So, what are we actually talking about, when we talk about time management?
We are talking about skills, tactics, and techniques that each of us can utilize to productively and effectively navigate our way through the time in our day.
Which sounds easy, until you actually have a day. And then you realize how many obstacles and barriers crop up to knock us off course. Competing priorities. Unexpected phone calls. Over-stacked meetings. Needy children/pets/co-workers. The internet.
If starting is the hardest thing, here are ten ways to start; ten things to try as you look to successfully navigate the rocky waters of your day ahead:
Pause before you start, and plot it out (Possibly at the beginning of the week)
We are good at GO, but we often forget to look at the map first. And sometimes forget to even map out the map. Whether on a Sunday night or a Monday morning, whether at the start of each day or as you wrap up your work, take a moment to pause and look ahead. What's on the horizon? Plot it out for yourself.
Write down time slots for everything on your to-do list, not just your meetings
We usually write down our meetings, or others things at which our attendance is expected. But do we schedule the other stuff? The time to write the blog? Work on the report? Complete the project? If it's on your schedule, it's harder to ignore/forget/put off.
Color code your to-dos/meetings/personal errands/etc.
Trust the science; your brain loves different colors. It helps your brain focus on sections rather than the whole page and helps with memory recall. Play around with different color coding systems and see what catches - and holds- your attention. Blue for meetings? Green for errands? Yellow highlighter for special occasions? There is no right or wrong way to do it.
Take a physical break every thirty minutes to an hour (yes, schedule it)
Get those juices flowing… literally. The blood circulation re-oxygenates your blood going to your brain and gives you an endorphin boost to give you an extra charge. In our virtual-reality world, we are worse than ever at scheduling the "pause," and many of us have lost our built in pauses-- the commute time. Remember that scheduling you were doing back in tip one? Don't forget to schedule the pauses.
Cut your list in half… then cut it in half again
Most of our to-do lists are four hundred times longer than any of us could possibly achieve in a single day. So are you setting yourself up for success if you put the entire list in front of you? (No). So look at the mother load of to-dos, and select the ones just for today. That's your today's to-do list.... and keep it short. No, shorter.
Seek advice from others. Be an explorer of strategies. Try them all
There are more people on your side than you think, but they can’t help unless they know you need help. They each have their own wealth of knowledge that is worth tapping into. Don't be afraid to share where you are struggling-- remember that we are all struggling in our own ways.
Incorporate homeopathic strategies for your brain (sleeping, healthy eating)
What do you have to lose? Try it out because getting more sleep and eating some veggies definitely won’t do you any harm. So add things like "napping" and "eat the carrots not the chips" into your time management strategy-- you will likely find that you have more focus, which ultimately expands your ability to use your time well.
Do the worst first
The more something looms over your head, the more daunting it becomes. Get that junk out of the way fast and let all the good feelings wash over you when you realize you don’t have to worry about it anymore. So what's the thing on your to-do list that you are just absolutely dreading? Put a big #1 next to it.... and get 'er done.
Think about your energy ebbs and flows, and schedule accordingly
You know yourself better than anyone else so don’t be your own worst enemy. If you’re a morning person, set yourself up to thrive in the morning and don’t schedule important items for the afternoon.
Leave Margins- because life will always throw you curve balls
If there is anything we have learned from this year, its that, no matter how much we plan, life could throw those plans in the recycling bin in one fell swoop… and that’s ok! If we budget in the flexibility, we’ll be more prepared for the moment we need it. So leave margins in your day-- literal chunks of open, unscheduled time. Time for the "just in case" and the "I didn't expect this's. Because they may not show up every day, but they will show up eventually. If you've left margins, your day can carry on in spite of them, and not be completely derailed because of them.
We saw this quote recently, and it really put some gas behind the idea of why we should think about navigating our time in the first place:
All that is certain is the time in your hands right now... so what will you do with it?
So pick up some tools, now. Because this day awaits you, now.
What are your favorite strategies for navigating through your day effectively? We'd love to learn from you!
Whitney and Erika