Where does your time go? We all know we are busy, yet we feel behind and don’t get to do the things we really want to do.
Planning is the best time saver there is. At the beginning of the week jot down your goals that you want to accomplish, fun things you want to do, work that needs to be done, and appointments to keep. Then write out a loose schedule for the week ahead, balancing it out between work, family, home, self and your other roles.
You can choose to put your action items on daily to do lists or schedule them on a calendar like appointments. How you keep track of your things to do for the week, depends on how much structure you personally like or need.
When you plan, it is helpful to schedule things for twice as long as you expect them to take. That gives you extra time for those traffic jams, interruptions, and fun, spontaneous moments. I try to plan on leaving 10 minutes earlier than I have to, for all my appointments, in case of unexpected delays.
My weekly planning session usually takes less than thirty minutes. My planning session includes gathering my papers and going through the in-box to find action items as David Allen suggests in his book “Getting Things Done”. I also plan goals, next action items for my projects, plan a two hour time alone, plan family night, and plan a date with my husband. I schedule work, exercise, fun time, time with friends and family, volunteer work, and self-care time. Planning allows the important to take precedent over the urgent for once.
But, be flexible with your plan. Remember you are not a slave to your planner. It is there to serve you. If your time management system isn’t working, tweak it.
Here are some more time management tips:
- Know what’s important to you. Figure out your values and your vision.
- Start delegating to family members, co-workers, professionals, and teenagers needing extra money.
- Learn to say no to what is not in your mission or your values.
- Let go of perfectionism. Not everything has to be done perfectly and some things are out of your control.
- Listen to audio tapes or mp3’s during your commute or household tasks.
- Use a planner or PDA that includes a daily to do list, a weekly calendar, a monthly calendar, a listing of projects, telephone numbers and important information.
- Empty out your planner of the clutter and junk. Put the little pieces of paper in an in-box to go through in your weekly planning session.
- Keep your planner with you at all times.
- Do not keep a bunch of calendars around. Use only one so everything is in one place.
- Keep a master list of all the things you need to do, call, see, write, etc. Don’t use post-it notes all over. They seem to get lost.
- Answer routine letters by answering them on the original. Photocopy your message for your own files then send off the original.
- Cut down on TV time. Plan your TV time so you only watch the shows you really wanted to see. If you are watching, clean during commercials or sew while viewing.
- Look at your schedule and lay out all the things you need for the next day, the night before.
- Tidy your desk before you leave work so it will be clean for the next session.
- Try to spend time on planning and important things so you are not always “putting out fires.”
- Use a timer to keep you from spending too much time on one thing or to challenge you when you are cleaning.
- Relax when you are relaxing and work when you are working.
- Make goals and rewrite goals every few months, so you have a focus.
- Clear the clutter from your desk.
- Go through your files once a year to get rid of paper you no longer need. Saves space and time. Or go through a file each time you put something in it, to keep your files current.
- Get rid of things that don’t work, especially pens. Save yourself some frustration.
- Start with the worst item on your to do list. Everything else will be a piece of cake. You also won’t be thinking and dreading it while doing other tasks. Procrastination sucks out your energy.
- Be sure to bring things to do like reading, writing a letter, paying bills etc., when you know you will have to wait someplace.
- A couple of times a year, keep a time log. Jot down everything you do for a day or two. Then examine where your time does not match what is important to you.
It’s your life. If you don’t manage your time, other people will manage it for you.
© Beth Dargis 2004
Beth Dargis works with overwhelmed women to create saner, simpler lives. Are you in need of a break? Take the self-care quiz: