I’m a busy person. In addition to running a growing web development firm, I have people to manage, content / media to get out, 6 additional sites in pre-launch, 3 ebooks on the go, marketing, SEO, customer relations, a full time healthcare job, neighbors’ kids to babysit (occasionally), illnesses, and a million other things demanding my attention. Most days, even when it seems like a relatively slow day, I end up wondering how I can turn 24 hours into 48…or 72. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I love that I was taught early on that you have to work smarter, rather than harder, if you ever hope to do it all. The result is that I am able to do more and still enjoy the world around me.

Want to know some of my secrets? Here they are…

THE MAGIC OF CTRL C AND CTRL V. Have you ever had to manually copy and paste a large amount of information because one program or format doesn’t play nice with another? Right click, copy, left click paste. Right click, copy, left click paste… This can take forever! Speed up this chore and many others with keyboard short cuts. Here’s a nice cheat sheet I found online for Windows users click here or here. Mac users, click here.

CHOP TASKS UP. Large tasks can be a huge pain in the backside. It never fails. You get going on a huge project, and halfway through, you have something minor that has to be done as soon as possible. The secret is to optimize your time, break up your projects into equal sizes, and spread it out over time.

First, go through your tasks and delegate or outsource what you can. This step can be hard, but if you’re not sure about something, figure out what it would cost if someone hired you to do it. Then, figure out what it would cost if you gave the task to someone else to handle. Do whichever seems more financially feasible.

The second thing you want to do as you go through your to-do list is assign everything a priority and get all the little tasks out of the way. Why? You’ll schedule the highest priority items first and get any task that takes less than 15 minutes out of the way.Next, make your schedule. So, let’s say your first project will take you approximately 5 hours. Work on it an hour each day and give yourself a couple days’ grace in case it takes longer or needs additional work you hadn’t anticipated. Now, schedule in your phone calls. Give yourself set times during the day where you handle those. Do the same for the marketing, email, and all the other items on your to do list.

Do yourself a huge favor and leave some space in your schedule for additional tasks and other last minute jobs that might come up in the mean time. You’ll also want to follow one very important rule: When you’re working on a particular task, stick with it. Don’t let your mind wander and don’t let yourself get distracted. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Bloody noses and empty coffee cups don’t always wait until their scheduled time, but just make sure it’s something important enough to warrant losing your focus and coming out of “the zone”.

AUTOMATION IS KEY. I can’t say enough about automating repetitive tasks that don’t necessarily need your immediate, direct attention. If you’re not sure about how to automate something, do a search online and see what others are using. Here are a few of the processes I’ve automated and how I’ve done it:

HootSuite and Rockmelt–I do a lot of Social Media Networking and have developed a TweetPlan that must be followed religiously day after day. The first few times I was doing the tweets manually, I realized how time-consuming it is – but I had to do it since it is necessary for marketing. So I thought, there must be some way I can automate or schedule my tweets! That;’s when I found HootSuite. Learning to manage it can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you get it set up, you just can’t beat it. Spend some time right away in the morning answering mentions and private messages. Then, grab some good tweets to send out and schedule them to go out throughout the day. Once that’s done, you just have to check your messages and replies when you check your email (which I normally have scheduled once every 2 hours) and retweet good pieces you find in your stream. Rockmelt, like HootSuite, is priceless. When I find good information online while researching a project, I tweet it using its share button and I’m done.

Email Filters — I have a filter set up for almost every email that hits my inbox. Some of the general filters I have include:

  • Read later — for all my newsletters and updates
  • Waiting on — gets assigned to emails I’m waiting to hear back about
  • Next — for projects needing my attention that day
  • Information — These have tidbits of information I need to save. These are forwarded to Evernote at the end of the day and tagged with the appropriate categories

In addition to these, I have tags for each of my clients, receipts, and other information that arrives almost daily.

Remember the Milk (RTM) or an integrated task list — I use this program for absolutely everything. I love it. Right now, I have it hooked to my VOX email. So, when an email comes in with a date or task, it’s automatically added to my RTM list. There’s no more need to add tasks in manually. As an added bonus, it syncs to my phone and Google Calendar, so I have everything at my fingertips when I need it. (While we’re on the subject of ‘milk’ software, Out Of Milk is a brilliant shopping list program for Android I couldn’t live without. It took time to scan items and add everything in, but now it’s saved me hundreds of extra dollars (and time) because I no longer have to make multiple trips to the store. Yay me! er…Yay, milk!)

ALL-IN-ONE PROGRAMS. Look for software that takes care of more than one task for you at a time and integrates with the other programs you use. For instance, Trunk.ly has eliminated most of my browser bookmarks and programs like Delicious. I feed my Twitter, Facebook, and Delicious accounts into Trunkly, and it aggregates everything for me there. So, when I share a link, I’m automatically saving it without having to make extra steps.

Google Reader (which I manage with Feed Demon) is my main information source. Each time I start with a new client, I assign them a tag and collect a list of authoritative information sources. Then, I set up alerts on Google and WhosTalkin and feed these into the reader (each with the client’s tag, of course). So, when I go into my news reader, I can get a complete picture of what’s going on in my world, as well as with my client’s industries and am able to get a more in-depth picture of the industry.

Gmail is another important program. In addition to RTM, I also have it connected to my MailChimp account, Rapporative, for social information, TimeTracker by ITA, and Backupify. This way, I can get all the information I need within a few clicks. Between Hootsuite and Rockmelt, I can manage all of my social media activities, and TimeTracker by ITA takes care of all the accounting/leads/customer contact jobs on my end.

How do YOU save time online?