Updated: Apr 25, 2022
How to manage your time productively
"A good system shortens the road to the goal." Orison Swett Marden
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this blog, I would like to suggest that you take a few deep breaths and read it with an open mind knowing there isn't any judgment within. It is simply written to provide some ideas. Sometimes we can read things and think "Well she doesn't understand everything I have to do. What she's suggesting is impossible." Trust me, I raised three children, pretty much as a single mom. Where there is a will there is a way. It just comes down to whether you want to improve your productivity or not. If you feel like you can't accomplish what I'm suggesting then you most likely won't be able to. We can talk ourselves in or out of anything. Believe in yourself! You can do more than you know. But, if you truly feel like you can't, try to enlist a bit of help in your life. It's okay to ask for help and sometimes it's very necessary for our and our loved ones' well-being. So with a deep breath and an open mind, here we go...
Time management can be difficult. Here are some solutions to make it easier:
1) TAKE STOCK: Just taking stock of daily activites, weekly commitments, monthly calendar can be daunting. This can be difficult for just about everyone, especially if you’re out on your own for the first time. Sometimes we rely so much on our parents or caregivers, that when we first head out into the world we can feel so overwhelmed the world can seem like it's spinning out of control!
2) ORGANIZATION: Write down everything you can think of that needs to be done. This can range from wiping down the counters to planning your family vacation. Whatever task you know needs completing, make a list - of ALL of it.
3) PRIORITIZATION: It can be difficult to figure out what needs to be done first, especially if everything on your list seems to be equally important. We will go over ways to prioritze later in this article.
4) PROCRASTINATION: One of the biggest enemy of time management. Do you procrastinate? Here are some questions to ask yourself: Do you put things off until the last minute? Are you always running late? Do you completely avoid a task altogether? If you answered yes to any or all of these, you most likely a procrastinate. That's okay! Life is so much easier if we acknowledge who we are. When we know who we are, we can take the steps to make life so much easier.
5) FOLLOW UP: After we've organized, prioritized, and even completed our tasks, sometimes it needs some follow up. This has to be incorporated into our time managment plan. If it isn't, it can cause problems because it will be an unexpected time sucker.
I don't like to call things in our personality weaknesses, because so many of our "weaknesses" actually lead to strengths! Instead, let's call the road blocks we encounter weaknesses. So, let's learn how to turn these weaknesses into strengths!
Tip #1 - TAKE STOCK OF YOUR DAILY HABITS - where is your time going?
This first step may seem like it is daunting, but it is really worth the time if you're serious about making a life change.
"For every minute spent organizing an hour is gained." Benjamin Franklin
1) Keep an honest journal. I say honest, because sometimes we don't want to admit, even to ourselves what we are spending our time doing. Heck, when I think about the time I spend playing Interior Property Brothers Home Design, I am embarrassed. Even though I'm the only one who knows it - well I guess not any more! I tried to justify my game playing by saying, "It helps keep my brain fit." While this is actually true, I put a limit on how long I can spend time doing this. Somedays I only allow myself this guilty pleasure when I'm waiting in a waiting room to meet with people. So let's break this first step into even tinier steps:
There are all kinds of apps out there to help keep a log of activities, like "Evernote." Or you can simply jot it down in a notebook.
Keep track of every activity and how much time it took you. Even track the travel it involved to get to where you need to go.
Another very helpful insight would be, how you feel at a certain times of day so you can figure out the best time to accomplish various tasks.
Again, it may sound like a lot of work, but it's just one day (or two or three whatever you think you need or want to do to get the most out of it). This will truly help your life run more smoothly.
2) After you've kept your time journal, review your actitives. Figure out where you can make changes. For example, if you're always running out of time and you can't figure out why you can't get what you need to get done, at the end of your journal day you can figure out the problem. If you find that your watching Netflix 6 hours a day, you may want to cut back a bit. And again, I am only making this suggestion if you are trying to figure out how to have more time to accomplish what you need to in a day.
Maybe it isn't because you are spending too much time on "Roblox." Perhaps it's just that you are not being realistic about how much time you actually have in a day. I was guilty of this for sooo long. I was a yes-person. I never wanted to turn anyone or anything down. I would take on tasks thinking I could do them much faster than humanly possible. If that's the case you need to learn how to say no to some things.
Maybe you find that you are interrupted all day long. This happens so often when we have children, young or old. If this is the case, carve out time to complete your tasks and turn on "Do not disturb" on your phone. Explain to your kids that you have this task that needs to be completed and they can't disturb you (tips on how to actually accomplish this will be in a later blog). If your kids are younger, either ask someone to help watch them, or organize your tasks around your child's naps or school time.
3) After you review your journal, you can figure out when you're most productive. Do you like to get up at the crack of dawn? If you're a morning person, you should schedule your more difficult or "brain draining," as I like to call them, tasks in the morning. Do you find your energy revs up at night - well then of course schedule your most "brain draining" tasks in the evening.
