5 Steps to help you get everything done before you leave the office

1. GET STARTED NOW (and keep your head down).

It is easy at Christmas time to get caught up in the christmas spirit and the gossip at the water cooler / kitchen / coffee machine. Doing more work now and maintaining the momentum will mean that you can rest easy and relax over the Christmas Period.

2. PRIORITISE (and agree with clients what can wait until the new year)

If you write a master to do list of everything that needs done and work out a priority ranking for them. Start will all the things you need to get done, followed by those that would be nice extras.


If you haven’t already bought your 2014 diary or you haven’t started thinking into the next year do it now. Stop booking in things in December and start making appointments in the new year (advise your secretary of the same).


Keep track of when your key client, customers and colleagues are out of the office and plan your work accordingly. Need to get a document signed off? make sure you get it done while you still can. If you know you need input from someone who is on holiday and you won’t be able to progress a particular to-do put it on hold and work on something else.

5. HAVE A CUT OFF POINT (and say no!)

Have a cut off point for accepting new work or checking and dealing with letters and email etc. Even take it the extra step and put your out of office on early.

How to prepare for taking time off at Christmas

This month we will be focussing on Christmas Time Management.

Today we are looking at how to prepare for taking time off for your Christmas Holidays so that you can have a relaxed time away from the office without one eye on your email or blackberry.

Your plan of action will largely depend on whether your office stays open during the holiday period and you need to find cover for the days you have chosen to take OR the office shuts completely. Having worked in both office environments I can safety say that shutting the office over the Chrismas Period is the preferred option.

Whether your office is open or not – you can start preparing now by doing the following things:

  • Simply try and get as much done as possible. Estimate your workload in the coming weeks and plan accordingly.
  • Start informing people in your letters and emails when you will be out of the office or when your office will be closed. If the office is staying open also inform customers and clients of any reduced opening hours.
  • Find out when contacts that you regularly work with are out of the office as well. If they perform a particular function in your work process you may need to plan and adapt.
  • Arrange with customers, clients and suppliers what tasks, meetings, jobs can wait until the new year.

If you are out of the office, but someone will be covering your work (or at least the urgent things) in your absence, leave good quality holiday notes (no one wants to spend Christmas doing your job as well as their own). If this does apply to you, you should also read our article for preparing holiday notes (includes free template).

When should you be time recording?

This month we have addressed:

This week is the last part of the time recording series and we are thinking about when you should be time recording.

When should you be Time Recording?

For those readers who work the 9-5 professionally you may already have time recording obligationsand if you don’t it can be hard to say that you SHOULD be incorporating time recording into your routine without first considering the advantages – and seeing if they apply to YOU! and whether they could work for your EMPLOYER (if it is not an industry standard it is unlikely that it should be). That said, it can be a powerful tool for you as an individual.

Time Recording can be of a great benefit for start-ups, solopreneurs, coaches and bloggers. Depending on the type of business you run or what you do should determine what activities you should record your time for. It is unrealistic to expect to be able to charge for everything that you do so think about what your chargeable (or billable) activities will be and at minimum record your time for these activities. You can also record your time for non-chargeable items if you are interested in carrying out a time management analysis.

So that leaves you with two options – only record your time for chargeable activities OR to record all your time (both chargeable and non-chargeable) activities and take the time to review at regular intervals.

Which shall YOU choose? What are YOUR chargeable activities?

How to Record your Time

Last week we talked about Time Recording including what time recording is and the advantages of time recording. Today we want to talk about different methods of recording your time.

There are three main ways that you can record time:

  • with pen and paper;
  • using a spreadsheet;
  • using a time recording tool.

I use a combination of pen and paper and Toggl. I use Toggl to physically record the time but I use the pen and paper to actually keep a record of the time. I have weekly targets – and on paper I record the etimate/target time and actual time spent – but this data comes from my Toggl timesheets. In my mind it is the perfect combination of both.

I use a combination of Filofax inserts to record my time – namely my weekly and monthly review inserts.

An alternative to toggl is my minutes as it helps you identify where you are spending your time, and a further alternative to time recording is completing work in 30 minute Intervals with the 30/30 iphone app which helps you keep focused with short bursts of productivity and enables you to break down your todo list into bite sized chunks.

The variety is endless – find an option that works well for you.

What apps do you enjoy using?

What is Time Recording?

Last week for Time Management Tuesday I wrote about Toggl, an online time recording product that I use for my website and blog.

So what exactly is time recording or time tracking?

This post is intended as an introduction for those of you who don’t use it professionally, but may want to consider using time recording for your start-up, blog or side hustle.

A time recording system allows you to record start and finish times so that the time spent on an activity can be recorded.  This could be a project as a whole or could be broken down into specific tasks.

