So let's dive in.
Do a time audit. This is a great way to check how you're using time right now. Make a note of ALL the activities you do in a day and when. You could even try the Toggl app - free and easy to use on your phone. This might just highlight where time might be wasted or times when you're busy but perhaps don't feel productive. Try this for a few days in a row to recognise patterns.
What's the big drain? All of us have time consuming things that we do without thinking. It could be a dodgy habit like you're a doom scroller on social or something that has to be done each day like school runs, animal care etc. Work out ways to ring fence the time you spend on these activities and start to plan that into your day. For example, many of us need to check social but instead of regularly dropping by, try 3 specific slots per day with a timer!
Prioritise your goals. Obvious but not so easy to manage when 'life' takes over! Perhaps each week or each month, note a small list of totally essential activities you need to achieve in your business. Then BOOK THEM IN to your diary. This way, when you get asked to do something else or feel called to other activities, your priorities are there and can't be forgotten.
List the stuff you're good at. One of our biggest mistakes in small business is assuming we should do it all ourselves. Many of us try to to (my hand is up!) but it's not a good way to spend time. Think about outsourcing the stuff you're less gifted at or that takes you a long time. For example it could be bookkeeping, accounts, graphics or cleaning. Save your time for the stuff that you're brilliant at & makes your business sing!
Book faffing time in. There's absolutely no point in pretending that we don't all have faffing time - when we stare out of the window, make yet more tea or end up bumping into a friend on the dog walk. Don't fight it, but allow for it each day. After all, we don't have bosses breathing down our necks. This takes me to the next point....
Be realistic. I include this, because I'm rubbish at gauging what can actually be done in a day. My list stays long and I stay dissatisfied. Using a time app or your audit above, start to reduce your daily list and achieve more.
Fill some of your day with silence. This is vital. Productivity takes a nose dive if our lives are filled with constant distractions. Block out some time each day to be quiet by yourself to focus on your priorities, mindset or anxieties. This might just be in the shower! Also (as per point 2) turn off digital for a chunk of time each day. This will guarantee time away from whatsapps, notifications & any other distractions.
One thing at a time. I love this one and it really works! Do LESS in each moment and your will get MORE done. Make a commitment to do one thing at a time and avoid multitasking. Whatever your beliefs are on this, multitasking isn't a gift. So if it's checking emails (only 3 times MAX per day) then do that alone. If it's wrapping stuff, do that. If it's making a coffee or eating lunch do JUST that. You'll feel calmer, you'll get more done and time won't disappear.
Embrace digital. There are so many things out there that will sync with your brain type. I love a colour coded calendar with blocks of time for me, for family, for work and for particular activities. I love Trello (other task management platforms are out there like Evernote) because I can drag and drop tasks, add deadlines, collaborate with others, add images and so much more. Use a time checker like Toggl or Harvest. These will not only keep your time black holes to a minimum but start to make your business more profitable.
Bonus tip - just rest. If you're hopeless at that then BOOK IT IN. We can't pour from an empty cup. Small is hard work but it isn't a punishment. Be kind to yourself and forgiving of yourself when time unravels.