Time Management vs. Choice Management

How to choose?

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.

Tomorrow I'll Do It

Tame your time
Tame your time

The word procrastinate is defined by Webster as, “to put off doing something usually out of habitual carelessness or laziness or to postpone or delay needlessly.” I am not so sure I agree with that definition. Sometimes we have to procrastinate because there simply is not enough time in the day to do it all. If the task is really important it will get done but only when its priority is increased. For example, a student who needs to study for a test, will eventually sit down and study or will have to accept the consequences of a low grade. For the ADHD brain, the pressure of a task that HAS TO get done is often enough of an adrenaline rush to push you to get it done. Sometimes though, you may have to trick yourself by setting false deadlines as if they were real.

First step in eliminating procrastination is deciding what is in it for you and what will happen if you don’t do it? This should help you determine if you are really committed to it. Then determine what is preventing you from completing it. Is it a fear of failure or lack of information? Or are you afraid you cannot do a “perfect” job so you don’t start?

Next, decide to get started. Break the task into manageable pieces or set a time limit and work until the time is up. You may realize it isn’t as difficult as you thought and you can keep going.  Cheryl Richardson starts her day asking herself, “What action do I most want to avoid doing today?” Then she begins with that and notes that things quickly change for the better after that. Remember to reduce distractions before you begin working and reward yourself when you complete the task. Overcoming the procrastination habit leads to healthy feeling of being in control of your life. Want to feel competent and capable? Then do it today!

Three Tips to Tame Time

It is back to school and back to juggling multiple activities and schedules. How is your stress level?  Since we can’t stretch time, and we really can’t “manage” it either, we have to learn to “manage” our choices and ourselves. Here are three tips to help you take back control.

How is your relationship with time?  Do you manage it or does it manage you?  We all know what it is like to be running non stop throughout the day only to discover that we have accomplished little by days end.  Often it is one little unplanned “glitch” that sends us spinning out of control.  To manage ourselves is to make choices and influence the course of our day to include what matters most so that each day is satisfying and rewarding.  Here are some things to consider:

1. Are you realistic about the amount of time a task takes? Estimate how much time you think a task (not a project which is more than one step) will take and then use a timer to check your guess.  This is a great strategy for kids to use with their homework too.  Simplify household tasks and/or get the family involved to reduce the amount of time needed.  Get creative to trim time.

2. Do you schedule more tasks than can be accomplished in the allotted time? After you have a realistic idea of how long each task takes, simple math will tell you whether or not you can fit those three tasks into the hour you have allotted.  The idea is not to fill up each available minute but to focus on the things that are meaningful to you – make sure you add those in before the less important tasks.

3. Do you plan for the entire task, including preparation, completion and clean up, as well as, allowing for travel time or interruptions? Whether you use a “to do” list or a planner your list of tasks often runs together without separation.  Instead of listing the big task, try listing the next action step and include a space for preparation time and clean up.  For example, if you have a report to complete, gathering the information might be the next action step rather than “write report,” which involves multiple steps and makes estimating an accurate amount of time to allow, nearly impossible. For students, they often see “science project” as a single step activity. Help them break it down and plan out when to work on the pieces of the project and you’ll have fewer last minute dashes to the office supply store for poster board.  Also, don’t forget to add in travel time and leave several blocks of 15 minutes free throughout the day to handle the unexpected or to give you time to catch your breath when tasks take longer than expected.

With practice you will develop a more realistic idea of the time needed to accomplish the things you need to do. To truly feel in control of time you need to start with what’s most important to you and be sure to put that in first.

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. Carl Sandburg US biographer & poet (1878 – 1967)

How to organize your closet

Organize your closet
Organize your closet

Is the warm weather on its way? Maybe if we all put away our winter clothes and pull out the Summer stuff it will force the weather to cooperate. What do you say, are you ready to make the wardrobe changeover?

