Do you feel like you could use all the productivity hacks and time management tips you can get your hands on??
Me too!!! There's so much to do, and I constantly wish I could have an extra hour (or five) in the day.
When I start to feel overwhelmed, I try to more effectively manage all the things (a.k.a. control all the things that are outside of my control). Anyone else?
But here's the thing that I've come to understand. Good, effective time management isn't really about managing my time at all. It's actually about managing myself!!! That's the one thing I can always control.
Don't worry, I do realize that this is what most people mean (myself included) when they talk about “time management” or “productivity,” but I still think we could all use the reminder of what it's really all about.
Here are some of my best tips for self management:
Prep Tip 1: Prioritize your Time
When it comes to time management there’s one key to remember: Your time goes where your values go. Sounds simple, right? So why is it our time so often seems to do just the opposite? It’s because we haven’t taken the time to identify our values and plan our time.
Action step: Think about all the things that take your time in a day and write each one on a post it note. Now arrange those post-it notes in order of importance. Those post-it notes at the top of your list? Those are the day to day things you should be making time for no matter what.
Prep Tip 2: Make a Plan & Set Small Goals
If you were going to build a house, you’d have to start with a blueprint of some sort. Why do we think it’s any different when we are building our lives? In order to get the best things done each day you’ll need to make a plan.
Action step: Pick one thing you want to make time for in your days. Maybe it’s something you go to bed every night wishing you’d gotten done that day. Maybe it’s Bible reading, bullet journaling, exercising, or spending time with a loved one. Pick a time in your schedule tomorrow that you will do that thing – then make an appointment with yourself and stick to it!
Prep Tip 3: Accountability & Community
The best plan in the world can still fall to bits when you have a bad day. That’s why you need to develop a way to regularly check in with someone, or a system of tracking that helps you to reflect on your progress – it makes all the difference!
Action step: Find a person to be your accountability buddy. Schedule a time during the week where you check in with that person to talk about your progress.
Now that we’ve done the prep work it’s time to move onto strategizing. Here are three strategies for better time management.
Strategy Tip 1: Commitment Reminders
A practical way to stay on top of your time is by scheduling reminders. This can be a reminder on your phone, a note in your planner, or even a post-it on your desk. Whatever it takes to bring your goals to the forefront of your mind. Pro Tip: If you have a big task coming up that will take some preparation (like going to the grocery store or having friends over for tea) set a reminder for yourself the day before your appointment so you know what’s on the horizon.
Action step: Refer back to Prep Tip 2. Set up a reminder in your phone or jot it down in your planner so you don’t forget to take that action tomorrow.
Strategy Tip 2: Track Your Time
Sometimes we don’t know where our time is going until we take note of it. When you start to track your time you may find out you’re spending a lot more time on what I call “time wasters” than you thought. (You can learn more about time wasters and how to find more time in your day in my free email course, Get Organized Once and For All.) When you start tracking your time either by jotting it down in a planner, using an online timer, or an app for time tracking, you’ll probably find you have a lot more free time than you thought!
Action step: Try tracking your time for just one day by keeping a rough count of how much time you spent on your various activities. I think the results will surprise you and give you ideas of where you can find more time in your days.
Strategy Tip 3: Reflect
Here’s the thing about our lives – they’re always changing. A month ago you may have prioritized gardening but now that harvest is passed you need to prioritize canning. Make sure you are regularly checking in with how you are using your time, maybe by revisiting each of these six tips, so that you can go to bed each night knowing you’ve gotten the best things done.
Action step: Schedule a time for reflection after you’ve implemented some new time management strategies to check in with yourself and your time. Doing this with a friend can make it more fun, and they may even have some ideas you’d never thought of!
Time management will always be a fluid thing – there’s no one right way to manage your time, and even the best planned days can get side tracked. Sick days happen, family emergencies happen, last minute girls nights happen, but realize that your time management strategies are working in conjunction with your beautifully busy life, not against it. By implementing these tactics and strategies you’ll find that you have more control of your time day by day.