Time – it’s a strange concept. It’s not tangible. We can’t touch it, stop it, slow it down or speed it up. It passes on by, often without notice. Yet, we all have the same amount – 24 hours. No more, no less. And while some are able to get lots done, marking items off their to do lists like productivity kings/queens, others struggle and the next thing they know another day is gone. So, what gives?
First of all, some people (typically left brained dominants) are just born with time being more on their radar. Others (you creatives out there as well as the ADD population) time is just not on your radar!
Secondly, since time is not tangible, let’s make it so. In our student organizing workshop, we teach the kids that time budgets and monetary budgets are the same concept. We give the example that we take them to The Dollar Store and give them $20. They do not have any money of their own, we will not give them any extra. $20, that’s it. So off they go, filling up carts with an array of fun Dollar Store items then heading up to the cash register. That will be $23.48. Oops, what do you do?? The kids chime in with, “I have to put some things back.” Ok, great. But which items? That leads to our discussion on how to prioritize, and we get a variety of answers that show that not everyone prioritizes in the same way. Guess what? The same goes with time, and you’ve got a 24 hour budget.
Need some more tips. Here are a few…
Know when your most productive times of the day are and hold that time sacred. Plan to attack items that need the most brain power, take the longest and are the most important in this period. Turn off your phone, let it go to voice mail, don’t check email and don’t even think about social media! It can all wait.
Chunk it down! Your to do list should not read “put marketing budget together”, “reorganize the house”, “do holiday shopping”, “research college scholarships”. What are the next 1 or 2 steps that need to be done to move you forward? Break each of these types of items into small, measurable steps that can be checked off the list.
If time is typically not something you are aware of, then clocks, timers, and alarms need to become your best friend. Additionally, I highly recommend analog or face clocks over digital. Seeing the hands literally moving is much more effective than a digitally displayed number, especially if you are a visual learner.
Become accurate at knowing how long routine tasks take. Literally, time yourself so that you can set aside the right amount of time in your day for what needs to be done. By constantly underestimating, you will be running late, not getting to items that you had planned on, keeping others waiting, and pulling your hair out in frustration. Always cushion yourself and leave some breathing room in the morning and afternoon.
Many people put “28” items on their daily to do lists, when routinely you can expect to get around 5 done per day. So, then “23” items move to the next day, plus another “12” and you can see where this is headed. Lots of stress, anxiety and frustration is now rolled in as well. So, pick 3-5 of the MOST important tasks that need to get done and set yourself up for success.
Plan, plan, plan. Create your daily to do list the night before so you can hit the ground running the next day. Look at your week and see where you have open blocks to run errands, address items that you did not expect, or even catch your breath. With time being so valuable, don’t spend significant portions of it thinking and deciding, “What should I do now?”. Have it planned ahead of time so you can maximize the time you have set aside.
Time management is a tough concept and one in which I spend a lot of time on with my clients. This post will be the first in a series with more to come on the art of list making, time management for the holidays and more. Some people do not like or agree with the phrase “time management” seeing that you can’t manage time – it’s going to pass on by whether we like it or not. But we can manage HOW we spend our time and the choices we make.
Good luck! I’m off to make my list for tomorrow…