Organizing the closet is one of the best ways to add time to your day and reduce the stress of the morning rush. Depending on the size of your closet and whether or not you share the space with someone else, the following five steps could take anywhere from one hour to four or more hours. If you would like to be able to easily find what you want to wear (and have it fit) then set a date to organize your closet right now. Once you have picked a time slot read below so you will have everything you need to complete the job.

First step is to get ready. That means turning off the phone so you won’t be distracted and led off task. Grab a snack and a beverage to take with you along with a box of trash bags, a sharpie, three boxes (labeled undecided, needs fixing/cleaning, and belongs elsewhere), a label maker or index cards and tape, a hanging rack if you have one, a full length mirror and the vacuum.

Now you’re ready to begin:

1. Sort is always the first step in any organizing project. Use the three boxes to sort for things that belong elsewhere, things that need to be altered or cleaned and the undecided. Beginning on the left hand side of the closet and moving clockwise start with things that are hanging up and pull them out and either place on the hanging rack or on the bed. If you are using the bed, only take about ¼ of the closet out at a time. Now sort that pile into the “love it and it fits” pile, the “never felt or looked good” pile (which will be the give away) and the “not sure it fits pile.” Move the “love it pile” to its own spot on the bed or the rack and then try on the “not sure it fits” pile. I know it seems like it will slow down the process but if you never liked it or liked it but it never fit then either give it away or put it in the undecided box. Continue around the closet through all the hanging clothes. When you get a pile to give away put it in a trash bag and label it. When the bag is full move it outside the room you are in and continue with the next bag. Next step is the shoes, followed by the rest of the stuff. Each time you need to consider do I love it, hate it or does it fit? If you find anything that belongs elsewhere put it in that box, do not just “take a minute” to move it to where it does belong. Put the trash in a labeled trash bag.

2. Once everything is out of the closet, dust and vacuum it well. Take a break and have your snack. You have just finished the absolute hardest part of this whole process.

3. Next we will need to decide where things will “live.” You want to keep like things together, for instance all pants together, all tops together etc. First though check to see that your closet is optimized for the most storage space. Do you have a second rack hanging below the first one? Is there available space above the first shelf to put another shelf so you can utilize the whole space? If not, you may want to consider adding a rack or shelf at a later time. Now is NOT the time to go to Home Depot. Write it down instead. Stay with me….you’re almost done.

4. Looking at the piles you have made (starting with what will go up high on the shelf or shelves) start to put things back into the closet. Grouping similar things into a basket or bin will keep them together and make it easier to find what you are looking for. Label everything. For the hanging clothes you can sort by color going from light to dark (all tops together from white to black) or put all pieces of an outfit together and sort them by color or casual to fancy. Make sure there is space for the long hanging things like dresses. Many people find it easy to hang all tops on the top rack and all bottom pieces (skirts and pants) on the bottom rack. Then you can quickly grab a top and a bottom and off you go. Continue until everything that belongs in the closet that you absolutely love (and fits) is back in there. Then take the bags of give away and put them in your car to drop off. Put the dry cleaning or alterations into a bag and put them in the car. Empty the trash and then empty the box that has things that belong in another room. All that is left is the “undecided” box. Take a second look is there anything you know you really won’t wear…..it doesn’t matter how much you spent on it or how much you saved when you bought it. If it is really only collecting dust, it is not worth the space. For those things you truly cannot decide about, box them up and date the box. In six months take another look inside and see if the decisions are any easier. (Be careful where you store this box that it is not exposed to moisture.)

5. Lastly, maintaining the closet means putting things back where they belong. Use laundry day as a quick tidy up. Gather the empty hangers, put everything back in its place and give it a quick dust and vacuum. Use the one in and one out rule. Buy something new, out with something old. Maintaining the closet of things that fit makes it easy to get dressed, easy to see what you have and takes the stress out of, “What should I wear?” Good luck. Let me know how it goes. I am always happy to answer questions.