I know you’re busy so I’m not going to waste time telling you why you need to manage your time better. Let’s talk about how to get more accomplished and manage your time, because yeah, it’s limited. So, here are my favorite time management tips for work and home.
Tip #1: Know Your Priorities
Most people spend a lot, a helluva lot of time doing things that have nothing to do with their priorities. Of all of the time management tips, this is the most important. Let’s explore a few examples, shall we?
Tom stops by your office to talk about the football game. And then Joe joins in on the conversation. And before you know it, 30 minutes have passed and nothing got accomplished. Was debriefing the game a priority for your day?
Relationship building, you say? Uh, huh, whatever.
Tara calls while you are working on your side hustle. Tara’s been going through some stuff lately so you want to be there for her. But damn, you hate your job and want to make this side hustle work! This would be a good time to know your priorities and not be afraid to make a decision based on those priorities. I’m not saying Tara shouldn’t be your priority, I’m saying you should know what your life priorities are and make decisions based on those priorities instead of the guilt of not answering the phone.
Knowing your priorities is the single most important step you can make in managing your time. If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll be flopping around wherever the wind happens to take you.
The best time management tips I ever learned came from Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. When considering prioritization, think about your life in totality. Imagine you are 80 years old and thinking about what you accomplished in your life. Will you be saying “I wish I would of” or “I’m glad I did.” Now, take a hard look at your priorities and what you are doing each day.
Tip #2: Start Your Day with Focus
At the beginning of each day, take 30 minutes to refresh your mind on what your priorities are. Start with your life priorities and then narrow it down to what you will do today to help accomplish those priorities. Do this at the beginning of every single day. Yes, each day! Start your day with 30 minutes of planning your priorities and come back to that list all through the day. I haven’t counted this, but I’m sure I look at my list at least 20 times a day just to keep myself focused. Without the list, I’m spending time on social media instead of doing things that really matter to my life.
If you want to learn more about how to prioritize your life, you might like this article: How to Create a Life Plan, Start with a Bucket List
Tip #3: Drop Activities that Don’t Serve You or Your Priorities
I know you don’t want to give up your downtime. And you don’t have to. Just limit them. Be aware of how much time you are spending on these activities each day. Think about how much more you could be getting accomplished. The more you can limit these activities, the more you’ll get accomplished.
- Gossiping with friends and co-workers
- Watching reality TV
- Surfing the web
- Social media
- Spending time with people you don’t like
- Spending time with toxic people
You might be interested in this little experiment I did: 30 Days without Social Media
Tip #4: Quit Justifying Irrelevant Activities
Quit looking for ways to justify wasting time. Geez, take some responsibility for your life. Allowing people to steal your time and justifying it with “They needed me” is likely just crap and you know it. Not always, mind you. Sometimes we really need to be there for a family member or friend. Most of the time, however, the phone call you are getting is not urgent . . .or even important for that matter.
You know which activities you are justifying and which activities are contributing to your priorities. I can say watching Criminal Minds is helping me be better prepared for profiling a psychopath all day long but let’s be serious, what are the odds I’m going to need to do that? And is profiling a psychopath on my list of life priorities? Uh, no.
Tip #5: Own Your Schedule
I’m going to break down these time management tips into two sub-sections: the workplace, and your personal life.
It can often feel as though you have no control over your schedule at work. You are getting all these meeting invites and maybe half of them are from your boss. I do think you have more control than you might realize. Depending on your role in the organization, here are a few time management tips that can help you have better control over your work schedule. Some of these won’t be easy and some will shock the rest of the organization (depending on the culture) but hey, try a few and see if they help.
Time Management Tips For The Workplace
- Require an Agenda for any Meetings you are Invited to: This is as easy as replying to the invite with a “Can you please send me an agenda and/or expected outcome so I can determine how I can best contribute to this meeting.” It amazes me how many organizations schedule meetings with no agenda. I’ve found many times, I’m getting invited to meetings before they are ready for my contributions. With an agenda, you’ll be able to discuss with the meeting organizer exactly what they are needing from you. They may just have one topic they want you to provide input to so just need you to answer a question. You can do that over the phone and skip the meeting. Or they may want your process for something and you might have that documented and can email it to them. Even if it’s your boss scheduling the meeting, they really can’t get offended if you ask for an agenda so you can be prepared to participate.
- Have an Agenda for Meetings You are Hosting: It should go without saying if you are holding a meeting, have an agenda, and stick to it.
- Delegate: If you are in a position to delegate, let go of some control and pick someone from the team to attend for you. It’s great exposure and a development opportunity for the other person.
