1. Business

Five Ideas to Get More Control Over Time

Intro by Skip Cohen

Scrolling through the archives of Justin and Mary Marantz’s blog, there’s so much great content. A lot of what they share relates to developing great technique as a photographer and raising the bar on your skillset, but this post hit me harder than most.

Time is one element that we so often feel like we have no control over. We wake up, dig into work and *poof* the day’s over and we’ve still got more left to accomplish. Most of us are unorganized in our approach. We know we can do better and exercise more control, but then the phone rings and we’re interrupted.

After reading Mary’s thoughts on email – I shut off the response bell on my computer. I know that seems so basic, but I try and do so much every day and too often I wind up exhausted and frustrated. I’m taking too much time to finish each task I want to accomplish.

We all wear a number of different hats – the key is to only wear one at a time. Thanks to some great advice from Mary, I’ve got some ideas on how to get more organized and at the same time become even more productive!

It’s a longer post than usual, but so worth reading!

By Justin and Mary Marantz

  1. Make What’s Working Work More.  A couple years ago, Justin & I made the decision to have cleaners come in once a week to help us keep up with the house (we call it “clean sheet Tuesday”!) I know that sounds like a luxury and honestly for so long we put it off because we were scared how much it was going to be… but it turned out that it was actually really affordable. AND we have found a way to get even MORE return on that investment by now also scheduling all of our meetings, workshops & mentoring for either Tuesday evening or Wednesdays. We used to just do things whenever they fit into the calendar without thinking about it, which meant we were always scrambling to get the house ready before people arrived. But by just being a little more intentional and strategic with our scheduling and having set days for things, now people come into a fresh, clean house. And we don’t have to do any extra work to get it that way. We made what was already working, work MORE.
  2. Tame the Email Beast. Do you want to know the funny thing about email? It can take up your WHOLE life just going back & forth with people if you let it. Especially if you still have that “ding” turned on that tells you when a new message has come in… go turn that off right now if you haven’t yet. That one act alone has saved me hours of my life & given me so much more focus back! So now, I only sit down and do one focused burst of email a day (two if the inbox is really busy)…I put an hour on the clock, and I race myself to get through as much as I can. I answer the highest priority ones first (like inquiries & client emails) and then I follow that with my “two-minute emails” (the ones that can be answered in two minutes or less). And then I set aside time to work on those more in-depth emails (like the ones that require me to make a decision, find out an answer, or complete some sort of work before I can write back) until the timer runs out. Whatever else is left can roll over to the next email burst. Because repeat after me, the world will not end if they have to wait just one more day before you can get back to them!
  3. Group it. Our days used to look like this: go out to the gym, come home. Go out for lunch, come home. Go to Starbucks, come home. Go to Target, come home. I know that sounds insane, but it was true. I actually think in some ways it was our way of procrastinating. And other times, it was just poor planning. But each one of those trips was costing us somewhere between half an hour and THREE hours (target, am-i-right??). It took up our whole day! Now if we’re going to run out before we leave we think of all the things that might potentially need to be done and we prepare for that. We gather up the dry cleaning, we make a Target list, we pack in the bags for Goodwill, we package up that album that needs to go out, we meal plan for the week and bring that list with us to the grocery store (or even better order online!)… and we do it all in one big run only once a week (“errand day”), making sure to plan for the most strategic order of doing things.
  4. Focused Blocks of Time. Anytime we try to bounce from thing to thing to thing (Instagram to email to Facebook to organizing my office), that disjointed approach just makes me feel really unproductive, and I end up getting distracted and wasting a lot of time. I’ve learned instead to plan things out with focused blocks of time and block scheduling. Kind of like our one hour power of email. We do the same thing with pretty much everything in our life now. For example, we’ll sit down and book all of our travel for the next few months all at once and we’ll stay in that “travel” frame of mind until it’s all done. We have “album afternoons” where we crank out everything that needs to be done for all of our albums that are in process all at once. We already have that part of our brain turned on that is focused on Album Exposure & Leather Craftsmen…and how all of their systems work. So we just stay in that space until it’s done. Because the funny thing is, it only takes about 20% more time to do ALL the things in that category once we have our heads in the game, as it does to do just one of them. So if we’ll just stay in that focused space until it’s done then we save a TON of time in the long run!
  5. Home Days. Something I have learned about myself as an Introvert is that if I have even one thing (meeting, Skype, dinner) on the calendar for that day… then I spend pretty much the whole day mentally preparing for it. And I don’t get a whole lot else done.  I have learned that for me, I have to have entire days blocked off on the schedule (our “home” days) where I don’t have to be anywhere or see anyone and I can just get work done! 🙂 And what’s interesting, is that we’ve also learned that some of our most high performer friends do this too! It’s a common tactic among some of the most successful business-people we know! The idea is I can spend the whole day in yoga pants if I want and I can use those days to either crank through “to-do’s”, tackle big projects, or simply rest and take a day off.