A long, long time ago, when I was young and attempting to balance full time university, a couple part time jobs and a million other things. Time management techniques? No way, I can handle it! I tried for months to find little gaps to pack in extra activities, squeeze in family responsibilities and I always hoped that a nice big space would magically appear for my health and fitness.
Poof! Like magic!
Sadly, It never happened.
I lamented to my then boyfriend, that I couldn’t find time for going to the gym or art and he turned, looked me in the eye and flatly said:
“You don’t find time, you MAKE time.”
I think he was trying to channel Bruce Lee, but that simple statement really stuck with me and every time I hear myself utter the words “find time” I hear his voice chiding me for falling back into old mental habits.
Do you find yourself wishing that you had a pause button on life or that unfinished “to do list” you wish would just conveniently go away? Do you sometimes wish that time management was a natural talent that you were born with (how the heck do those happily married, self made billionaire CEOs with 5 kids do it?!)
How in the world are you going to fit in a work out? Or meal-planning? OR SLEEP?
I’ve got great news: you’re not alone!
If you Google or look up books on “Time management” for help, it’s a good start, but this concept is actually outdated and impractical. You can’t ask time to hurry up or make it slow down by begging, bribing or managing. Time just ticks along, minding it’s own business 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year…
A new perspective is by considering a personal “Me Management” system. To discover the best way of managing yourself, how you chose to use your time, your habits and to be more effective in getting things done. All with the simple purpose to reduce overwhelm and not feel “insanely busy.”
When people realize that it’s THEM that they need to manage, and strengthen the internal muscle of focus, diligence, prioritization and positivity, then generic time management tips become a breeze! The next thing you know, you’re performance is better, you’re getting things done, you feel more relaxed and life feels a heck of a lot easier.
To get you started on your time management (aka Me management) style, try these out:
TiMe management Tip 1: Agendas and planners
Use a schedule app on your smartphone, or if you’re old school, write things down in a day planner / agenda. Try to use only one master schedule – it doesn’t help if you’re writing things on post-it notes, napkins, your phone, Google Drive or your calendars don’t sync up. Schedule enough time for breaks, interruptions and tasks maybe running overtime.
Don’t forget, schedule fun things in there too!
TiMe management Tip 2: Take 10 for tomorrow
Take 10 minutes every morning to plan your upcoming day. If you’re more of a night owl, then take that 10 minutes to plan tomorrow. Schedule this!
TiMe management Tip 3: Accountability friends
If you find yourself deviating from your plan, find a friend to help you stay accountable by sharing your schedule with them, or letting people know “for the next 45 minutes, I really need to focus on X so if you see me messing around and I leave my office/room, send me back!”
TiMe management Tip 4: Blocking Apps
If you get distracted by apps, social media, clickbait, “interesting” websites, check out one of these badboys!
- Leechblock (free)
- Writeroom or Darkroom
TiMe management Tip 5: Phones OFF
If you get distracted by random texts or phone calls, turn your phone to silent (and yes, that includes vibration and little flashy notification lights, too). Even better, shut it off or if you’re super daring, ask someone to hang on to your phone while you work. You power down at the movie theatres, right? Okay great!
TiMe management Tip 6: Learn to say NO
Do you find yourself overcommitting and saying “yes” to things that you don’t have any interest in doing? Have a few kind turn-down phrases ready to prevent you from feeling extremely overwhelmed, guilty if you have to change plans or even worse, commit but drop the ball. Try phrases like:
- “You know, that sounds interesting, but I’m not sure I can commit to that, my schedule is really full.”
- “Can I get back to you on this?”
- “I’m so sorry, I really won’t be able to help you with that project. Maybe Nancy in accounting can offer some assistance.” (just don’t throw anyone under the bus!)
- “I’ve already committed to helping another friend/family/work that weekend, but if things change, I’ll text you.”
TiMe management Tip 7: Grouping for efficiency
Group similar tasks together – if you have to stop by the mall to pick up a new shirt, the grocery store is in the area AND you have to drop some important documents in the mail, plan all these activities in one trip, if possible. If you have to call a few different people, schedule a time block where you can call all 4 people back to back. This minimizes time spent travelling and “changing gears” – you know, that momentum you have to build up to do something you don’t really want to do? Instead of building up momentum for every single task (even if it only takes 1 a minute or two), just do it once, and giter’done.
TiMe management Tip 8: Check it off or cross it off
This one is my favourite. Once a month, I’ll look at my giant TO DO list and circle the ones that really must be completed and prioritize them. Then I’ll look at the remaining items on the list and decide which ones I can just cross off – for whatever reason: it’s been months since I first wrote it down (or years, for some), I thought it was a good idea at the time, the circumstances have changed and it’s no longer important, you know. Those things that have been weighing you down because you just thought it should’ve gone on your list. Cross those suckers off!
TiMe management Tip 9: Delegate or percolate
This is a variation or step two, for tip number 8.
Delegate – For the tasks that have been dragging along that are important and need to be done, ask yourself if this is something someone else can help you with. Maybe they can take part of it, or even better, all of it! Sometimes even just calling a friend or coach for a mental boost can help! Is it something you don’t know HOW to do? Do you know anyone that might have the time or resources to help out?
Percolate – if you’re an ideas person and worry that crossing an item off will mean that super amazing project is going to go sailing off into the ether, never to be imagined again (this is me), create an “Ideas file” so you can feel comfortable that the item is still there….just tucked away for later. When you have some down time, then you can open up this file (can be a real or virtual one) and pull out the percolations and play with them. Sometimes putting something away for a long time helps it grow and develop.
TiMe management Tip 10: Meditate
Oh meditation! How it took me a long time to enjoy thee.
There are a TON of scientifically documented benefits of meditation that I’m not going to go in to on this blog (coming soon, I guess!). This version is more of an introspection tool – take a few minutes once a month when divvying up your list to ask a few questions about those sticky items. Questions like:
* Why is this important to me? What would happen if I just crossed it off? Would that be so bad?
* Why has it taken me so long to complete this item? What is uncomfortable about taking the steps to do it?
* Why don’t I want to call my long lost friend to say “hi”? Am I worried they’ll still be angry about the incident?
The answers to these questions may help accelerate the completion of the items or confirm which column it should go in to – check it off or cross it off. Then you can move on!
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Start building these habits into your daily routine. Incorporate one or two today, and then the next week add another, and maybe a few weeks later, another. Think of it like a mental muscle, don’t expect your form or technique to be perfect right off the bat, or for you to perfectly incorporate and embrace the tip on the first try. You may find that you start with the ones that suit your personality style the best and then slowly bring on a new one as time progresses, or as you discover your sweet spot. If you make a mistake or slip up, we all do it, don’t be too critical on yourself. Just start again with the same habit and flex that sucker for all it’s worth!