Despite movies, books, and television telling us otherwise, we can’t bend time, travel back in it, or find a wrinkle that magically adds hours to the day. But we can, for the most part, control exactly how we use the time we have been given. (A big caveat here for my readers who are also new parents: don’t forget that you now share your time with a tiny bundle of joy—a tiny bundle who will almost always manage to wrest all control of that time from you!)
The key to getting more out of your time is capable time management. And that takes work. Here are 9 things you can do to better manage your time—and your life!
1. Be self-aware.
The first step to good time management is to know yourself, particularly your strengths and weaknesses. Before making a schedule for yourself or setting goals to help you manage your time, take an hour or two to really analyze your abilities and current circumstances.
I like to make several lists: one that records the personality traits that could hold me back and make it difficult to reach my goals, one that records my personal strengths and the traits that could help me reach my goals, and one that records the challenges in my current life that may prevent me from completely controlling my time. This last list is important because it reminds me of the stage of life I’m in and that there is a season for everything. When I was a young mom with a handful of preschoolers and toddlers, for example, I cut myself some slack and made goals that were compatible with the hands-on, sleepless stage of life I was in.
Because we can sometimes be extra hard on ourselves and think only of our weaknesses, you may want to ask a spouse, partner, or friend for help thinking of positive traits. As you make your lists, recognize that the way you manage your time may be different from the way others do it. And that’s okay! Identify guidelines for time management that match your strengths, not your weaknesses—and definitely not someone else’s perceived strengths.
2. Set goals that benefit your whole self.
The way you manage your time almost always comes down to what your goals are. It’s important not to forget that life is multi-faceted and that we need to look at every area of our lives when we set goals. Failing to do so may mean that we accomplish one goal, such as achieving professional excellence, at the expense of another, such as always being there for our children.
When you set goals, categorize and prioritize them. Look at each area of your life so you can identify what matters most. Set concrete—not abstract—goals for your personal life, spiritual life, professional or academic life, and family life.
3. Prioritize your goals.
Whenever you add activities to your schedule, ask yourself if the activity supports one of your specified goals and what category that activity fits into—personal, spiritual, professional, or family. If the activity doesn’t support a goal, consider eliminating it or perhaps tweaking it so that it will serve your goals. Look at what you need to do, want to do, and should do each day. Prioritize each activity based on your goals, your commitments to the task, your availability, and any other factors impacting your day.
4. Don’t procrastinate.
This suggestion is almost always easier said than done. If you’re one of those people who puts off a task because you think you’ll feel more motivated, more energized, or more capable of starting it later, procrastination is particularly dangerous. This is because while you’re waiting for “later” to arrive so you can magically feel better prepared to do something, you’re also inadvertently allowing any feelings of anxiety and pressure that come along with the task to linger and fester indefinitely.
To help me from stalling in the “I’ll do it when I feel better” mode, I like to remind myself that the fastest way to truly feel better is to start right away because the primary reason I’m feeling uncomfortable in the first place is because I haven’t started yet!
5. Focus on one thing at a time.
Multi-tasking seems like a good idea because it means you’re doing many things at once. What it doesn’t mean, however, is that all those things are getting finished or that they are being done successfully. In fact, an abundance of research proves that multi-tasking is actually less productive than focusing on doing a single thing at a time.
As a Stanford University study recently found, this holds true even for people who believe they are expert multitaskers: “Heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another.”
6. Practice good communication skills.
This one really translates to “learn to say no”! If a task doesn’t support your goals, let alone your schedule, say no to it! If a task is one you can’t say no to, such as an assignment required by your boss, talk about that task with a relevant person. Let others know of your constraints and commitments. Say no to other, less important tasks, if necessary. Sometimes the person you’ll need to communicate with most is yourself . . . with a reminder of what’s really important and what you’re really capable of in the moment.
7. Learn to delegate.
If you feel stretched to your limits and a task is better suited to someone else, delegate it! Likewise, delegate tasks to others who need to learn from you as a mentor (or as a parent). Delegating doesn’t mean you eliminate a task and never have responsibility for it again.
With employees or co-workers, you’ll still need to check in regularly to make sure the delegated task is going well and to offer insight and advise. With others (especially your own children), you may need to arrange time first to teach the person how to do something right. But once it’s taught, the time you’ve previously devoted to the task will be cut significantly.
8. Practice stress management.
Stress management and time management are permanently intertwined. The less stressed you are, the better able you’ll be to manage your time. This means you should do everything you can to keep stress at bay: exercise regularly, meditate, practice mindfulness . . . do all the things I’ve listed above!
9. Practice patience and forgiveness.
Be patient and forgiving with yourself and others if you lose control of your time or feel overloaded. Life is inevitably going to throw some curves at you. At these times, remind yourself that the only failure is not getting up and trying again.
Essential Oil Tip
If you need a little extra support managing your time, consider adding some positive affirmation and aroma therapy to your day. While you meditate, work out, or even just stand in front of the mirror for a few minutes each morning, repeat this affirmation while diffusing one of the blends described below: “I am fired up about my plans and ready to meet my challenges head on. I am present and alert. I am a powerful creator with an important destiny to fulfill. I am nurtured and supported.”
Invigorating Oil Blend: wild orange, lemon, grapefruit, bergamot, tangerine
Encouraging Oil Blend: peppermint, wild orange, coriander, basil, Melissa, rosemary
Focus Blend: patchouli, frankincense, lime, ylang ylang
PS. Do you ever often feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or stressed? Our lives are full of challenges everyday. Whether it be with our jobs, finances, relationships, or even ourselves, we will always be faced with life's trials. So how can we withstand the whirlwinds of life? For a step by step guide to help with your everyday stresses check out our course!
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