After decades of event production experience, motherhood, volunteerism and entrepreneurship, I realized time management was a skill and I set out on my quest to master it. Realizing we all have the same 24-hours in a day... what makes some more productive and efficient than others? Achieving that health work-life balance is an on going desire. Thus time is the most precious commodity. How you choose to spend your precious time, determines how your future life will be. So I like to think of time management techniques as tools to help you do what you value the most.
Taking control of how you spend your time is essential to your success in both business and life. Mastering time management is the difference between being busy and being productive. Time management skills separates those still spinning their wheels struggling from those who are living richer, fuller more meaningful lives. The strategies shared here today are derived from behavioral science research, mentors and much personal experience. Following effective time management strategies involves incorporating tactics into your routine that optimize the available hours of the day.
Ever hear the saying, "So much to do, so little time!" That was me. I used to think sleep was over-rated and the only way I was going to get a head in life, was to work harder... It got to the point where I felt like I had to work 24 hours a day, in order to be successful. I was wrong. Hear my heart people BURN OUT IS REAL! Not to mention the damage I did to body along the way. Working smarter, not harder proved to be far more successful. The reality is there’s a careful balance to managing time wisely enough to get everything done as needed, without putting too much pressure on yourself. So the key to optimizing your time is making these time management strategies, an expression of your values (what’s most important to you), not just a schedule to get more stuff accomplished. Thus, it's critical to keep your values in mind as you schedule and calendar your time. Also when making the moment-to‐moment decisions, staying true to your values and giving yourself grace will be key. So linking what your doing, to what matters most to you, is crucial to effective time management for balance and well-being.
The more you can prioritize yourself and what matters most to you, the more committed you will be to taking action to get it done because it’s important to you instead of feel stuck and obligated to do the things on your list!
1. Knowledge is Power - How DO you spend your time...? - Create a time audit
The first step you need to take is finding out where your time actually goes. Often you will be surprised in what you find. For example, you may believe that you only send 30 minutes on those games on your phone, but in reality that task is eating-up hours of your day. So track EVERYTHING you do for a week. Determine what's mandatory and what's stealing your time. With this information, you can then make the appropriate adjustments.
2. Defining Your Dreams and Setting Goals
Obviously I could do a whole course on dreams and goals. So here will be a broad brush of what is needed. Determine what matters most to you and remember to stay true to your values all along the way. Remember passion often comes from the very act of pursuing your dream. Passion is very powerful, it transforms the impossible into the possible. The first step in define your dreams is to write down what your ideal life would look like. The key is to be as descriptive as you can. Your dreams represent a vision of some future, ideal state: Job, Annual Income, Health, Family, Possessions (home, car, etc), Relationships, Joy/Entertainment/Experience (toys, vacations, travel, hobbies, etc), etc. Pick the three most important from your list of dreams. Then determine the things you need in order to have your ideal, future life. Remember goals involve physical action. Create specific goals around each one of your dreams. Remember for goals to be realistic, you have to have the knowledge, skills or resources to successfully take action. If you don’t have the ability to act, then you must develop that ability before you can even begin to pursue each individual goal. Stay focused on the outcome that by pursuing each of the specific goals to achievement, will make each dreams come true. Then say "no" to anything else that doesn't help fulfill your dream. So the most important thing is you are DOING what matters most and leads you to living the life you dream of and delete, delegate, or defer the rest.
3. Time Blocking
The next step is to divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task, or group of tasks, and only those specific tasks. To be honest the easiest way I found to do this was creating 24 blocks for the 24 hours of a day, for all 7 days of the week for a total of 168 blocks a week. The devote, on a regular basis, chunks of time to a specific task. Estimate how many hours per week you want to devote to a task. Set aside that many hours for working tasks needed to fulfill your goal. Slice up your goal into pieces and allow specific blocks of time for specific pieces of a big dream. Be sure to block out the essentials: sleeping, eating and re-filling. What I mean by re-filling is things that provide you energy and joy instead of drain you. All three of these essential activities fuel you in some way in order for you to optimally take action to achieve your goals. Make it part of your schedule, your routine. For some this might include exercise, personal development, meditation, prayer, family, etc. The advantage of having days that are time blocked in advance, you won't have to constantly waste time make choices about what to focus on, it's already done.
4. First Things First
If you can do so, schedule the things that are the hardest, first thing in the day. You generally have the most amount of energy in the morning. So it’s better to tackle these hard tasks when you’re not drained. Also, you can use that feeling of accomplishment to get through the rest of the day, right if the hard stuff is done the rest of the day should be easier. This gets the hardest stuff over with first, while you have the highest level of efficiency and productivity. Then the things that are the most important to you should have sacred blocks of time (that you protect), at the first available time slot. Anything that gets scheduled later in the day has a greater chance of getting interrupted, put off and never gotten to. You won’t be thinking or worrying about your work during your leisure time if you get your required tasks done first.
5. Make A Game Out Of It
Making a GAME out of it always makes it more enjoyable, which has been proven to keep you more focused on the tasks at hand. Become time focused instead of task focused. Think of your day in terms of time, not the tasks you have to do. Devote time to important tasks every day. Setting a timer can be an effective way to remind you of breaks, set time limits, and even make you more productive. Timing out portions of your day for breaks is an urgent part of any workday as they give you time away from your desk and a chance to clear your mind for a short time before getting back to work. Another great use of a timer is setting time constraints for specific tasks. By giving yourself a set amount of time to complete an objective, you push yourself to reach the deadline and end up accomplishing more work before time runs out. Setting a time limit to each task often prevents you from getting distracted or procrastinating. It’s hard to predict how long a task will take, so it’s hard to schedule with great precision. By putting buffers between tasks and activities, if you don’t complete the task on time, you can still work on it without eating into the time reserved for something else. But you can reliably schedule regular intervals of time and get into a routine of showing up. Make an appointment with yourself for a particular time period and always set your purpose to make the most of this time. Making it a game, to try to beat the amount of time you allotted for the task, will help keep you as efficient as possible. All goals are made up of smaller parts that need to be accomplished in order to achieve the goal. Thus, I found making to-do lists from these goals, an easy way to make your day more fun. There is always such a sense of accomplishment as you check the items off the list. This also motivates you as you are able to see what you have already achieved (getting you closer and closer to the goal), and what remains.
