Sometimes it feels like life is a juggling act. Juggling school and work. Juggling play dates and cleaning. Juggling parenting and being a spouse. Juggling life.
How do we find peace in the chaos? Simple. Time management.
Time management is not a complex theory of life, as some may think. Time management taking (or not taking) simple steps to make life easier. The continuous use of these simple steps will make you more productive at school, work, and life with an added benefit of decreased stress.
Here are the 10 steps of time management my family uses:
1) Allow time for planning and Make a List: Planning can often seem like a waste of time. But, this small step at the beginning can save you tons of time at the end of a project. We set a tentative plan for the month/week and modify as our needs change. Life happens, plans change. Planning ultimately allows for flexibility. We also use this planning time to make lists. We love to check things off. It gives a simple sense of accomplishment and keeps us motivated to move forward when things get complicated.
2) Keep work with you: I don’t know about you, but I always seem to find downtime in my day. Whether it be while driving or walking to an appointment, or waiting in line, or waiting for a doctor show to a scheduled appointment, I wait. Waiting is a part of life. Knowing how to use this downtime efficiently can be a huge advantage. We have a choice. We can either scroll through a social media page or we can practice a new language or worksheet, or read a required book, or practice and review your notes for the day (study habits will be in the next blog).
3) Be Realistic and Flexible: It is really easy to over commit. We have to be realistic with our strengths and weakness. We have to be honest with how long something is likely to take us. Just as important, we have to be flexible. Some of the most highly effective people have a “bumper” set in every schedule. Do not schedule activities back to back. Include a “bumper” of time to account for meetings/classes going long, traffic, accidents, forgetting your homework/assignment, and needing to head back to the house. This will ensure you have flexibility without encroaching on others’ time.
4) It’s OK to say NO: This took me a really long time to learn. If I am honest, I still struggle with this. It is OK to say, “No.” You do not have to agree to do everything everyone wants you to you. You are only human. Knowing your limits (time, personality, requirements for sleep), are all essential to creating quality products and lasting relationships. If you do decline, just make sure to do it with grace, and perhaps a referral. I like to decline with a “Thank you, but not at this time. Perhaps you can consider So-and-so. I think they would be very interested,” or “Thank you, but not at this time. I would be happy to donate my time to next month’s fundraiser/money to the event/set up the flowers to be delivered/etc.” This simple referral allows the other party to feel heard, valued, and perhaps come back to you for help at another more appropriate time.
5) Find your productive time: I once watched an episode of Brothers and Sisters, where a political character stated, “I have done more by 8:00 am than most people do in a day.” This really stuck with me; so much so, I changed my entire schedule. I am more productive in the wee hours of the morning than I am from noon to five. So, I ensure my workday reflects that productive time. I learned in grad school no one bothers me between the hours of midnight and seven in the morning. So, I set up my focus hours then. As a mom, I do not stay up all night but know I ensure I am at my computer no later than 6:00 am to start work. Before work is prayer, meditation. After work, I help with school, and then we do a workout, field trip, or fun activity to wind down for the day.
6) Create a dedicated work/school schedule: Schedules are so important. They help keep you organized and ensure you have set time aside to complete the required activities. Knowing when you are required to work/school (and the prep time for each), helps to ensure you are not double booking, over-scheduling, or ignoring (for those procrastinators) an important task. The trick is to keep the schedule flexible as needed, but it should be used in the majority of situations.
7) Budget your time: Budget your time like you would budget your finances. Track where you are spending time and where you are not using the time to your advantage. This will help you prioritize when is productive, what needs more focus, and where you can rearrange to have more productivity. B a clock-watcher. If you know what time it is, you have a better grasp of your time throughout the day.
8) Exercise to clear your mind: Physical movement is so important to both production and retention. Study after study shows a connection between physical exercise and productivity at work. Some companies are even paying their employees to work out as it increases productivity, decreases stress, improves social connections, and oh, makes us healthier. For students, exercising after learning a task has been shown to improve memory and retention. So, burn some calories, get stronger, and strengthen your brain and production all in one thirty-minute workout.
9) Don’t get sidetracked: Distraction is the key to failure. My son is the king of distraction. I can ask him to put the dishes aware and all of a sudden, I have a robot in my kitchen. The trick to time management is not to get distracted. We teach this to my son by using a HIIT timer. He attaches this to his belt loop and every time it beeps it reminds him a) to be on task and b) that the allotted time to complete the task is diminishing. To introduce this, we started it as a game. Now, he uses it for everything from a work out to clean his room. At work, I use the 25 minute rule. I work on a project without distraction (no emails, texts, or calls) and then can take a break between my next 25 minutes and catch up on all those things.
10) Get a good night’s sleep: I love sleep. Good sleep. The body was designed to do some of the most intensive work while we sleep. Our bodies rebuild and process the day while we sleep. Sleep is essential to process and retention, but also, for us to have the energy to complete another crazy busy day. Sleep helps us learn, strengthen our memory, increases our creativity and insight. Sleep does so much! (learn more, strengthen memory, increase creativity and insight)
Now that you have some tips, take this quiz on where you are in time management to know where you might want to focus your attention in the future. Create your time-use log. Do it for at least 24 hours. The longer you do it, the more you’ll see where you lose/waste time.