Work smart, not hard…is my approach to time management. For me it’s all about making life’s activities daily activities more efficient so I can spend time on the things that really matter.
In life there are things that must be done and things you want to do. To get them all completed in a timely fashion, you will want to implement some kind of time management system.
Step 1: Prioritize
This means differentiating between those things that must be done today and things that you would like to do. Some examples of things that must be done today are: appointments, school, work, morning routine, taking out the trash, daily exercise, laundry, grocery shopping, and other errands. An example of things you would like to do could be: researching a topic you’re interested in, taking a course online, listening to podcasts, painting, hobbies, watching a tv show, or other enrichment activities.
For me the things that must be done today take precedence over the things I want to do so I will tackle those first and use the other activities as a reward for completing tasks.
Step 2: Pick 3 goals per day. Work with your SMARTER goals, but only give yourself 3 main goals for the day.
As part of my end of day review, I set up my three main tasks for the next day. First, I look at my schedule and see if there’s any important appointments or activities, then I look at my long term goals and pick tasks from there. An example of three main tasks for a day for me could be:
- Work on the garden
- Write a blog
Having only three goals doesn’t mean that you’re limited to doing only three things. I pick only three main things to build confidence and to monitor daily progress toward the larger goals. As a high-functioning anxious person, this will put my mind at ease knowing that I have completed enough to be satisfied for today. I also believe that we live in a culture that celebrates being “busy”. What I’ve noticed in my own life is that when I am “busy” either realistically or artificially, I miss the flavor and depth of day-to-day happenings.
Step 3: Set a Time Limit/Window
If you have a lot going on in life like working full-time, going to school, raising a family, or some other time consuming life events, you can still achieve your other goals by carving out a window of time each day. For example, if you want to learn how to play an instrument, start a business, or begin a meditation practice, you can set a specific amount of time each day that you will dedicate to this activity.
An example from my life is setting up a two hour window in the morning for my morning routine. I make it a point to wake up 2 hours before the first thing on my schedule. This allows me enough time to get ready for the day, get in a good mindset, take care of any at home tasks, stretch, etc. without being rushed. This time is super important for me because it sets the tone for the day.
Step 4: Take Breaks Between Tasks
A good rule of thumb for work or longer projects is to work for 50 minutes followed by 10 minutes off. This helps to keep your brain fresh for endurance tasks.
With multiple different tasks, you can try breaking up the tasks with a water break or a snack. If the task is something like research or a meeting I like to take a few moments to journal any thoughts, feelings, or questions that may have come up. This helps determine the next step on a project.
Step 5: Remove Non-essential Tasks
Every now and then, its a good idea to have a look at the grand to do list and cross some things off that are not essential for completing your long-term goals. For me this often ends up being things like watching a certain movie, reading a particular book, or something that’s no longer relevant because I shifted the long-term goal along the way.
This process is similar to getting rid of old clothing. The trick is to put everything on a hangar, and every time you do laundry, you hang up the clean clothes on the right side. After so many months, the clothes you never wear will be on the other side and you can donate them.
With your to do list, this would be the stuff at the bottom. If it hasn’t been done in three months, you probably won’t get to it. Take a load off and delete those items. If they are important enough to you, you’ll remember to do them at some point in the future.
Step 6: Re-evaluate
Time management is a continuous re-evaluation process. Your life goals or situation may change drastically and you will need to reprioritize different aspects. You may discover a new work-out routine or method of completing tasks which can cause a shift by making you more efficient with your time. Either way, as you work with time management, you’ll get to know yourself better and how to use your time wisely.
Do you have tips or tricks for time management? Write them in the comments below!