6. Commitment and Grace
Remember you commitment to stay true to your values and what matters most. If you can’t commit to devoting time to a task, don’t put it in your schedule. Only schedule tasks you WILL do. Be brutally realistic, not idealistic when making your schedule. Creating a schedule you can’t actually keep is setting yourself up for frustration. If you don’t actually stick to your schedule it will soon become useless. This may have happened to you in the past. Blink if you can relate. One of the most difficult things for many people to accept is the fact that they’re not perfect. Take a moment right now to realize it’s okay to make mistakes and be imperfect. Keep this in mind as you strive to improve your time management skills, understanding that even the most thought out plans can change or fail. These thoughts will open doors for you to improve when these times come, instead of feeling defeated by them. Know, at the same time, there will be interruptions that may prevent you from completing a task. But make a point of always returning to and complete these tasks once you are able to. This may require you to set a limit on the number of tasks you are working on at any given time. How do you incorporate flexibility into your schedule? Don’t schedule every hour of the day, leave empty (buffer) time slots. Create a two-hour or three-hour block on Friday as a catch all makeup time. When things come up (as they always do in life) do not diverge from your established schedule, survey future hours and days to see where you can make up lost time. Most of all give your self grace as this all becomes routine. It takes a month or two to create a habit, but good habits make your life easier. With good habits in place you don’t have to make as many hard decisions, thus you are less likely to make unproductive ones such as talking yourself out of doing what you had planned. In the moment of decision-‐making, when faced with a decision or an impulse to diverge from your schedule, don’t just react, RESPOND. Pause, take a moment to think. Remember what’s most important to you and do what will help you get it. For example, if exercise is a top priority for you, don’t let a sudden fear about a job evaluation prevent you from exercising. Be ready to reduce the amount of time, but don't compromise on your health. Don’t let the stories in your head create justifications to get in the way or lead you astray. Then choose how to respond in a way that is aligned with your values and ultimately what you want to achieve.
7. Batch work
When you have similar related work, batch them together into a compressed time slot. Different tasks demand different types of thinking. By batching related tasks together, your brain isn’t switching gears, which means you cut out that time reorienting. But remember to do one step at a time. Current research shows us that multi-‐tasking is not productive. In actuality, we are switching back and forth between tasks. With each switch we pay a cognitive cost and a time cost: It takes time to get mentally back into the task, thus making us less efficient. When switching we lose the depth of our engagement, absorption. Plus studies have shown it takes you twice as long to accomplish half as much when distracted. So completely eliminate distractions: no email, phones, tv, devices, or other outside sources of distraction.
8. Be Intentional and Prepared
One of the worst things that you can do is wake-up without a plan for the day. Instead of focusing on what needs to be done, you wander aimlessly and take care of more trivial matters. At the end of the day take time out to draw up a to-do to prepare you for productive tomorrow. Be prioritized and rank your tasks, putting the hardest and most important first tomorrow. Setting clear priorities will help you order your tasks according to their importance, urgency and effort needed to accomplish them. Keeping daily summaries of your work helps you to discover where you did well, and what remains to be done.
At the end of each day, take a look at your list and check the tasks you’ve completed. Seeing what you’ve managed to accomplish is a great way to get motivated for the next day.
If there are still unresolved tasks on your list, ask yourself why you haven’t finished them and find solutions to that. Maybe the task was to broad and dividing it into smaller assignments will help you better organize work? Remember there will be days when you don't complete everything on your list and it will be OK, imperfect action is better that perfect inaction or lack of productivity. Devote a few minutes at the beginning of each day to performing a morning routine. Taking this time helps you prime your mind, letting go of the negative, focusing on the positive and getting you ready to be productive in the day ahead.
9. Pursue Joy
Make time for enjoyable, rejuvenating and satisfying activities like organizations, sports, and entertainment. Organize your work and other obligations AROUND these commitments to what re-charges and re-fills you. Learning new information, enhancing your skill set, and growing as a person is essential in life. After all, if you’re committed to improving, then you’re better able to adapt to changes and become more efficient in everything that you do.
If you believe that you don’t have time for this? Think again. We all have gaps in our schedules to learn or grow. For instance, listen to a podcast or audio book while you walk or drive. Find ways to re-connect to your dreams... refueling your passion and desire to succeed.
When you’re exhausted, stressed, in pain, and/or don't feel well, you’re not going to be all that efficient or productive. You must make your self-care a priority. Being preventative instead of reactive is more efficient. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. This includes healthy restorative sleep.
Here at Stretch Beyond Impossible, we believe in equipping people with the structure and tools necessary to live a life of balance and fulfillment. Our mission is to empower others to overcome everyday obstacles, experience everyday wins, realizing that you have everything you need within, to create the life you desire!!
Often time management difficulties go hand and hand with other aspects of your life. Take a FREE Well-Being Assessment to determine what areas to focus on first. None of us are perfect, we start where you currently are, let's setup a meeting to customize a plan to suit your needs, and create an action plan that takes you from where you are right NOW to where you WANT to be!!!