Do you feel like a headless chicken? Here’s how to stop

Time management blog header

Let’s face it, we’re all busy most of the time.  If you’re anything like me there are a thousand and one things to be achieved in the course of a single day and never enough hours to get it all done.  I find myself going into headless chicken mode, dotting between one task and the next and never feeling as if anything’s been done properly.

If this is you, just stop.  Right now.  It’s OK, as long as your children aren’t crying in their classroom because you’re not there to pick them up.  Take a deep breath, close your eyes if you won’t get funny looks from the boss (or even if you will).  Better?  OK, take another deep breath and read on.

Pretend you’re back at school

You don’t have to dress up in school uniform (although what you do in the privacy of your own home is up to you), but just cast your mind back to your school days for a minute.  Didn’t it all seem much easier back then?  Of course, part of that was the fact that you probably didn’t have to worry about bills or what you were going to have for tea.  Most of the time, you knew exactly where you had to be and what you were meant to be doing at any given moment because you had a timetable.

Set your own timetable

When you’re self-employed you tell yourself that you’re free, that you can work whenever and wherever it suits you.  There might be specific times where you have to pick the kids up or go to an event, but otherwise your time is your own.  It sounds great but it’s a challenge in itself.  I spent my first few weeks as a freelancer alternating between frenetic bursts of activity and floundering around, not knowing what to do next as there were so many options.

So I sat down and wrote a timetable on a big sheet of paper.  I marked school pick up times and meal breaks to start with (I’m not worth knowing when I’m hungry), then I looked at what else needed to go in.  I scheduled blocks of time for client work, pitching to potential new clients, content creation, even reading my emails and looking at social media.  Suddenly everything got simpler.  I can still be flexible but if I’m scanning around wondering what to do next I look at my timetable and pick up the next task in that category.

Take time to reflect

The beauty of setting your own timetable is that you can change it.  I’ve always kept a ‘to do’ list in my diary but now I take time to reflect on what I’ve accomplished during the day so I can write my plan for the next day.  It also helps me to identify where I’ve tried to cram too much in so I can make a more realistic plan next time.  That’s not just good for my stress levels, it means I don’t let clients down either.

Eating frogs

Mark Twain once said that if you ate a live frog first thing in the morning then your day could only improve from there.  If there’s a task that I don’t like but that still needs doing I try and do it first thing in the morning so it’s out of the way.  Hopefully that means that by the time you read this I’ll have bitten the bullet and done my tax return.

If you have any advice for avoiding those headless chicken moments I’d love to hear it! Get in touch.

Further reading

5 time management techniques worth using

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