Time management, what does that mean to you? For me, it is my ability to manage the available time I have to get what needs to be done, done. Notice, I said it is MY ability to manage – myself really and manage my choices. We really can’t “manage” time as we have no control over it. It keeps going on its own whether we want it to or not. However, the choices we make of how to use our time can have a huge impact on our productivity, as well as, on how we feel about ourselves and our lives. So, what is choice management?
Choice management is taking time to look at all the options/tasks/choices you have and actually choosing your priorities given the time you have. There are lots of things that “should” be done, but are they really the important stuff or just the easy stuff? Estimate how long you think things will take before you decide if it’s a realistic task to take on.
Choose the top three priorities to begin with and set clear boundaries around the time you will work on them. Don’t wait for the deadlines to get closer as although deadlines help provide a sense of urgency, they often bring extra stress if you miscalculate the time needed to complete it.
Five Ways to Save Time
- Use the Pomodoro method
- Time blocking
- Task batching
- Create systems and routines to “keep up”
- Organize and declutter the extras out of your life
It comes down to having to make choices because the reality is you probably can’t do it all. So rather than getting stressed, why not choose wisely and ask yourself…”is this important enough for me to use “x” hours of my day to do? Then figure out which method above, works best for you. Watch out for things that can eat up your time, like distractions, multitasking and not having a plan.
The Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro method breaks your work time into four, 25-minute blocks of time with a 5-minute break in between each block. The short time frame tricks the brain into thinking the task is more urgent since the clock is ticking. It helps to know that you only have to work on that one “challenging or boring” task for 25 minutes and then you can take a break.
The one thing I have found to help increase it’s effectiveness is to have other people know what I am working on in that block. This body doubling technique also adds accountability to the tasks and helps to keep me on track. If you’d like to give it a try, feel free to join us for Work It Wednesday from 10am-12pm ET via zoom. (Email me for link). At the end, you are encouraged to celebrate your accomplishments and appreciate your productivity (and take a longer break).
Create Systems and Routines
We all want to work “smarter” because that makes things easier on us. Creating systems and routines is a great way to do that. Time blocking and task batching are examples of systems you can use, if they work for you. However, time management is not just about work tasks; you probably also have “home” tasks some of which occur daily.
Setting up systems and/or routines for those things can save you time and stress. For example, if there is no routine of cleaning up the kitchen after dinner (or at least before going to bed) then the morning becomes more of a hassle as you dodge last night’s dirty dishes and cluttered counters trying to get everyone out the door on time. Not to mention the extra time it takes to get dried food off.
Routines work well for weekly tasks too. Pick a day for specific things, like meal planning, grocery shopping, and laundry. Why wait until you have no clothes and there are 6 loads to do when you can keep up by doing laundry once or twice during the week. Much easier to put clothes away if it is manageable.
Organize and Declutter
Lastly, but most importantly, take the time to organize and declutter. Out of all the things you can do, this may save you the most time and frustration. We’ve all wasted time searching for things, things that either didn’t get put back in their “home” or they didn’t have a home to begin with. Your home should work for you not against you.
Create organization so that you know where the things you use daily and weekly belong. Don’t organize so you can stack more stuff into a space. Let the space determine how much can go in there and reduce your inventory. The bigger the load of laundry the longer it takes to get it to its final destination. If your clothes don’t fit in the closet or dresser once they are all clean, then (I’ll be direct) maybe you have too many clothes. Think of how much time you are using/forfeiting to laundry.
Things you use often, should be easy to get to. Why should the big lobster pot take up an entire cabinet when you only use it once or twice a year? It shouldn’t. Make life simpler by clearing counters of appliances and knick knacks you don’t use weekly. You might think it only takes a minute to move things out of the way so you can work, but those minutes add up. You are choosing to use them clearing space when you could be using them for yourself and your family.
Think about the choices you make each day. Yes, it would be wonderful to be able to do all the things we want and need to do but, there are so many options and opportunities that it is impossible to do it all. So, “choose wisely, grasshopper” as a famous TV Kung Fu master once said. Or maybe you’re inspired by Yoda’s line, “do or do not. There is no try.” Whatever “method” you use for saving time is just one piece of the puzzle, it is the choices you make all day, every day that provides the frame work. Choose what matters to you.