- Plan Your Day: Start your day with 30 minutes of planning and prioritizing your schedule. Refer to step 1. Look at your schedule and see how many of the meetings and activities on your schedule are aligned with your departmental priorities.
- Time Block your Calendar: Block your calendar with times for planning, projects, leading, and accomplishing priorities. Do this before others take up your time. You can learn more about time-blocking here.
- Shorten Scheduled Meetings: When you are scheduling meetings, get out of the habit of the traditional 1-hour meeting. Schedule 30-minute meetings when possible.
- Create Micro-Steps. You need to create a budget report by Friday. You could put it off until Friday morning at which point you not only feel a huge amount of pressure to get it completed but you also have left no room for unexpected emergencies, illnesses, or requirements you didn’t plan for – all of which we all know come up. Or, you could take micro-steps throughout the week. Maybe a micro-step is to review some data from the prior month. Or create a template for the report. You get the idea. If you’ve got 10 minutes between meetings, you could complete a micro-step.
Time Management Tips for Your Personal Life
Now let’s talk about your personal time because honestly, this is where many people get derailed. utilizing these time management tips in your personal life can help create a calmer home, decrease anxiety, and give you more control over your time and life.
- Be conscious of where you are spending your time. You might even consider using a journal at the end of the day to reflect on how you spent your time. Here’s an article on how to journal for self-discovery that might help.
- Don’t allow the urgent to replace the important (a very wise Stephen Covey principle). Just because the phone is ringing (urgent) or someone is standing in front of you demanding time, doesn’t mean you have to give it. You own your time and you can decide how to spend it.
- The kids don’t have to be enrolled in every activity – it really won’t destroy their lives if they don’t get to take that dance class this summer and instead get the opportunity to play with friends. I know there is a lot of pressure on parents to provide everything possible to their kids but sometimes it’s okay to skip an activity. It’s good for them to learn how to entertain themselves and explore life a little more.
- I’m going to talk a little about home responsibilities here like lawn mowing, dishes, housework, and laundry. An entire blog or 6 years of therapy might be in order here but I’ll try to narrow it down. It’s worth the time to ask yourself why some things are so important to you. Some people feel a huge responsibility to have the home clean at all times. Or the grass cut every Friday, whether it needs it or not. My question is why? Are you doing these things out of guilt? An expectation from others? Is having the lawn mowed part of your life purpose? I mean, what would happen if you didn’t mow the lawn this Friday? Would your head explode?
Tip #6: Get Organized!
The amount of time people waste looking for things . . . Wow!
Get rid of stuff you don’t need. The more you downsize, the less time you’ll spend cleaning, dusting, organizing, and looking for things. You’ll literally be giving yourself the gift of time by downsizing.
If you aren’t willing to downsize, at least get organized! Get all that crap off your desk, out of your office, off your counters, out of your computer. Here are a few simple steps to take to get organized.
- Get some boxes and go through each room. If you haven’t used something in 90 days, put it in a box and send it to storage (attic, in the corner, whatever). Don’t freak out over “storage” – it could be in the corner of the room.
- f you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it. Donate it. Sell it. Give it away. At a bare minimum get it out of your sight until you feel more comfortable getting rid of it. You know, keeping stuff you don’t need is an emotional crutch. Take the time to explore that concept with your therapist.
Article: How to Downsize When Moving
Create Micro-Tasks at Home
- At home, every time you move from room to room, grab something that doesn’t belong in that room and at least move it to the room where it belongs. You don’t have to put it away but just get it to the room.
- Schedule time each day/week just for getting organized. Remember, you own your calendar. Schedule 15 – 30 minutes a day just to organize one thing – a drawer, closet, or electronic document folder. We get overwhelmed thinking of cleaning the entire house but if you focus on micro-changes each day, it’s much more digestible. Everyone has 15 minutes they can give up to clean out a drawer.
- Break tasks down into micro-steps. Here’s an example. Let’s say today I want to vacuum. Between activities, I might grab the vacuum cleaner, take it into the room where I want to start, and plug it in. That’s a micro-step. The thing is, now whenever I walk into that room, I’m going to see the vacuum cleaner all ready to go and it will be super easy to just run it. Better yet, maybe someone else in the family will see the vacuum cleaner all set up in the middle of the room and just go ahead and run it (I know it’s a stretch but we can dream, right?).
Remember this – it’s your life and your time. Only you can decide how to spend it. You get one chance at this. How you spend your time each day really is up to you.
Daily Planner System
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It’s your time and you get to decide how to use it. With the time management tips provided here, you should be well on your way to managing your time more effectively and accomplishing what’s most important in your life.