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)