No matter if you’re an entrepreneur, a part-time worker, unemployed, or a student, we all have 24 hours in a day. Many of us (including myself) live in denial about how much we accomplish each day, cramming as much as we can into our schedules, thinking we can do it all. Our time management sucks. But the reality is, we can’t keep this up and have enough time for what levels us out, like exercise, friends, family and a night of decent sleep. Your schedule doesn’t have to be like that. You can prioritize what’s important and find you’ll get those things done more often.
Make Your Priorities Action Based
Ask yourself, what makes my life successful? It shouldn’t be something that society deems as worth (money, fame etc.). Success may look like having enough time to play a sport while working long hours or the ability to see friends and family often. Now reshape this question like this: Am I allowing enough time to be successful? Use the answer to this question by making a list of priorities that can be action-based. Here are some examples:
Priority#1: Spend time with family and friends.
Action #1: Leave the office earlier, dedicate one night a week to catchup
Priority#2: Exercise more
Action #2: Hire a personal trainer or a friend to go to the gym with
Priority#3: Read more
Action#4: Have a book located on your bedside table so it reminds you every night
Of course, your priorities can change. Sometimes a life event occurs, or you might get ill, or a new relationship arises. There will be times where you may require your time management to be devoted to your health or reduce your work output to let your relationship grow. Living on what’s important to you requires constant balancing and reassessing. As long as you’re actioning the priorities based on the first question- what makes my life successful?- you’ll always have the ability to focus on the time spend prioritizing what you love.
So you’ve been able to draw up priorities and actions to implement, but defining them is only half the solution. Sticking to them is the real test. Perhaps you’ve started going to the gym but found yourself slacking a month later. Or maybe you’ve been chasing a dream of finishing a degree, only to drop out after a few months. Learning to invest your time wisely is not just about coming up with an action plan; it’s also identifying the underlying emotions that affect how you behave in a particular area you have prioritized. If those emotions aren’t addressed, self-sabotage can occur.
One of the most common emotions when starting something new is fear. We have all experienced it, being scared to look foolish or thinking we will fail. The problem with fear is it causes us to lose focus on what’s important. Take time to acknowledge what you feel and identify what it is that scares you. Once you do that, it can lose its power and motivate you to take action. Strong emotions can disrupt the actions you take on your priorities. By addressing and acknowledging how you feel, they can become your best allies.
Set Realistic Expectations for Time Management
We relatively misjudge the amount of time it takes to accomplish a task. There’s been plenty of times where I’ll assume it will take me an hour to write a thousand words. I often use this assumption because it’s what I’m consistently aiming for, but it doesn’t happen every time. I get distracted, or I’ll stop and think about whether or not my writing is flowing. It can lead me to believe I’m not doing enough when I’m doing plenty in reality.
A time optimist takes on too much commitment, thinking they can accomplish it all in a time frame they allocate. The problem with being over-optimistic with time is it can consistently leave you stressed and overwhelmed when reality sets in. So what do you do? You need to set realistic expectations. As easy as it is to say, It’s much more challenging to apply. There are a couple of useful tools you can use to set goals for managing your time.
-Find your peak performance time. Break down your day into typical slots, and over the week, rank each slot in order from your most productive to least productive. It’s an effective time management strategy to help your days become less demanding.
-Evaluate how realistically your time is being assessed. After finishing a task, evaluate how long you thought it would take and how long it took. If completing a similar task, use the data from the previous task to create a new time expectation.
-Use a ‘future time’ approach. Is what you’re doing right now helping you or hurting you in the future? How do the projects you take on today help tomorrow?
Of course, some expectations come from outside influence, like your boss giving you an extra 20 hours of work and expecting it done in one week. You arrange a meeting and advise you’re unable to get everything done in time, so you’ll prioritize the most urgent tasks. It’s okay to say no to your boss to be realistic. Often, we say yes to something and find a way to get it done. But the downside is it creates more unwanted stress for ourselves.
Improve Your Simple Routines
Simple routines are a sign of effective time management. They’re the blueprint of each individual to achieve peak performance. They provide you with less stress because there are fewer decisions you’re required to make in a day. A workaholic can apply a routine to reduce their hours, or an individual can use it to become more productive.
So how can you implement a routine?
Step 1: Work out what you want to do. The list of priorities and actions you made earlier? Focus on that.
Step 2: Visualize your routine and any possible barriers. If you want to exercise after work, look into what could stop you from doing that.
Step 3: Put it into practice. The routine may feel unnatural at first, and you may want to let the mental blocks get in the way. Keep going, and don’t think it has to be perfect. It will often be messy, but consistency creates results.
Tip: Never miss more than two days in a row when implementing a routine.
Future Time Management
Most of us live impulsively, where our decisions throughout the day become automatic. Time is a commodity, so we need to spend it wisely. Make action-based priorities, set realistic expectations and create a simple routine. Your time management will be more effective, stress will reduce, and you can live a more effective life.