Learn how to manage your time!
To keep this post from being extremely long, I’m breaking it down into 2 parts.
The first part will cover To-do Lists, Planning, Prioritizing Tasks, Deadlines, Activity Logs, Multi-Tasking, Streamlining
The second part will cover Organization, Routine, Distractions, Delegate when possible, Sleep/Eat, Respect your time, Knowing when to walk away
Definition: Time management
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Time management is the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity. Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals complying with a due date. Initially, time management referred to just business or work activities, but eventually the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. Time management is usually a necessity in any project development as it determines the project completion time and scope.
Time management is necessary because (1) available time is limited, (2) time cannot be stored: if unused it is lost forever, (3) one’s goals are usually multiple, sometimes conflict, and not all goals are of equal priority, (4) goals cannot be accomplished without the application of effort, which requires the use of time.
If you have all the time in the world to do everything you want….stop reading now!
Let’s start with the tools helpful for managing your time. If you’re OCD like me (the first stage is admitting it), you might want to use all of these. Just using one, in my opinion will help you use your time more efficiently. With the technology that’s out there now, this shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish.
Below is the list we’ll discuss each item on the list. Some are not actual tools, like hammers and screwdrivers, but
Time Management Tools.
I think this is pretty self explanatory. Keep a list (or more) of things you need to do, pun intended. From chores, to errands, to work, to specific tasks, to any kind of planning, there comes a to-do list.
Whether you’re planning your day to your vacation, it helps to have a list, not only to remind you what steps needed to be taken but allows you to accomplish those steps in a timely, organized manner.
Let’s take the shopping list for an example. If you went to the grocery store to get your groceries you need for the week, what would that trip be like without the list? I’ll tell you, you would waste time going back and forth all over the store when you remember what groceries you do remember (wasting time) and then when you get home, you realize, BAM, you forgot something if not somethings. You know you’ve done this. 😉 Now you will be making yet another trip to the store (wasting more time).
These can be done old-school, or if you’re like the rest of us, you can use your smart phone or tablet. There are so many apps out there, and for free…..why not use them? Here are some I like.
Out of Milk (Has shopping list, to-do list, pantry list and a bonus deal section)
Errands (Allows you to enter tasks and separate them by “home”, “work” or “errand” – I really like this one because it allows you to set a repeat for each task)
Evernote (Handy dandy notebook. You can create several notebooks, add pics and set reminders)
Planning is essential to managing your time and having a good outcome. I feel it’s best to start with bigger or most important projects first. Breaking the bigger projects down make it easier to accomplish rather than giving up and walking away from it all together.
It’s so like us to start putting our tasks off as the day goes on. The majority of people start to wear down around 2-3pm in the afternoon. Maybe set the tasks that take the least amount of energy later in the day. BUT, if there are tasks that take energy late in the day, plan your day in an up and down way. For example, complete your tasks that take energy shortly after waking up till your “wear down” moment, then do easier tasks for a few hours for your body to “recoup”, then you will have the energy for the bigger task you have to complete in the evening. Just play around with your schedule until you find what works best for you and your energy levels. Maybe you’re a bunny that can go all day long…but I dang sure can’t.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail”
― Alan Lakein
First, write down ALL your tasks. Second, figure out which tasks MUST be done and put them at the top of your list, OR mark these task as non-negotiable (ones that have consequences if not done). Third, add the rest of your tasks according to importance and/or time.
You can get really serious with this and rank each of your tasks with whatever system you want to use (i.e. color coded, numbered, etc).
Try not to stray from your priorities.
Deadlines drive me. I thrive on ‘em. I will give them to myself (secretly) just so I won’t screw around more than I should.
Give your tasks deadlines/time frames to be complete. Be reasonable with these. It will help you stay focused on the task at hand. Things will happen to screw up your deadlines, so always give yourself room to wiggle, or move on to another and come back to it, if possible. If you allow one task to consume you, you won’t accomplish much.
Make sure you’re happy with yourself at the end of the day. That’s all that matters here.
If you really want to be able to effectively plan, know priorities and establish a deadline, you need an activity log. For work, this is great!!! For home, depends on how busy you are if you need an activity log.
Activity logs allow you to track the time it takes to complete a task. If you know how long it takes, it will make it easier to allocate it to the proper time slot in your schedule. After you use an activity log for a few days, re-evaluate and get rid of tasks that do not help you accomplish your overall goal, move them around if you think they would serve a better purpose at another time slot or if they interfere with more important tasks.
Continue keeping track of these logs as long as you like.
Do you believe in multi-tasking? This is somewhat of a myth for some people. First, let me explain why…..” Humans, they say, don’t do lots of things simultaneously. Instead, we switch our attention from task to task extremely quickly.” They say this is not multi-tasking. So for the sake of arguing with these so-called experts, how about we learn to switch from task to task quickly?
