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For this week’s Germinator post, we’d like to provide some tips and thoughts related to Time Management and Productivity. Some of them will likely have been heard before, but a few others may be surprisingly new—things that may seem mundane, but could turn out to be the difference between a day of productivity, and a day of running in circles searching for “more time.”

Before our team sat down and determined how to better manage our own time and tasks, we were spending far too much time trying to be organized, instead of actually being more organized with our days and the time given us.

We spent hours responding to emails, checking in with one another, and trying to determine good times to have group meetings or sessions.

Small, mundane tasks were becoming large chunks of our day, and we sometimes felt that despite being constantly in motion, it was hard to say what we were really able to check off of our lists in the end.

All of this has changed since we’ve implemented just a few time management tools and work day practices:

1. “Big Rock, Little Rock”

One practice we like to have in place is to create a list of “Big Rocks” and “Little Rocks” on a daily or weekly basis. Instead of looking at our “To Do’s” as a whole (and becoming overwhelmed with the length and content) we try to figure out how to sort things out by necessity or immediacy.

On any given day, we could have a dozen projects or clients that need to be addressed, but by sorting these needs into “Big Rocks” and “Little Rocks”, we can use our “Smaller Rocks” (things that will take less time or require less immediacy) to supplement our “Big Rocks” (larger projects, immediate needs). Consider writing down what you would consider your “rocks” for the week, and see if categorizing them as “bigs” or “littles” affects your work routine.

The “Big Rock, Little Rock” illustration is taken from Stephen R. Covey’s book “First Things First.” This structure for scheduling your priorities and tasks was first introduced to our team by our network at Biz to Biz.

2. Google Calendar

While our team has always used Google Calendar individually for our own purposes, we now have a shared workplace calendar for everyone, so that throughout the day we’re able to see who is working on what, and when. This way—even a few days in advance—if we need to contact a team member with a question or concern, we can see if they’ll be readily available, or whether we need to send an email or text instead if they’re in a meeting with a client or away on personal business.

You’ve heard it before, and we reiterate it here—being more productive does not mean having to sacrifice every other aspect of your life for your work. We have a desire to be “busy” at all times throughout the day, and sometimes as business owners, we feel as though there is always something else to be done to encourage traffic or income. But don’t make your work harder than it needs to be, simply work “smarter” with the time you’ve already given yourself.

Using Google Calendar has eliminated our need for as many daily emails and check-ins, and we’re able to update our days on the fly in the event something comes up and we need to rearrange what we’re working on. With our shared Google calendar, we’ve eliminated countless hours with our email inboxes open, so that we can dedicate even more time to the projects we really want to be working on.

Similarly, Entrepreneur published an article about time management tips and tricks. Click here to read the post—many of their “areas” of time specified are scheduled into our own days via our Google calendar. At Betula, we even set aside time for interruptions or things that we know will have been pushed back—like the above article reads: “Any activity or conversation that’s important to your success should have a time assigned to it.”

Good time management and planning practices can make the most out of the time you’re given, and we hope you’ll come to find that you really do have time for everything—family, friends, your work, basket weaving, tightrope walking, and then some. The Creativity Post provides an excellent article on working smarter, not harder. Take a look—you might be surprised at what you find.

3. Function Point (Project Management)

Some companies find that a boost in project management can greatly increase business productivity. After thorough research this past fall, we decided to go with Function Point as our new project management system at Betula.

Through Function Point, we’ve maintained a more consistent way of labeling, categorizing, and file organization for every new project that comes our way. We’re able to assign tasks to team members, make updates to jobs as they arrive, and create folders within the job itself to store important documents. It’s the center of our hub throughout the week—and it makes communication and team direction a breeze.

While “fp.”—as we lovingly call it—was built specifically for creative agencies, other project management software is aimed at all kinds of industries. A few more examples of management software we researched include: