Best Time Management & Personal Planning Tools for Working Women

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November 26, 2020

I’m Kelly Nolan.
I'm an attorney who'd been decently organized through law school but got quickly overwhelmed as a actual attorney. After nothing else worked for me, I created this system – and kept on practicing law. Years later, I found out others were interested in learning it, so that's what I do now! Let's get this realistic system in your hands so you can start living a life that feels more calm, doable, and that lights you up.
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Improving Your Time Management Is Life-Changing

For how dry “time management” sounds, time management solutions can have surprisingly life-changing results.

For example, one of my physician clients came to me feeling like, in her words, she “must be a failure for not being able to get everything done.” After just six weeks of working together, she shared, “I now have so much clarity and confidence… [and am enjoying] downtime and fun with less guilt.”

Another client, a business owner, came in feeling “heavy” and “inadequate.” After learning how to leverage time management tools and strategies, she said she feels “indescribable peace” and that she’s now “empowered to navigate [her] life and ensure [she’s] spending time where it’s needed while also truly understanding how to ‘self-care.’”

One final example: an attorney client came to me feeling “hopeless and desperate.” Six weeks later, she said, “I am now much more hopeful and a lot calmer” and “confident.” “This,” she said, “was a game-changer for me.”

So, while the concept of time management needs better branding, it has the potential to drastically shift your life and how you view yourself for the better.

Why is that? Well, simply because everything comes back to time.

Obviously, work projects and to-do’s take time. But so do the things that never make it onto a to-do list, like getting yourself ready for work in the morning, managing bath time and bedtime with your child at night, consistently showing up for your friend who’s going through a rough time, making dinner tonight, and cleaning out the car.

All of these things require time.

And not just time in some amorphous, theoretical sense. Concrete time – your awake hours each day.

Because of this, getting a handle on how you manage your time and all the things you want to do with it can provide whole new levels of clarity and confidence when it comes to navigating your life and your many to-do’s.

So, let’s help you start gathering the best time management strategies and tools together to do just that.

Ways to Improve Time Management

To manage our time so we’re both more productive and enjoy life more, we need to simplify how we manage our time.

For some reason, we grew up learning to keep meetings and events in our calendar, and our to-do’s on to-do lists, post-it notes, in our email inboxes, and our heads. Over time, you may have even added a task management app (i.e., an electronic to-do list) to the mix.

As a result, the things that require our time are scattered across a lot of places.

This prevents us from having one clear view of everything on our plate, and that prevents us from truly knowing how or if we can get it all done in time.

That uncertainty nags at us, causing a lot of stress and preventing us from truly enjoying downtime because we feel like we always need to be doing something “productive” to increase our chances that we’ll get it all done in time.

It’s not great. Life feels a little out of our control and not as enjoyable as we want it to.

Unfortunately, a lot of “time management solutions” and productivity tools and techniques out there just build on this traditional, scattered approach to managing the things that require time.

For example, a task management app like Omnifocus super-charges a to-do list by letting you organize tasks by category (thereby effectively multiplying the number of lists you can see) and due date, but fails to truly allow you to link the bite-size steps of projects to time (i.e., when will you do it, how long will it take, and how does it interact with everything on your plate for the day?).

Even beautiful paper planners, which claim to “simplify” by bringing your to-do list into at least the same page as your calendar (along with questions you can answer about your day and check boxes to tick off habits you’re trying to establish) don’t help you truly see where your time is going. Your brain is still in charge with figuring out how long each to-do will take, when you’ll do it, and how it interacts with everything else you have to do that day. (For ten reasons why I think even paper lovers like me need to switch to a digital calendar, click here.)

Instead of building on this traditional scattered approach, we need to simplify so we’re using a system that accounts for the fact that it all comes back to and requires our time – and our single bank of time.

We need a time management tool that lets us clearly see everything on our plate and build a single, cohesive game plan of how we’ll get it all done over time. When that happens… magic.

And that tool exists. It’s simple and already designed to manage time, which is pretty handy when you’re trying to manage all the things that come back to time.

And you already have easy access to one: a digital calendar.

I know, I know… not the sexiest or most tech-exciting tool you’ve ever read about on one of these lists. But we’re all about effective solutions, not shiny apps that further complicate your life, so we’re okay with the less sexy option.

To get that clarity, I’ll walk you through some ways to leverage a digital calendar in non-overwhelming ways below, and some optional apps you can use to make it all run like buttah.

The Best Time Management Tools

Before we dive into what the best time management tools are, it’s helpful to actually ask what time management tools are. To me, the best time management tools and techniques need to help you:

  • Have a single, clear, realistic view of how you’ll get everything on your plate done over time; and/or
  • Help you spend less time doing things you don’t enjoy.

Below are the most effective ones out there.

Time Management Tool No. 1: Digital Calendars, including my favorite, Google Calendar

Digital calendars like Google Calendar, Outlook’s calendar, and Apple Calendar, can be leveraged in ways people don’t fully appreciate. Done right, a digital calendar is a game-changer for the professional working woman trying to manage her career, family and a personal life.

I teach effective (and weirdly fun) six-week programs for professional working women on how to create a time management system with a digital calendar (or two if you keep work and personal lives separate) as the backbone of the system. There’s a lot to that goes into it, but here are some highlights:

Sub-Calendars to Prevent the Hot Mess Calendar Problem

Digital calendars allow you to create multiple sub-calendars within your calendar. Google Calendar and Outlook call these “calendars,” but I find it confusing to talk about calendars within calendars, so I call them sub-calendars.

Sub-calendars let you load up your calendar with tons of information (e.g., partner’s schedules, kid’s daycare and school hours, when you’ll shower, and when you’ll draft that motion to compel / prep for patients you’ll see tomorrow / prep that slide deck) – in a way that doesn’t leave you with a cluttered mess.

The secret: You can click sub-calendars on and off, letting you load up your calendar with all the information, but then filter what you see at any given moment with a click. The clarity it gives you to see where your time is going and how it interacts with the rest of your life and the schedules of others in your life – well, it’s just incredible.

Repeating Events to Help You Make that Invisible To-Do List Visible Quickly

Earlier, I mentioned you should make everything visual, such as when you’ll shower, prep meals, and drive to/from work. This helps you create realistic plans that you can actually complete, which helps you feel accomplished at the end of the day – not constantly defeated by an unrealistic to-do list.

Well, digital calendars let you easily do this. You just create an event (e.g., “Shower & get ready” from 6-7am), repeat it daily, weekly, monthly, or at custom intervals, and adjust the individual events as your week plays out. Moreover, as life changes or you realize your schedule isn’t working, you can easily make adjustments and apply them over to all future events. It’s incredible.

Most time management tools (e.g., apps, paper planners) don’t even account for these types of activities. But these activities take up a ton of time. If you’re not accounting for them or underestimating how long they take, you plan your day as if they aren’t there, overestimating the other things you can accomplish in a day. Not surprisingly, you can’t do all the things you planned on doing, wonder where the day went, and feel defeated by your to-do list… again.

We must account for these activities, and digital calendars give us an easy way to do it.

Alerts So That Your Calendar Actually Helps You Do The Things You Plan On Doing

A calendar is only good if it helps you actually play out the plans you make.

Digital calendars tap you on the shoulder with phone alerts to help you actually do the things you want to do. Google Calendar shines here, by letting you change alert times by calendar so you could get, for example, a 30-minutes heads up for events and a shorter 10-minutes heads up alerts for tasks. I will say, the Google Calendar notifications themselves aren’t persistent enough for me, so I recommend another app (the next tool I cover) to amplify them.

Digital calendars are spectacular for professional working women seeking time clarity and control in managing all of their roles and the to-do lists that come with each. If you want help setting yours up in an empowering way, including knowing what information to put in it, how to do it while maintaining your love of paper, and more, check out my time management program.

Time Management Tool No. 2: Calalarm

For those of you who easily miss or ignore phone calendar alerts, an iPhone app named Calalarm is incredible. Now, I will say about 60% of my clients think it’s too much and too obnoxious, and the alerts are definitely persistent. But if that’s what you want and need (like I do), then it’s a great way to super-charge your calendar phone alerts.

Calalarm has a roughly $5 one-time fee, making it a no-brainer to try out. You can read more about how I recommend setting it up here.

Time Management Tool No. 3: Acuity

Acuity is THE tool I wish I’d known about when I was practicing law.

It’s a meeting-booking software and a godsend if you’re someone who’s sick of sending emails back and forth along the lines of “when works best for you?” Plus, it protects your boundaries better than you can.

Note: There are other options out there, like Calendly. I prefer Acuity, but they essentially play the same role.

Essentially, Acuity lets you have clients/opposing counsel/anyone book an appointment in your calendar without your involvement.

You set up your available hours ahead of time and tell Acuity to block your availability if you manually schedule over those windows in your calendar. E.g., I could tell Acuity I’m free from 12-4pm, but if I book a meeting manually in my calendar from 3-4, a client can’t then book that time slot through Acuity.

You can even tell Acuity not to let others book 15 min before or after scheduled appointments, have people fill out questions before they book certain appointment types (e.g., intake forms, answer “what do you want to discuss during this meeting?”), send them reminder emails if you opt for the paid version, and allow people to reschedule or cancel on their own (within parameters you set) so that you can accommodate curveballs in their life without actually having to do anything.

I cover Acuity in a bit more detail here and in a lot more detail in my time management program. As you can see, if you have your digital calendar dialed in, it makes using tools like Acuity all the easier and more effective.