A lot of professionals use time recording in their day job whether it is for billing for their time or booking to a cost code for a large scale project practices are decided and dictated by industry practice.

Today I want to tell you that you too can use time recording at home as a time management practice. You can use it for:

  1. Your Blog;
  2. Your Business;
  3. Your Art and other Crafty projects;
  4. Your Services.

What ever you use it for – time recording can be a useful tool.

How much you use a process like
time recording will depend on what your business or product is – but
just because you don’t or can’t use it on a daily basis does not mean that it
does not have advantages.

Last year when I first started blogging at Printed Portal I wrote about how I did time recording – simply with a stopwatch and some Filofax inserts and I also used a number of personalised inserts to manage my time recording. I found that it helped plan my blogging time much more effectively. I originally got the idea from one of Helen Conway’s guest posts on Philofaxy last year. It is a great post – worth a read.

I won’t lie setting up a time recording system and getting into the mind set can be frustrated and use up your precious time. So it is important to keep it as simple as you can (but more on that next week).  For now I want to explain a bit more about the benefits of time recording.

Advantages of Time Recording

There are plenty of advantages for time recording – these are my favourites, and reasons why I believe that everyone should use an element of time recording:

  • By keeping a record you know EXACTLY how you have been spending your time.
  • By KNOWING how you spend your time, you can evaluate how you are spending your time and identify areas for improvement.
  • By EVALUATING how you spend your time you can change what you do to ensure the time that you do have is well spent.
  • The practice of Time Recording teaches you to FOCUS on one activity at a time, deters you from procrastinating and enables you to get more done.
  • Time Recording helps you PLAN current and future projects by enabling you to use the data to produce more accurate estimates and schedule and budget your time.
  • Time Recording provides information that can be used for BILLING your time, services or product.
  • Time Recording gives you an insight into the cost and VALUE of your work.

Do you record your time? If so, what do you think the best advantages are?  Share your experiences in the comments.

Time Recording with Toggl (Product Review)

Toggl is a time-recording tool.

What drew me to Toggl initially was its simplicity as a tool – combined
with functionality. It is available both online and as an app so I can
use it both when I am at my PC and when I am on the go – which for me is
perfect for time recording wherever I am.

The great thing about Toggl is that it can be put to use straightaway.
Just sign up and start tracking the time you spend on projects,
activities and actions. It is pretty flexible.

Just hit the start and stop button – simple.

You can also restart the clock on particular projects if you are for example wishing to bill on a per- hour basis.

For my purposes time recording is a tracking and cost estimate tool – I
do not bill directly for my time so I have not needed to upgrade to the
paid version of Toggl.

If you are looking to do bills and invoices – you
will need to upgrade to the PRO version. However it is a reasonable
price at £5/mo and you can try it for free in advance.

Top 10 ways to be productive in a traffic jam

Getting home today was a nightmare. Traffic Chaos – everywhere! This got me thinking about what productive things I can do when driving by myself and stuck in a traffic jam. It is NOT as simple as waiting for a delayed train where I can simply write/read and use my smartphone without worrying about causing an accident.

1. Relax – Listen to the Radio

This is my default in the car when travelling home as it gives me half an hour of relaxing, singing and down-time before getting home and being productive again. However, if I am stuck in traffic for a long time I soon get bored (or frustrated with traffic reports).

2. Catch up on Phone Calls

If you have a hands-free kit, being stuck in traffic is perfect for all those phone calls you haven’t got round to doing – checking in with relatives,friends, work, returning missed calls from earlier in the day, or chasing/booking in the repair guy.

3. Listen to Audiobooks or Podcasts

If you have a huge reading list – sometimes the best way to get through it is by listening to it. Whether you do this on a regular basis during your commute or simply have a few emergency ones ready for heavy traffic jams – you should build up a collection of interesting content – it can beat listening to stupid phone in competitions on the radio.

4. Dictate/Record Lists

My mind always starts to wander while stuck in a traffic jam – this time is perfect for making either targeted lists (such as a grocery list, a to-do list for the following day) or simply noting things that spring to mind at random to review and organise later.

5. Practice a Language / Memorising Key Facts

If you are learning a language (yes, I am when I remember) or having an exam or test, being alone in the car can be the perfect time to rehearse or practice out loud. No one can hear you and anyone else will just think you are on the handsfree or singing along with the radio like everyone else.

6. Practice for a Presentation, an interview or a difficult conversation

Practice makes perfect. Whatever you need to practice for – quality alone time during your drive can, once again, be the perfect time to practice. Yes! Out loud.