If you are on task and you have to stop to referee the kids fighting, but get right back on task and complete within your time frame, GREAT. If you have kids, dogs, phone calls, a bladder, I could go on and on, you will be required to multi-task. How well you get back to your primary objective is the key here. Now, those experts call this “task interference”. Are they right?
Regardless of what they call it…it plays an important role in getting our stuff done.
Streamlining is reducing your task time, or using your down time to benefit your up time. Not making sense? Let’s reduce your task time first.
I’ll give an example of just one of many of my tasks I have streamlined in my day job. I work from home doing billing and collections. Quite often I have to appeal denied claims by sending in an explanation as to why I feel we should have been paid. I created templates for all the possible denied reasons and now when I appeal a denied claim, the only information I need to complete is basic patient information and claim information. This saves me the time from having to type out the repetitive information that is ALWAYS required, thus saving me time.
I will do the same with my chores. Instead of traveling from one room to another many times, I will complete chores before moving back into the starting room. Or, while watching tv, I’ll either get my to-do lists, grocery lists or goals written down. I crocheted while watching tv. I use most of my time doing something constructive and most of them are on my lists. This is using my down time to benefit my up time.
Being organized not only makes you feel better, it can save you time (and money, but that’s a whole nuther post).
The following is what I suggest to organize first. If you already have these places organized…kudos to you my friend.
-Cleaning supplies. Have all your cleaning supplies in one place, not twenty. Have a carry basket for the main cleaning products you use, such has furniture polish, windex, wipes (I can’t live without wipes – greatest invention yet), multipurpose cleaner, duster, rag and sponge. You can obviously change that if need be, but you get the point.
-Kitchen cabinets. Organize these to your specifications and maybe kitchen layout. Just have order to it. Like all Tupperware in one place. You can have the tops put together with the bottoms, or tops stacked near the bottoms, so you’re not rummaging through the dang cabinet looking for the blasted top to fit the container you just put your leftover chili in. Have your kitchen laid out to cut back on moving too much to find the spatula which should be close to the stovetop. Get my drift.
-Pantry. Keep like foods together and the items you use the most, the most easily assessable spot.
-Closets. Keep pairs of shoes together. Pants, dresses, skirts, shirts and coats separate from each other. Have a designated area for belts, scarves and hats.
I could go on and touch every room and closest and cabinet, but this is a brief summary of how organization can save you time. Bottom line, if you spend a lot of time searching for something, you could use a little better organization.
Having a routine is very important, but not as crucial as you may think. You can break routine here and there and it won’t kill ya. However, creating and sticking to a routine is beneficial for the body and brain.
The body learns the routine and will adapt to times (i.e. wake up times, eating times, exercising time, cleaning times, etc..) and the brain will go into auto-drive. The more you stick to a routine the less you have to rely on the lists as much. You will come to know what’s next on your own. Hey, kids need routines, why shouldn’t we?
If you think you’re gonna slide through your day without a distraction, you must live alone and with no phone. All I want to mention here is to expect some sort of distraction. When you create your lists and give yourself timeframes and/or deadlines, give a little wiggle room just in case you are distracted
If you aren’t distracted then guess what, you have some extra time to do with what you want.
Delegate when possible
Definition – entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself.
Whether you’re at home or at work, if you are overwhelmed, think about delegating one of your easier tasks to someone else. Lighten your load so you don’t burn out.
If you have kids old enough to handle any of your “to-do”s, by all means, delegate it to him/her. Not only are you freeing yourself up a little, but you are also teaching your child to have responsibility, to contribute to the household and to help others when in need.
Just don’t feel that you need to do everything. We all need help from someone at some time with something.
We already know that we’re supposed to get enough, not too much, sleep and we’re supposed to eat healthy. So, I’ll just re-iterate here, that it does play a role with time management. Without sleep and food, your body will crash and burn. Then how are you going to get that ginormous list crossed off?
Respect your time
Don’t spend time on tasks or people that get you nowhere. Yes, you should take breaks, but consider whether or not what you’re doing at the time is actually productive, worth it or needed. If you can’t say that any of those apply, then don’t waste time on it. Facebook, twitter, any other social media can be time wasters, but can also be productive, worth it, or needed. But they can also be the opposite. Maybe there is a better time for checking your emails and Facebook messages.
USE YOUR TIME WISELY. RESPECT YOURSELF!
Knowing when to walk away
Getting frustrated, getting nowhere, wasting time? You’re not being productive. Either switch tasks or walk away now. This would be a good time to break. Eat something, do some meditation, take a walk, watch some tv, hey, now’s a good time to check your email or Facebook.
Refer to the last listed idea – RESPECT YOUR TIME.
I hope some or all of these tools can help you manage your day better. Please feel free to add any suggestions you may have as well.
Let me re-iterate before ending this. After reading all of the tools/ideas listed above, it almost seems like you need to be a robot and not human. Wrong! All of this is to free up time and be human – enjoy life, don’t waste it away.
Please go check out Part II for some more great ideas!!
Decide on what to do…and do it!