6 ideas to create time for what matters most

Mentee to Mentor’ is a series of articles featuring budding digital marketers who’ve learnt the practical aspects of digital marketing under my mentorship. As part of their internship experience, they came across exciting challenges that they had to solve. And they learnt some valuable lessons that they’re sharing with you here.

Third up in the series is Carolina Lopes who spent 6 months with me as a personal assistant and back-office manager. She created time in my life I never knew I had by optimising my work processes and by introducing me to a new calendar management system that works like a charm. I asked her to contribute to this series of blogs because I believe her ideas and best practices can help many others.

Over to Carolina now.

Here’s the thing: we all have to manage our time. There’s a Portuguese saying ‘tempo é dinheiro’ which translates to ‘time is money’. So when our time is so valuable, we need to make it count. I’m going to share some tips that I started doing recently. It may not work for everyone but it can be a good place to start for people who are a little lost in this digital era.

Time blocking and colours

First thing: I like to block my calendar. Block my time not only for meetings but also for the tasks that I really have to do. I even block my meals and break time. If I’m too focused on work and I forget to eat, my phone will send me a notification telling me to stop for a bit and take a break. 

But the secret formula on calendars are the colours. When I started with calendar management, every event was a dull blue and nothing stood out. Now, I use specific colours for specific things, for different areas in my life. And I can transport those colours into other apps or even my notebook. If it’s work related, I add a green shade on top of the event; if it’s health related, I use blue; for breaks and time off, I go with pink. That way, …

… as soon as I look into the calendar, I know which colour pops up more for the day and what it’s going to be like, focus-wise. 

Inspirational Quotes On A Planner
Adjusting and adapting to change

But there is one thing about calendars. They get dull if every week looks the same. I had a system in January that worked just fine but in February, I lacked the will to do those tasks. It was so repetitive and it didn’t have any flow to it. But that’s normal. We’re not robots. If our calendar always looks the same and there isn’t a little change in them, it gets a little hard to follow. 

We as people change as well. We’re constantly changing and improving ourselves. That same way, our calendars should change and improve too. Every system needs updating.

When you get used to a system, it makes you feel comfortable as it’s something you’re already familiarised with. But trust me, it will need some changes in the future.

A year ago I was a completely different person. Discovering myself and new sides of the world was amazing and challenging. You need change in order to grow. So keep a flow-y schedule, don’t stick to regularity. Add some new things into your calendar. Spice things up.

Time to reflect and planning ahead

One thing that I recently added to my own was a reflection hour. This hour at the end of every week makes me look back to what I accomplished and finished that week. It makes me look back and check: what in my calendar did I skip over and what did I have to add at the last minute. Should I keep this event that I don’t care about that much? Should I change it into something else that I can actually do and brings me joy? This hour makes me reflect on what I’m doing with my time and if I should keep doing it or not. 

Another thing that I like to do is this: every morning, before I start my day, I take a look at the calendar. What is the thing that needs to be done and when? Should I dress up or can I have a more relaxing day and just work by myself at home? I take my tasks for the week and add them to my day.

But I never forget that I’m not a machine nor a robot. I’m a human being with needs. And rest is important, especially on a busy schedule. Don’t be afraid to add some breaks into your calendar. Give yourself the rest you deserve. 

Schedule periods of rest right into your calendar, and take them as seriously as your tasks and meetings.

And the last thing I want to talk about is a really important thing for me: checklists. I absolutely love them and they make me into a responsible human being which I truly appreciate.

Let me tell you, I don’t have a more satisfying moment than when I cross one thing off my list. As long as I have little white squares that haven’t been checked yet, I turn into my most productive self so that I can cross every item on the list. I don’t know if you’re like me but this is what works for me. And when the end of the day comes and you see all of your tasks checked!? Amazing, the most tranquil feeling in the world. You did it, one more day and you made it work. 

White and Green Book on White Textile
K.I.S.S.

And here’s another thing: You don’t need amazing time managing skills to get something done. Sometimes, simplifying is the best. 

When you look at a full calendar and you see that all of your time for the week is blocked, it can be daunting. It’s terrifying to think about all the things you need to do. My first advice is to keep it simple. Again: colour code! I’m serious, it will change your life. And make the colour come out of your calendar as well, create a system you can easily follow. 

You don’t need 5 apps on tasks. It will only slow you down. Keep it simple, have all your to-dos in one place. Taking one hour at the end of the week, looking at the things you’ve done and taking into consideration how you feel is also important.

Again, you are the most important person on your schedule. If you can’t make it, nothing in your calendar matters. 

Reflect on your week. Were you happy with what you did? Was it productive enough? Was it a good week? 

If it was, good for you! I mean it. If it wasn’t, don’t worry. 

You have the next week to improve and get better.

I really hope these ideas will help you to be your most productive self, whatever it is that you do. On my end, I can say that these tricks and practices have changed my life to the better and allowed me to allocate my time to what really matters.

About the Author:

Carolina has recently finished her degree in Management. She worked with us at ProLingua Global as a Back Office Manager, learning about the practical aspects of business management under my mentorship. I asked her to describe herself in just one sentence:

‘Someone creative who likes to make order out of chaos.’

She has a passion for language learning and she would love to have a chance to work with a language professional again in the future, as a personal assistant and back office manager. She likes crochet and the company of good books. 

Reach out to her via LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolina-lopes-87684a209/

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