7. Plan and Progress

I always get agitated when stuck in a traffic jam because I think ‘I have so much to do’ or ‘I need to be doing X right now’ when you have these moments – stop and think is there any way you can be progressing those items right now – whether it is creating a dictation, recording a YouTube Video or podcast, delgating work by making a phone call – if there is anything you can be doing (safely) do it!

8. Eat on the Go

I sometimes eat during my commute anyway – if you eat breakfast on the way to work (or make arrangements for dinner to be ready for when you get in in the evening) it can be a great time saver – which means that you can get straight on to the important stuff when you get out of the traffic jam and reach your destination.

9. Problem-Solve and Generate Ideas

Being productive isn’t just about capturing your ideas – it is also about having the time to think outside the box, brainstorm and let your mind wander. Identify particular things that you want to address or solve and tackle those problems instead of getting stressed and agitated by the traffic.

10. Take a detour and stop somewhere

Today I was stuck in a traffic jam outside the local mall and was weighing up the possibility of going there instead to wait for the traffic to clear and get some shopping done instead. I didn’t today but I have done this a number of times which has saved me doing the shopping at the weekend (and had a much easier journey home by waiting it out).

So that’s is – my top 10 ways to be productive in a traffic jam and making the most of the bad situation.

How do you use your time when stuck in a traffic jam?

Why bother with a Routine Task List?


You may be wondering why I use a routine task list at all,
and why I recommend that you use one too.

Well let me start by saying that this process only works
well, if YOU work well with lists. If to-do lists and checklists are not really
your thing this method probably is not really for you. However, the odds are if
you are reading this blog you work well with paper-based organisational systems
such as notebooks, Filofaxes and binders – which usually incorporate Lists.

The choice to use a routine task list in part comes from the
fact that I know I work well with lists but it is more than that:

  • a routine task list forms the outline for my to-do list. It is based on regular tasks that I do and creates a routine out of them.
  • It gives me a starting point so I don’t procrastinate while working out what to do first – this list starts me off. (it also stops the ‘what to do next moments’).
  • It creates a habit. The routine becomes a habit.
  • It can be personalised – I tweak it every month based on what works well and
    what doesn’t – additionally I can choose to focus heavily in a particular
    area of my life should I need to – for example August and September were focussed on career development, whereas October and November will have a writing focus.

In summary, having a
list makes my free time more targeted and cuts down on idle and unnecessary
procrastination while having the flexibility to mould and adapt to my lifestyle
and working practices.

What to do with your Routine Task List?

Following on from part one of how to write your daily
routine task list
, this time round we are thinking more about what to do with
your routine task list and where to put this list so that you actually use it –

Consider the way you work – where are your other daily
tasks, what dictates what you do in any given day – is it your phone, your
diary, outlook and emails? If you could pinpoint one thing that rules your life what would it be?

Paper-Based Systems

If you are a fan of paper-based systems write your daily
routine list in your diary or Filofax.  There
are some great methods of doing this including:

  • Using a grid.
  • Using a checklist.
  • Using your page marker.

For my blogging and writing daily routine I use a
personalised daily routine notebook each month.

Using an App

If you are tied to your iphone or other smart phone using a
dedicated productivity app might be the best solution for you. Whether you use
a habit tracker style checklist such as daily goals or a to-do list as your app
of choice – make sure you pick something that you like to use. Your
choice can be based on visual appeal or functionality – it doesn’t matter
provided you like to use it as the more you like it, the more likely you are to
use it.

What did you choose?

How to Write a Routine Task List

I love checklists. I believe that using checklists for your job can be a great way to streamline your working processes and save time. I use on the job checklists for routine tasks, specific projects and personal routines.

My routine task list is a daily checklist and is personalised to suit my daily needs. I find that having a routine task list focuses my daily routine so that I am not wasting time when there are things that need to be done.

How to Write a Routine Task List

1. Take a week to plan

a week as an experiment and write down what you DO each day. You can
use you binder, planner or a blank piece of paper to write this down.
The easiest way is to simply make a running list – you will be surprised
at what you do in any given day.

2. Analyse your week

you have created the list the next step is to analyse this list. Use
either different colour pens, highlighters and marks and identify the
tasks in the following categories:

  • those that you do EVERY DAY,
  • those that you do on a WEEKDAY
  • those that are DAY specific.

Strike out those that are not routine tasks.  We are ignoring those ones today.

3. Create your list

about the order you do these routine tasks in or the order that you
want to do them in. For example you could split your list into morning,
afternoon and evening. I do. Then simply order the items on the list in
an order that works for you. For example: in order of importance or the
order you want to do them.

Great. So you have written the list – now what? Check back next Tuesday for part 2:  ‘What to do with your Routine Task List’.