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How aware are you of how you use your time? At the end of the day do you wonder where the time went and what you actually did? Some people have a natural time awareness while others do not.

Here are my tips to help you improve your time awareness

  • Track

One very good way to improve your time awareness is to track it for a week. Keep a log in your journal of what you do each part of your day. Set alarms on your phone and then make note of what you have been doing since the last alarm.

When doing routine tasks, set your stopwatch and see how long the task takes. When I did this activity, I was surprised at how little time some tasks took like loading or emptying the dishwasher and how much more time I spent on some tasks like researching for a client or for a topic.

Once you are aware of how you are using your time, take time to reflect on if this is how you want to spend time.

  • Prioritize

We all have priorities, and these can shift. We all have tasks that are important and critical to complete in a certain amount of time. Do a brain dump of all the tasks you need to do daily, weekly, yearly, and one-off things that are in your face right now.  Look at Covey’s Four Quadrants grid and determine where each item on your list fits. You might do this by assigning a color to each quadrant and then highlighting your tasks with that color.

Remembering that important but not urgent tasks are ones that need to be addressed regularly. If you ignore these tasks, they will end up being on your urgent list.

A ringing phone or a bing of an incoming text or email may seem urgent. But unless you have an emergency going on or are working closely with someone else on a timely project these interruptions are usually not urgent.

Schedule times to listen to voice messages, read texts, respond to emails. When you always respond to other people instantly, you become reactive instead of proactive. Your priorities are not taken into consideration.

Covey suggests that items in quadrant 4 are deleted entirely. I’m not sure that I agree with that. A fifteen-minute break scrolling through social media is certainly not urgent or important but it can give your tired brain a break. However, be aware when you are doing these nonessential tasks.

If you are like me, you may find that even after this exercise and dropping some tasks from your list, there is still more to do than time to do it. This is where delegating comes in.

  • Delegate

It can be hard to delegate at times. You lose some control of how a task is done. If you delegate and then micromanage you haven’t really gained much. For example, I just can’t delegate buying groceries to someone else. I want to see the produce for myself and make substitutions when necessary, on my own. However, I can delegate some cleaning in my house and yardwork. This does mean that I have to say “good enough” sometimes and just remember all the time and energy I have saved.

  • Schedule

Once you are aware of how you want to use your time, schedule your tasks on your calendar. Your calendar is not just for keeping up with appointments and special events. Use your calendar to plan your day. Schedule when you are going to do those tasks that are urgent and important. Schedule when you are going to do your routine maintenance tasks. When scheduling, allow transition times. You just can’t stop one thing and then immediately do the next item on your list.

Check that calendar first thing in the morning to plan your day, set any alarms, and last thing in the evening to see if anything needs to be rescheduled.

Using planning tools like your journal, your timers, Covey’s grid, and your calendar helps you stay aware of how you are using your time.

Tracking, prioritizing, delegating, and scheduling will help you make the best use of your time.

Always save some time just for you. Schedule some time on your calendar for things that give you joy and renew your spirit.  Your physical and mental health will benefit by giving yourself some time to renew.

If you are ready to work on your time awareness or would like to organize and  tame your calendar, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space For You clutter support group. The group will offer ideas, support, and gentle accountability for working on developing plans or projects.


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, award-winning author, 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.





  • Seana Turner says:

    It sounds fundamental to say “check your calendar first thing in the morning,” and yet it seems to be a step that lots of people forget. We think we know what we have to do, but sometimes there is a surprise on there that we don’t remember. I actually check my calendar and task list all day long LOL. I’d be lost without it.

  • Figuring out how long a task will take is challenging. I often put something off “until I have to deal with it” only to find it only takes five minutes. I’ve also set out to accomplish something quick and had it eat up a good part of my day. Maybe this is why I’ve never been able to integrate my task list with my calendar…

  • Time awareness is such an essential topic. It’s fascinating how much variation there is in how aware we are … or not. I have a good sense of time, although if not careful, time can just go. One of the things I find helpful is using alarms. I like to hyperfocus when I’m working or creating. And during those times, I like to release my awareness of time. To do this, I determine in advance how much time I want to focus without interruptions. I set my timer for 30, 60, or 90 minutes. I feel free from time and can work intensely. When the timer dings, I stop, assess where I am, and decide to continue for another time increment (resetting the timer) or move on to my next task.

  • Great post, Jonda. I’m good at determining how long tasks take. I had to develop this skill over time. An analog clock and a watch helped me decide how long things took. Stopwatches were just too stressful for me.

  • Kim says:

    I really need to do some work in this area. I am a busy person but I know I also waste a lot of time. I need to do the Habit Tracking thing and really pay attention to where all my time is going. We certainly can spend a lot of time just scrolling on our phone and it feels like we are doing something important but are we really. Before you know it you have wasted an hour or more. Ugh!!

  • It’s so helpful to allow time for the “non-urgent and un-important” tasks if for nothing else than a break from deep thinking work to allow your brain a break. I think timing how long it takes to do a task is a wonderful tip. To put a little fun into it, you could discuss with a partner or friend how long you think it will take to do the task, then set a timer and see who’s guess is closest. Sometimes, when we gamify things, it gets our brains excited to try a new tip.

  • Julie Bestry says:

    Excellent points! Each January, I do Laura Vanderkam’s time-tracking challenge, and this year I realized that I waste the most time when “I don’t wanna” do the thing I’ve scheduled. If, instead of spending my time in that fourth quadrant of neither important nor urgent things (hello, TikTok scrolling) because I don’t want to do what I’ve planned, I could just do something ELSE that I’ve planned for a different time. Time shifting my my scheduled time blocks is sometimes the perfect antidote to refusing/neglecting to do what I’ve planned, but it takes that tracking to recognize the key problem.

    I agree with everything you’ve said. (But if I could delegate all food shopping and housework without it having a dollar cost, I’d do it. I’m sure someone else would do a better job than I could at picking out produce!)

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