I struggle with time management.
Here I am again, amazed that the time has gone so quickly and I have nothing to show for it.
Do you struggle with time management?
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. -Mark Twain
In my previous life, I worked in a cubicle. My time management skills were stellar. I was consistently organized with a neat desktop. My work flow was efficient and the days often dragged because I usually got my work done early. My supervisors always praised me at yearly reviews. Now that I work from home, I can’t ever see my desktop for the clutter, and it’s usually 3 pm before I even have a clue what I’m doing.
I don’t know WHAT I do all day, but the day seems almost gone when just got started!
I’m a member of various mastermind groups on Facebook. Some of my fellow members of the groups are time management ROCKSTARS. I am in awe of their consistent ability to get things done in a seemingly effortless manner. They are my heroes.
Why is it that some people (the cubicle dwelling me) seem to get everything done effortlessly and others (like the working for myself me) feel that time constantly eludes them? The secret to managing your time well isn’t working more hours. (I’ve been working HOURS more each day now than I ever did when I worked for somebody else.) It is about prioritizing the important things and learning to use the time you have more efficiently and effectively. The secret is working smarter, not harder.
Some people naturally organize first and check their tasks off as they roll down their “to do” list each day. Others play first and work later, often scrambling madly to get things done by a deadline (I’m talking about YOU, Procrastinators!) Still other people (ahem… hello…) have a long mental list of things to do each day. We get up each morning with great intentions, only to head back to bed at night with a messier desk and bigger to do list than they started with.
We don’t know what we did all day, but we feel that somehow, somewhere, something went horribly wrong. We know there must be a better way.
There IS a better way. As Mr. Twain said up there at the beginning of this post, the secret is to break the complex tasks into manageable ones and then start on the first one.
Depending on your lifestyle and obligations, maybe you are super-organized at work, but burned out at home because you don’t know how to make time for yourself. Maybe you are naturally a less organized person who knows how to relax, but you are dissatisfied because you aren’t fulfilling your goals and dreams.
Once I quit my job and started living for me, I have been learning to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and figure out ways to make them both work for me. I’ve struggled with time management the whole time so far, but now I realize that it is an area of my life that can be strengthened. Like a new muscle, it takes practice and repetition to make it stronger. I have a few other posts about my struggles here and here. Each time I fail, I learn another way how NOT to do something. Before long, I plan to be a time management and organized lifestyle ninja! You can be one too!
To help us get started, here are some steps to streamline things at work and at home. If any of the ideas jump out at you, give them a try!
- Allocate time for planning and organizing.
- Create to-do lists that are realistic, not intimidating. Use only one to-do list.
- Under-schedule your time: Leave time for the unexpected and for interruptions. When you estimate how long something will take, add on a third of that time.
- Schedule your time in a way that reduces interruptions that lower your productivity.
- Practice the art of intelligent neglect: Eliminate trivial tasks.
- Prioritize what is most important and do that first.
- Consider your biological prime time: At what time of day do you work best? Plan to do your most important work at that time.
- If you say yes to everything that comes your way, learn to say no.
- Ask for help and delegate.
- In the evening make your to-do list for the next day, so it will be out of your brain and on a piece of paper. Leave work with a clear head and a clean desk.
- Acknowledge yourself daily for all that you have accomplished.
The first step I’m going to work on is allocating time for planning and organizing. I recently purchased a binder and am creating a planner similar to this one. You can get some great ones online. I purchased one from The Dragontree Apothecary, a PDF only version so I can reuse it every year.
As you start being aware of your time management skills (or lack thereof,) be aware of two HUGE hindrances to using time effectively: procrastinating and lacking purpose.
Procrastination usually happens when a task seems too daunting, too large or too complex, or when we feel we won’t be able to handle it. When you get that “deer in the headlights” feeling, take some time to break the large scary task into smaller, manageable action steps. Then take a deep breath and start with the first action step with renewed enthusiasm and determination.
Procrastination is a huge problem for me. I am a naturally laid-back person with minimal “go get-em” drive. Even though I now love my life, I get overwhelmed OFTEN because I am more of an idea person than an execution person. Knowing what I now know about time management, I’m working on fixing that. 😊
Lacking purpose sucks. When it comes to managing your time, you may need to ask the larger questions, “Am I doing what I love to do? Am I doing something meaningful to me?”
Why would you want to do something if you have no interest in what you are doing? Not having a clear purpose makes being enthusiastic about a task difficult and we use time inefficiently because we are bored, unengaged and uninspired. The most effective time managers will tell you that they love what they do and are aligned with a greater purpose.
If any of this resonates with you, I hope you can use some of the ideas above to become a better time manager. As you strengthen your new time management muscle, keep your focus on getting organized so that you can live the life you came here for. I am working hard to get buff in the time management department, because I am doing what I love and following the path to my purpose. You can do the same, just start at the beginning! Once you find what you love to do, instead of being a chore, good time management can be your ticket to more fun, greater satisfaction and a vibrant, exciting life.
I love to hear from you. Do you have a time management helpful idea? Did you struggle with it and figure out how to make it work for you? Share in the comments.