“I’m too busy, I don’t have enough time!” It seems like everyone I talk to these days is saying this same thing. I understand. I feel the same way. Sometimes it feels like I’m on a runaway treadmill that simply won’t stop. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on my list of things to do, or so it seems. You know that list, the one that you constantly add to and seem to never get everything on it checked off.
So, maybe it’s not the actual list that makes us feel that we don’t have enough time. It just might be the approach we take to create this list that makes us crazy. After all, you can’t actually manage time. Time is a constant, you can’t stop it, it keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny.
You can however, spend some time to develop and implement a strategy to make better use of your time. To quote time management guru Harold Taylor – “Remember that time management is not doing more things in less time, but rather doing fewer things of greater importance in the time that we have.”
So, let’s get started. Determine what is important to you, how you spend your time, what you’re doing that wastes time, what tasks can be delegated or outsourced, and put together a plan to work smarter, not harder. Creating a plan can help make you feel that you have enough time in your day to accomplish everything you need to do. Review the categories below to develop a plan to use the time you have to work more effectively for you. It just may help keep your stress at bay!
Determine the things that are important to you. Write them down, these are your goals. If you work in an office, chances are, either your boss has set some goals for you or delegated this task to you. Incorporate that concept into your personal life. Be specific and make your goals measurable. For example, if one of your goals is to spend more quality time with your family, one of your tasks may be to schedule a weekly family activity. At the end of the year, you will have a plethora of memories from those family activities.
As you go through your day, write down all the activities that you perform and how much time you spend on each activity, for 1 week. This journal may include, cleaning your house, drive time to and from work, picking up the kids from daycare, mowing the lawn, preparing dinner & school lunches, paying bills, checking emails, catching up with friends on FaceBook, etc. Include the amount of sleep you get every night. This may be a wake up call to add another goal to go to bed earlier to get more sleep to optimize health and productivity.
Take a look at your activity journal for the amount of time you spend on each activity. Do some investigation to determine how to spend less time on an activity. For example, if you spend a lot of time looking for a specific email in your inbox because you have 2,346 of them in there, it’s time to set up folders for specific topics, and implement rules for incoming messages to go right into those folders. You’ll spend less time looking for that specific message when you need it. A good rule to implement for a more efficiently organized inbox is to keep only those messages that you haven’t read yet or need to take action on. Move to a folder or discard all others.
Delegation is an option that I believe is currently underused these days. It seems that we try to do everything ourselves, which is not an efficient use of our time. No wonder we feel like we don’t have enough time! Running a household is a huge job and everyone in the family needs to make a contribution if possible. When they’re old enough, teach the kids to make their beds, take out the trash, feed the pets, and set the table for dinner. Keep a family task list of routine activities on the refrigerator with everyone’s name and assigned tasks so that it’s a constant reminder of each family members responsibilities.
Outsourcing is a huge time-saver! There are some tasks that need to be done that you may not know how to do, or you do know how to do them but they consume a lot of time that would be better used on something else. For example, mowing & trimming the lawn. If you have a huge yard that needs to be cut weekly, it may take you a couple of hours minimum to complete. By hiring a lawn service, you could use that time for other tasks, or to get some much needed rest and relaxation.
Create a list of all your tasks from your activity journal, as well as other tasks that you know you need to do. Do not be vague, be specific! This is very important. If the task is large, for example, paint the bedroom, break it down into smaller tasks, such as buy the paint and supplies, determine the best day to paint, remove the furniture, etc. If a task is dependent on another task, like in the example of painting the bedroom, write that dependency next to the task. Prioritize the tasks on this list based on task dependency, due date, and importance.
Now it’s time to schedule the tasks on your list. Begin with the tasks that have the highest priority and importance. Estimate how much time it will take to complete these tasks and be realistic. Add some extra time for unexpected interruptions. This allows for flexibility in your schedule. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know. If you have a task that requires exceptional brainpower or creativity, schedule that task during the time of day when you are at your peak performance. All these tasks need to be scheduled in your daily planner; either a manual paper planner or an electronic planner, whichever works best for you. Keep your planner with you always. That way, when you need to schedule a new appointment or task, you will know your availability. Keep prioritization in mind as you schedule new appointments or tasks.