Anna and I became Instagram friends when I noticed her content being shared by a friend of mine. As a business owner, I am constantly looking for ways to up my productivity game. Her podcast, It's About Time, is a game changer y'all! Anna is all about working smarter, not harder, so you can devote more time to the things you love!
Tell me a little about yourself, your business, and how you got started.
If you'd told me 10 years ago that at 35 I'd be a Time Management Coach running my own business, speaking on stages and hosting a podcast, I'd have laughed in your face. Twenty-five year old Anna was click-clacking around in pencil skirts and heels as the communications director to a statewide elected official. I was so proud of my "very important job." Flying to DC for committee hearings, writing testimony about Louisiana's coastal tourism industry, and making statements to investigative reporters was the norm. I just knew that the fast-paced, 24/7, always-on life of public affairs and crisis communication was made for me. Until it wasn't.
After so many years of GO GO GO, I stopped. Abruptly. Burnout is real. And I quit my job in search of a better way. Now, as a Time Management Coach for busy professionals and business owners who want to master time management so they can stop feeling overwhelmed and start spending time on what matters most, I'm on a mission to help others dig their way out of burnout or avoid it all together. Now, I serve clients from all over the country through one-on-one coaching, and I recently launched my first group coaching program, Take Back Your Life, in order to make mastering time management even more accessible.
My podcast It's About Time - a Podcast about Work, Life and Balance publishes new episodes every Monday morning sharing a mini-training on a time management or productivity strategy, or showcasing a go-getter professional or business owner and pulling back the curtain on how exactly she does all that she does. It's About Time is a space for encouragement and proof of what's possible. My goal is for listeners to walk away with something that they can try out in their own lives to make living just a little easier and more fulfilling.
How does time management and organization/being organized relate? Do you think you can have one without the other?
Imagine all of your current responsibilities and obligations as piles. A pile for your marriage. A pile for being a mom. A pile (or maybe a mountain) for work, with mini piles for each project. A pile for friendships, and piles for all of the other obligations in our lives. When you're surrounded by all of these piles, it's completely overwhelming to know where to start or what to tackle first. So instead of making the piles smaller, you just move them around a bit. Throw a blanket over one pile and ignore it, or get fed up and shove them all in a closet. It's HARD to stop and evaluate each of these piles, and determine whether our responsibilities and obligations are still serving us. It's EASY to let ourselves get swept up in the speed of life, distractions, deadlines and running from one fire to the next.
Organizing your stuff and organizing your time have SO much in common, but there's just no point in hanging on to clutter that's not serving you.
Time Management and organization absolutely go hand in hand. They're basically twin sisters, just not the identical kind. If you can't find your keys because your house is a wreck, you're going to be chronically tardy. If you're chronically tardy, you're always going to feel hurried and therefore not dedicate time to getting physically organized because you feel starved for time. It's a vicious cycle, and sometimes it really takes the outside perspective of a Time Management Coach, Professional Organizer - or even a trusted friend or family member to break that cycle. But the most important thing to remember is that it IS possible to break it. You CAN take back your life.
What is the biggest mistake you see clients and friends making when it comes to time management?
Oh gosh - without a doubt, I see most mistakes with task and project management, aka to-do lists. It's no surprise, because so many of us were taught to "start with a list." But far too often, that's also where we stop. We make a list, but it's not prioritized. We don't estimate how much time something will actually take us, and then we beat up on ourselves when we don't cross everything off our list at the end of the day (even though the list was completely unrealistic and would have taken 37 hours to complete.) Another big pitfall is not keeping your to-do list in a centralized spot. Having a to-do list isn't helpful if that list is scattered across 37 sticky notes, 8 notepads strewn across your office, kitchen, car, and shoved in the bottom of your handbag, plus the Reminders App and the Notes in your phone. When we use too many lists, our brain is then burdened with remembering where all of the lists are - which only makes the overwhelm worse. After getting clear on what matters most, my #1 piece of time management advice is to corral all of your to-do's in one place, and one place only. I use Trello. It's digital, free and user friendly and I'm obsessed.
What is the one thing you do every week that sets you up for success?
Hands down, the most important thing I do each week is my weekly planning session. At some point on Sunday - usually Sunday morning - I'll grab a cup of coffee, my laptop and our family recipe box and plan the week. First, I look at the week ahead, checking for any "tough spots" like late meetings or exceptionally full days. Then, I'll plan our meals for the week based on those "tough spots." That looks like planning for leftovers or easy slow cooker dinners on those busy days so I'm not spending extra time in the kitchen. We always do pizza on Sunday nights, and we typically do Mexican on Tuesdays (with leftovers on Wednesdays) - so it's easy to fill in the rest of the week with those two traditions in place. Once the menu is set, I place our grocery order using Shipt. The last thing I'll do is write our menu for the week on a dry erase board in our family command center. "HEY! What's for dinner?!" "Go check the board!" This is also super handy because if Scott is home early, he can get dinner started without me.
How organized are you on a scale of 1-10? No judgement ;)
Haha! I'll give myself a 7. My to-do list (or you know, collection of lists) is pretty well organized. I can find just about anything if I need it in a moment's notice. It also helps that I keep all of my tasks and projects in Trello, so it's easily searchable. My business files and folders in Google Drive are SUPER organized, but my personal photos are less organized that I'd like them to be. I know exactly WHAT I need to do, but I tend to put my personal projects on the back burner. I'd give our kitchen cabinets and drawers a 9, our pantry a 7 - I have a basket that's dedicated to "carbs." Our garage is a 6 - that was actually my first coronavirus stress project. I completely reorganized and cleaned out our garage that first weekend of quarantine. I popped Camilla in her wagon with some toys, put on Disney music, got after it and it looked AMAZING. Definitely a 10. I was probably sore for 3 days after that. It's gradually gotten away from us... so I'll give it a 6 now. I'm probably least organized when it comes to stuff like makeup and hair products. I don't meticulously separate things out by type or function, but I know exactly where to find things - so that's all that matters. I feel like sometimes people want to "over-organize" and it ends up being more cumbersome than helpful. You have to know how much is "enough" and what's right for you. An amazing, detailed system doesn't help anything if it's confusing you don't use it.
Here's a surprise - I don't have a super detailed email folder system. I use two tags in Gmail: Action Item and In Progress. Everything else gets archived or deleted. In my opinion, spending 30+ minutes a day putting things in folders is a huge waste of time - the pinnacle of "fake busy." If you need to find something, use the search tool. If it's so important that you don't trust the search tool, copy & paste the details into a Google Doc. That should be super rare. Oh - last thing. Inbox Zero is not a priority for me. My inbox is sorted in a way that I have TONS of unread messages, but they're all unimportant. Everything that's important or from a "real person" rises to the top and is handled within a day or two. In working with my time management clients, I've found that most people who claim to get 200-300 emails a day are only getting around 30-40 "real" emails that require a thoughtful response. That's totally manageable, but when you're sifting through newsletters, cc's, sales emails and inefficient communication it can feel overwhelming. Use filters to sort the junk, draft efficient messages that don't require a lot of back and forth, use email templates for frequently sent messages,and use automated tools like Calendly, Acuity or share your availability in Google Calendar or Outlook to schedule meetings. Utilize other communication tools besides email, like Slack, for quick back and forth communication. Email is not instant messenger, and when you treat it that way it floods your inbox. I realize the question was about how organized I am on a scale of 1-10, but I couldn't resist going down an email rabbit hole because it's such a common struggle.