Time management is a topic everyone struggles with. And one I’m frequently asked about from the moms who hire me. I’m sorry to burst your bubble right out of the gate here but, no matter what anyone tells you, there isn’t a simple quick-fix one-size-fits-all answer to managing time better. In my professional experience, there is however one overarching issue that causes people to lose time. But the solution comes by way of individualized strategies that work FOR YOU.
So before I get to my tips, let’s start with what I think is that one main roadblock. We could easily call it a day on this post after I say it out loud…but thought I’d follow-up by sharing some time management tips for you as well.
The magic behind managing your time better = prioritizing. Period. There is your magic answer (if you will) to getting a better grip on your time. The fact is we have 24 hours in a day. All of us. If you see people getting a lot done and wonder how, it’s because they’re prioritizing their tasks. Yes, some of those 24 hours include sleeping, eating, parenting and other daily life stuff. But when it comes down to the tasks / projects / stuff you want to GET DONE, they will get done by prioritizing and scheduling it on your calendar. If you can shift your mindset, you’ll understand that prioritizing (and then staying on task) is how things get done. That’s the main issue that keeps us from succeeding on a slam dunk day.
Now to my tips. A lot of what I’m sharing is geared toward mother’s since that’s my niche audience on the blog and in person. But these can be adapted to help anyone struggling with managing time.
- Don’t Stress: My name is Samantha and some of you may remember Samantha was the witch from the tv show Bewitched. When I was little I dreamt of being able to twitch my nose and have everything done. In a blink. Wouldn’t that be amazing?! I wish! So I want to first say please don’t stress out over your never-ending list of tasks. Much like laundry, nothing is ever totally done. When you check something off, something else (maybe a few more something else’s) will find its way onto your list. Trust me. The sure way to stay calm is to settle yourself and write everything down. Write down everything that needs to get done and, most importantly, by when it needs to be done. No sense in stressing over that home improvement project you know won’t be in the budget for another year. Write it down, but make note of its priority.
- Figure Out Where Your Time Is Going: If you feel exhausted at the end of the day, yet feel as if you didn’t get anything done – track what you’re doing for a few days. Not gonna lie, this will be an annoying project, but would be a great test for yourself. For a couple days keep a journal and write down everything you’re doing. This is a great tool to discover where you’re losing precious time. Here’s a free printable for tracking time!…
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- Remove Apps From Your Phone: This is a tough one but we have all found ourselves checking our phone and next thing you know, 30 minutes has flown. An hour even. You’re up to date on your Facebook feed, but what about the grocery list / meal plan for the week you were supposed to be working on? If you remove those time-sucking apps from your phone, you’ll be less likely to get pulled in.
- Turn Off App Notifications: If removing apps from your phone is too difficult, try turning off their notifications. Personally, those notifications annoy me. I don’t like to see that red clutter on my phone’s homepage. And that is exactly how I get pulled into an app…I just want the red number to go away. So I hop in to make it go away and there goes 30 minutes of my time. I’ve tried turning off app notifications and discovered I haven’t been interested in checking the app. So, try that as a first resort if deleting the apps will be too bold of a move.
- Find What Motivates You: Once you have your list of priorities, find out what will motivate you to stay on task. For example, if today you plan to knock out 3 tasks – write an overdue thank you note, shop online for that gift you meant to send your friend who got married over a year ago and then start a rough draft blog post, what will motivate you to not get sidetracked? Will it be a change of scenery? Maybe working from the library with free wi-fi? Do you need to turn off your ringer? Will a candle or essential oil aromatherapy keep you settled / focused at your desk? Figure out what motivates you to stay connected so you can set yourself up for success.
- Find What Time Management Strategy Works For You: There are tons of strategies / ideas out there to help manage time and make you more productive. It’s safe to say all of these start with the basis of making priorities. But then each has its own spin from there. Type in “productivity” or “time management” on Amazon and you’ll find your head spinning with the number of book titles available. It’s still a good idea to check out the books under this heading and read a bit about them in the summary section. Something will certainly resonate and get you motivated. Personally, I’ve heard a lot of great things about time blocking – and it’s a skill I’ve been working on myself. AND the more I’ve read, the more I’ve realized this is exactly what I do with my mom clients. We work in chucks of time and I’m with them anywhere from 3-4 hours. We work together for part of that time, take a break and then I work alone while putting things away. Anything longer than an hour or 2, and I begin to see eyes glazed over. Focused, dedicated time on a project can be exhausting. It’s only natural to take a break and shift focus to something else. Sometimes if I’m working alone, in a kitchen for example, I’ll work in the pantry for 45 minutes and then shift my focus to a set of cabinets. I always find when I go back to the previous space, my eyes are refreshed and may even move something around for better functionality. The Pomodoro Technique is an action plan many have success with.
- Break It Down: Once you have your priorities set or the details of a project defined, breaking it down over a few days is helpful. Especially if it’s a large project you’re doing alone. Just remember that when you break it down into action steps, you need to stay focused to get it done. Try not to get distracted and set yourself up to be doing these during your peak time of day. And remember, if you do just one thing a day for the whole year – that’s 365 things you’re getting done!
- Your Top Three: As moms, we really push the limits by taking on too much! And a lot of it isn’t necessary or, quite frankly, very fulfilling. (See my next bullet point.) A tip I discovered works and a way to not completely overwhelm yourself is to take on the idea of doing just 3 things a day. Here’s a great example of a to-do list that embodies this philosophy…
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Just think – if you did 3 things a day how excited you’d be at the end of the week! How fulfilled and accomplished!
- Reality Check: The tough love part of my job is the most difficult. Especially when I have to regurgitate statements clients made when they hired me to help simplify their homes…it’s so hard delivering those reality checks. But a crucial part of your time management process and something I do for myself all the time is smack myself around a bit. So let me be your mean online friend giving you a tough-love noogie….while also hugging you at the same time. When it comes to your time, and managing it – it’s so important to ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth it. Do you want to do it? Are you feeling pressure to do it – from yourself or others? Is it something you’re interested in? Did you take on too much and feel the pressure to continue even though you don’t feel like the best person to complete the task? Are you feeling pressure from school or friends or other “go getter” moms? Can you do it later? Do you have to do it? Ask yourself the tough questions and if it doesn’t have to be on your plate or have to be done, don’t do it! You just free’d up a ton of time, my friend!
- Do The Hard Things First: This sorta goes without saying because we’ve all heard this but make sure you’re doing those hard things first. If you save the hard tasks for later in your day when you’re wiped, they won’t get done. They will keep getting pushed down the line. Do those hard things first and get them off your plate.
- Don’t Multi-Task: This bullet point can’t be emphasized enough – multi-tasking is a myth. Don’t do it. It’s a surefire way to do thing inefficiently and incorrectly…and then you’ll be adding it to your calendar again. That’s not great time management! The most successful people in the World don’t multi-task – they focus on one thing at a time until it’s done.
Hope these tips are helpful and useful to you! Please, if you have additional ideas / tips, share them with us in the comments below. I have a lot more to say on the topic, but I only scheduled 30 minutes to get this one knocked out … and I’m sticking to it so I can get on with making dinner! #timemanagementatitsbest