASANA on her desktop and mobile device to integrate the system David Allen developed in Getting Things Done. Making lists is the first step, completing them is the second – but those who want to feel in control of their trajectory must frequently review those lists to make sure they are moving forward on projects that are the best use of time and prevent getting caught up in the day’s busy work.