February is Time Management Month. Can we really manage time? Intellectually everyone knows that we can’t control or manage time. This is what we can do. We can manage how we spend our time.
We all know that time just keeps moving along. Twenty-four hours each day and we can’t change that.
So, when we say time management what we are talking about is good choice management. You can’t save time – just spend your time wisely.
Before I give you tips to get better control of your time the first thing to do is track how you spend your time.
Use a piece of paper or notes in your phone and keep track of all the things you do over the course of at least one week.
7 tips to help manage the way we spend our time
1. Advance Planning
- Yearly – What are you planning to accomplish by the end of a year? Break these goals down into smaller benchmarks and record them in your calendar or planner.
- Monthly – What are you planning to accomplish each month? Do you have a benchmark goal for the month? Set dates and times to work on that project.
- Weekly – What are you planning to accomplish this week? What times during this week do you have non-negotiable commitments? Plug those in first on your calendar and then schedule times to work on your weekly goals.
- Daily – What are you planning to accomplish today? Plug each item into your daily calendar. This will help you track how you spend your time.
There are usually more tasks on our list of things to do than time to do them. It is important each day to prioritize these tasks so at the end of the day we have accomplished the critical tasks and then worked on some tasks that were important but not critical for the day.
3. Plan transition times and breaks
It is unreasonable to expect that you can complete one task and then immediately jump to the next task. It is important to allow time to clear away the remains of the first task and set up for the next one. Your mind needs time to reset as well. If travel time is involved always allow more time than you think you will need.
4. Set time limits
When you set up your plan for the day decide how much time to devote to each task or project. Bookend those tasks. Set up a beginning and end time. There are occasions when you will adjust this but when possible stick to your plan. It is easy to go down a rabbit hole and keep working on a project beyond the time set. This is often not the best use of your time.
5. Utilize Organizational Tools
- To do lists keep all your ideas and plans in one place. These lists keep you from worrying about forgetting a task.
- Calendars hold your non-negotiable appointments and your intentions for the days. This helps you plan projects on days where you have more negotiable time.
- Reminders or alarms set for those non-negotiable time slots keeps you from getting so involved in a project that you forget your commitments.
- Apps – There are many apps that help you best use your time. Different ones work best for different people. Check out which apps would best work for you.
6. Reduce distractions
- Clutter on your desktop or in your surroundings causes stress. The clutter pulls your concentration away from the tasks at hand.
- Email alerts or other computer alerts will cause you to stop and see what just came in. Turn these off.
- Interruptions from co-workers or family members will distract you from your work. Let people know the times you are not available. Put up an “At Work” sign.
7. Delegate tasks
Delegate tasks to save you time. Some tasks are ones that you can do easily and efficiently. Some tasks are not in your skill set. These tasks take up a lot of time that you can use elsewhere. Recognize what these tasks are and delegate them to someone else. If you try to do it all you are more likely to become stressed and burn out.
Choose the tips and suggestions which will help you spend your time wisely. At the same time stay flexible and allow for the unexpected. Knowing how we spend our time gives us freedom to juggle tasks that are not critical. Be kind to yourself even if you did not make the best use of your time. Give yourself rewards when things have gone well.
If you are struggling with developing an organizational plan to make better use of your time or just want some help or accountability in following through with a plan, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space for You virtual support group.
Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.
I agree that goal setting is a very important step, especially for people who often find themselves sidetracked by possibilities. When I think of something I’d like to do in my business, I remind myself of my goals and if it won’t help me get there, I either discard the idea or add it to my task list with no date to be considered again down the road.
I like the idea of adding possible future projects on a to do list without a date. I keep a running list of things to do on my computer and look at it each week when I set up my calendar for the week.
That is such wise advice. My favorite is “stay flexible and allow for the unexpected.” Goal setting and planning time is great, but if we fill up our schedules too tightly without any ‘fudge’ room, we’ll be overwhelmed when life’s surprises happen. And you know they will.
I’ve also come to realize that I don’t like to rush. So when possible, I like to gift myself plenty of time to accomplish my tasks or move from one appointment to the next. That way, I can be more mindful, present, and less-stressed with what I’m doing.
I like what Diane Quintana said the other day in one of our Clear Space for You groups. She said that when interruptions occur that must be dealt with, give those interruptions your entire attention. Don’t spend time fretting over what is now going to have to be rescheduled. Once the interruption is over, go back and refigure your time.
So much important advice here! I find that people almost always undervalue or ignore transition time , buffer time, and breaks, whereas I recommend doubling however much time you think it’s going to take. I’m really glad you included that, as well as delegation, which people often assume (for one reason or another) that they can’t do. Without careful, detailed planning (including transition and breaks), and making sure you spend your time on what you’re uniquely qualified to do (and delegating as much of the rest as possible), I don’t think it’s possible to excel on the things that you value. Thank you for laying it all out!