Time management is a funny concept. There always have been, and always will be, only 24 hours in a day. The real challenge is managing how we utilize our time. There are many techniques, but here are a few to consider:
- Take ownership of your schedule. Many of us allow other people (bosses, spouses, etc.) to fill up our time, and then we resent the fact that we feel hurried and stressed. The world will always demand more time than we have to give, so we need to aggressively limit our commitments and protect our time. Try using phrases such as, “I’d love to help but if it has to be this week, I’m afraid I can’t” or “In order to give you the quality you deserve, I will need another day.” If you don’t demand the time you need, it is unlikely to appear on your doorstep.
- Establish routines for as much as you can. Decisions require energy and time, so keeping them to a minimum improves efficiency. Consider systematizing:
- diet (e.g. eat the same breakfast and lunch every day, then mix it up at dinner),
- hygiene (e.g. floss in the morning, clean contacts at night),
- daily tasks (e.g. sort mail after dinner, pay bills on Saturday morning)
- Embrace planning. It is impossible to feel in control if you don’t plan. Get a planner that works for you (either electronic or paper), and then commit to using it. This means writing down every appointment and every task you need to do, and then tracking them throughout the day. Make notations next to each item so you know at a glance if a task is complete, needs further input or should be moved to another day. Always be aware of “Today, Tomorrow and Ten.” Know in detail everything you have today and tomorrow, and be aware of big events/deadlines coming up in the next 10 days. Review this each evening.
- Maximize the efficiency of your space. We all have different preferences for where and how to work. Some of us like to spread everything out where we can see it, others like a clutter free workspace. Some people enjoy having music playing while they work, others need silence. Some students like working at a desk, others prefer the floor or the kitchen table. Take time to identify what atmospheric conditions are most appealing & energizing to you, and then cultivate an environment which features them. If you find your workspace unpleasant, you are likely to avoid it.
- Minimize distractions. Distractions have always been a problem, and the digital age has only made things worse. Here are a few ideas:
- If you are interrupted by coworkers in the office… consider posting a “no interrupt” hour in the morning or afternoon during which colleagues may only interrupt you with emergencies.
- If you are distracted by emails/text messages/Facebook… commit to working in 15 minutes increments, after which you allow yourself 5 minutes to check any messages.
- If you are bothered by a ringing phone… turn the ringer off and cover the message light. Check it every 30 minutes.
- If your children keep interrupting you… consider age-appropriate ways to communicate that you are unavailable (such as wearing a hat or sitting in a special chair.) While this may not work with the very young, it is a concept worth working on because it will serve not only you, but the children as they grow up.
While you can’t create extra hours, investing a few minutes will make the hours you do have feel more productive.
Submitted by Seana Turner, founder and president of The Seana Method.