Time Management Tool No. 4: ClickUp

Now, let me start by saying that I really advise against a task management app that turns into, essentially, a digital to-do list. I find many people don’t need a task/project management tool, and adding one to the mix just complicates things (and you now know I love simplicity).

That said, project management tools can be amazing for organizing information, giving you high-level views of your workload, and coordinating teams. They can also be an incredible time management planning tool, allowing you to create workflows for certain projects to reuse next time you encounter a similar project.

In terms of project management tools, a major takeaway I drill into clients’ heads is that you must bridge the tool to your calendar. Whether you’re using a project management tool at work or as a personal planning tool, it does you no good to be clear on when a task is due in your project management tool if you haven’t blocked time to actually do the thing in your calendar. There are specific strategies to do this that would take us too off track for purposes of this article, but, for today, just make sure you’re always bridging your project management tool to your calendar.

So, with all that as context, as far as project management tools go and if you’re really looking to leverage technology for time management, ClickUp is pretty amazing.

I used to use Asana and loved it, but I made the switch to ClickUp because (1) I hired someone and ClickUp costs less (a lot less) if you use it with a team, (2) ClickUp’s Chrome extension is gangbusters at integrating with Gmail/GSuite to save emails to tasks, and (3) ClickUp is consistently updating the platform to include things like screen/audio recordings and easy integrations with Google Drive, Dropbox and more. It’s an incredible time management technology tool. I’m a huge fan, and you can use it for free until you hit your storage limit (which you may never hit!).

I use it in many ways, but my favorites are using to give myself:

  • a high-level view of all my products, projects, and potential future products,
  • a high-level view of all my leads, clients, and former clients, and
  • an index of workflows that include training videos and that I can easily optimize and use for future projects.

Time Management Tool No. 5: Gobble

Okay, this isn’t really a time management tool, but it’s a service that has helped me spend less time doing something I don’t really enjoy, so I’m including it!

While I don’t hate cooking, I do hate how much time it takes. Between picking recipes, grocery shopping or putting Instacart orders in, and doing the actual cooking, cooking meals at home takes up a lot of time.

Enter Gobble. Gobble is like Blue Apron (i.e., meal ingredient kits sent to your house that you cook yourself), but their whole thing is that the meals are ready quickly (Gobble says in under 15 minutes; I’d go with 25).

We used to order about three dinners a week with Gobble. Given the pandemic and how much we’re eating at home, we’ve now switched to at least five dinners a week, and I can’t say enough good things about them. When my husband’s home at night, he starts cooking while I do bedtime with our daughter, and we’re usually goof to when I emerge. Even when I’m home alone, the quick prep time makes it doable for me to manage post-H’s bedtime. Highly, highly recommend.

If you’re interested in trying out Gobble for two meals for two people for just $18, you’re welcome to use my link (click here). I do get some credit if you use it, but it’s definitely not why I’m sharing it. Feel free to sign up for a free trial on your own! However you do it, if you’re someone like me who’s sick of spending so much time cooking, try it out!

P.S. Also – Instacart is amazing. If you don’t love grocery shopping, the annual subscription is completely worth it.

Time Management Tool No. 6: The Time Tracking Productivity App, Toggl

I don’t use this one anymore, but when I was practicing law and working hourly, I used Toggl (for free) to track my time, write descriptions, and total my time up for billing.

Not only does it work on your computer, but there’s an app that lets you track your time on the go.

If you have to track your time (or want to because you’re curious), going digital will save you time in terms of the actual tracking and the later invoicing. Plus, it makes the time you more accurate. Win-win.

How a Time Management System Can Help

Obviously, there are a lot of amazing time management tools out there. That said, there are many strategies to leverage these time management tools, and not all of them are the best fit for you, your needs, and your preferences.

Best case: They get you where you want to go but can take a lot of time to set up and figure out how to use in a way that works best for you.

Done wrong: they can leave you feeling more confused and overwhelmed than when you started (after you’ve spent hours trying to make them work). You wouldn’t expect to get your hands on a tennis racket and suddenly know the rules of the game, how to play well, and know game strategy. Don’t expect the same of a time management tool.

That’s where having someone help show you exactly how to set up these tools and strategies in a way that fit your career, family, preferences, and lifestyle can save you a ton of time and headaches.

Next Steps to Manage Your Time With Less Stress and More Calm Clarity

If you’re interested in getting my help to help you leverage these time management tools with practical strategies to get you to that clarity, calm, and confidence you crave, I’d love to help. I run an effective eight-week time management program for professional working women.

Remember those three clients I mentioned at the top of this article who went from overwhelmed to having more clarity and confidence? They went through that same program. I’d love to help you experience that transformation in just eight weeks, as well. You can learn all about the program here, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me and my team with any questions at su*****@ke********.com.

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