Tip #2 - ORGANiZATION
So now it's time to write down the things we need to do. Make a master list of things you need to accomplish on a short term and long term basis. Break these down into daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Since you know your own life better than I do, it's best that you come up with your own categories. For organization, I like to make categories that will make my prioritization easier.
I go through my tasks and label them in terms of time. I first figure out which are short term tasks, like cleaning the kitchen; and which are long term tasks, like planning a family vacation. Then I figure out how long each task will take and make a note of that time next to the task, i.e., prepare for art presentation two hours. This skill comes with time. For instance, if you need to mow you're lawn and you've never mowed a lawn, how would know how long to estimate the time to do it? Don't get down on yourself if you miscalculate at first.
In the meantime, seriously, google the task you need to perform and see how long other people say it will take, that way you can guesstimate. Once you actually complete that task, make note of how long it actually took YOU, so you know for future events.
Tasks that take more than one day would best be broken down and given its own time period within your daily time management schedule. Something like planning a child's graduation party should have long-term deadline, with small patches of time carved out on specific days or every day if necessary, i.e. on Tuesdays I will spend 2 hours on the graduation party, or however much time you need to time it to get it done.
Tip #3 - prioritization
After you've figured out your tasks and how long each task will take, we need to prioritize them. Since in our last step, we categorized them into short term and long term, or whatever categories worked for you, we can start to prioritize. This can sometimes be difficult as many of our tasks seem to be of equal importance. Because I tend to procrastinate (notice I didn't say, since I AM a procrastinator - I avoid this because I don't want to label myself with a negative connotation and neither should you, I instead label the behavior), when I feel there are several items that are equally important I tend to do the thing I want to do the least, first. Or, sometimes I will do the task that will take the least amount of time, first. Depending on the task, I may schedule paying my bills earlier in the day because I know I have more clarity in the morning. Again, see what works best for you.
A couple of things to remember when creating your schedule:
1) Keep in mind what you can actually accomplish. Don't put too much into your day that you feel overhwhelmed. This can cause you to spiral into an "I'm not good enough" mentality. Give yourself actual reasonable time periods in which to accomplish tasks so you don't constantly feel pressured. It is also a good idea to put "time cushions" in between tasks. For example 10:00-10:30 - call water company. Make your next task 10:40-11:00 - tidy up the living area. This way if the call takes a little longer it won't bleed into your next task. If the call stays on schedule this will give you a little time to take a breath, relax, maybe throw in a meditation.
Remember when choosing the timing of your tasks, keep in mind the type of task and what time of day you have the most clarity or the most physical energy. For instance, if you find that you have great amount of mental clarity in the morning, like I do, this would be a good time to do things like handling financial matters. If you find that you have more physical energy later in the evening, that would be a good time to clean your house or organize your garage. Of course, there are many things that will come into play regarding timing, but it's just good to keep your mind and body in mind when creating your schedule.
Tip #4 - PUT YOUR SCHEDULE INTO ACTION
Try to stick to your schedule the best that you can. Keep track of your short term and long term goals. Keep track of whether or not you are accomplishing things on your daily list, weekly list, and master list. If you find that you're having problems sticking to your schedule you will need to reevaluate your system to find where there may be some issues. A tweak or a total revamp may be necessary. An example of that may be, if you have ADD/ADHD, you may have a problem using an app because people who have ADD/ADHD work better with physical tools. You might want to physically write your tasks on paper. It sounds strange, but scientists have done extensive research on this subject.
(Blog on tips for productivity for those with ADD/ADHD to come in the near future).
Another example: If you tend to procrastinate, you may be avoiding your tasks by finding other things to fill your time. This means you're not following your schedule. The solution? Instead of avoiding the item on your task list and filling it with other things not on your task list like scrolling through social media feeds, move some things around. Change it to a different time slot and get something else done on that's your list. However, I find it best to get it over with.
So there you have it, my tips for time management. My last thought would be to reiterate that everyone has their own personal style of time management. It isn't really a one size fits all. The tips are definitely usable by all, but everyone needs to take their own personalities, wants, and needs into consideration when making their schedule. Learn what works best for you by trial and error. Fantastic if you figure it all out on your first run, but it's okay if you don't. If you need some outside help, I'd be happy to meet with you. You can go to my page to schedule an appointment. My Life Transformation workshop is amazing, if I do say so myself, or check out some of my reviews.
Remember, life changes all the time, so don't get so scheduled that you have a meltdown when things don't go the way you planned. I find that on most days my schedule doesn't go the way I planned. When that happens, I just move things around to accommodate whatever popped up and get on with my day. I still try to stay on task and follow my prioritization, but if something doesn't get done, it's not the end of the world. With that in mind don't forget to stop and smell the roses. Schedule time for your own health and wellness, like exercising, meditating, reading, getting a massage, or getting a mani-pedi; some time that you aren't "working."
In the words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast...(if) you don't stop and look around once in a while you could miss it."
These tips will not only help you get organized, but also give you peace of mind so when you go to bed at night you can drift off to sleep instead of tossing and turning worrying about what you didn't get done and what you still have to do. If you found this helpful, let me know with a comment below!