Time Management Strategies
Do you ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? What if I told you that taking some time to plan your time out will result in a better outcome? Seems obvious, but so many people are still struggling. As I was researching this, I zeroed in on a quote that said, “If you fail to take time for planning, you are, in effect, planning to fail.” This is true of so many things, and I will revisit it when I do a budgeting & credit check in.
Where Does Your Time Go?
I’m not ashamed to admit that I have ADHD and it often makes time management challenging. The hardest thing for me is focusing when I have something I really don’t want to do but can’t avoid. I had a professor comment one day that her house was always cleanest when she had a deadline to meet. I absolutely relate to that, and I can also admit that I can easily get sidetracked on tangents to projects.
The first step in managing time better is to figure out what your favorite distraction is. To really figure it out, make a time diary for a week or two. Write down everything you spend time on each day, excluding bathroom breaks. This means the time it takes you to drive to the gym as well as the time you spend there. Time spent cooking, cleaning up from cooking, writing the grocery list, as well as getting the groceries, all of it. You might be shocked by how much time you devote to activities.
How to Handle the Distractions
Write them down. I promise if you take a few minutes as things pop into your head and write them down for later, you have the upper hand. (What does that mean? I need to write it down and check later). Knowing you can come back to something later without forgetting it makes it easier to put it off.
Schedule time to deal with distractions. Allow an hour a day to read or play games or watch tv. And the rest of the time, focus on other things. Silence your cell phone, close the apps you aren’t using, and turn off visual notifications.
Make a List
When you sit down to plan your time (ideally weekly, then fine-tuning daily) pay attention to the order you add things. Normally the most important will be the ones you think of first, this will help you prioritize tasks. As you sort things out, keep in mind the Eisenhower matrix that Stephen Covey made famous. Quadrant 3 is the hardest one to deal with, often people will come to you with a Q1 problem of their own, but for you is Q3. This is when you need to learn to say no. Saying no is one of the hardest things to do and has the greatest effect on your time. Nothing is too trivial to have on your list, look back at your time diary and see how many hours are devoted to things you didn’t realize you do?
Take grocery shopping: meal plan, check ingredients, make a list, drive to the store, wander all the aisles, check out, load the car, drive home, unload the car, put away groceries. I live less than 5 minutes away from my grocery store, and that list will easily take me 2 hours to complete. I have learned that using my store’s curbside pickup option saves me tons of time because I don’t need to go into the store anymore if I don’t want to. This more than cuts my time in half for that task in my estimation.
Monitor Your Time
Once you have a to-do list for the day in front of you, it’s important to monitor your time. Have a clock where you can see it and try to limit tasks to their allotted time. Think of it as a budget, you only have so many hours in a day and when one task runs over, it steals time and energy from another. At first, you might need to set an alarm or alert to remind you to move on to the next item. Some people may try to multi-task thinking it will get more done, but studies show that only 2% of people are effective this way. I’m confident I’m not one of them, so I am making a concerted effort to avoid doing more than one thing at a time.
Take the time to make the regular things you do a habit. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. This makes it easier to get the right amount of sleep; rested people are better focused. If you like to work out, do it every day at the same time. Is there something at work you do daily or weekly? Creating a habit of doing things at the same time over and over will automate them, freeing up time to think about other things.
At work or at home there are plenty of things you can pass on to someone else to do. Just because you can do the best job at something doesn’t mean you have to do it all. As a kid, I started making my own bed when I was about 5, and I’m sure my mother hated how it looked for years. But she gave me the job and never looked back except to remind me to do it. In the past, I have assigned small tasks to staff members to be responsible for daily or weekly and relished the additional time I gained to focus on management duties.
Don’t Waste Time on the Phone
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