Time management is a skill we all desire to improve. We are all given 24 hours in a day and it’s up to us to manage it in a way that allows us to fulfill our responsibilities, spend time with our loved ones, and enjoy life.
Routines are so important to help you manage your time better. I have found that having routines is just making everything run so much smoother.
What do I mean by routine? Basically getting the same things done on a regular repetitive basis. The most helpful routines involve morning routine, evening routine, and cleaning routine.
Routines are helping you save time because when you repeat things on a regular basis, they become so familiar that it does not take you as much time. It also eliminates the decision fatigue. Because you don’t have to constantly think: what should I do next?
For example, think about a morning routine. I think I can confidently say that mornings tend to be hectic in most households. We have to get ourselves and our kids ready for the day. If you don’t have a routine you are constantly rushing and wondering what else needs to be done to get out of the house. Do we have the lunches packed? Are kids dressed? Did we let the dog out?
But if you create a simple morning routine for yourself, these activities will usually happen in a specific order. And once you do it a few times, they become second nature and eliminate all decision making from the early mornings. Your routine might be, get up, let the dog out, get breakfast ready, wake up the kids, breakfast time, teeth brushing, getting dressed, putting lunch boxes in the backpacks, and out the door. You can also check out my morning routine in the video below for another example.
Make Routines too Rigid
While routines are awesome, we have to remember that they cannot be too rigid and need to be flexible.
What I mean by that is that not every day is going to be the same. Your morning routine might be a little different between your week day and your weekend. And the same will be the case when your kids are in school versus the time when they are on the spring or summer break.
The important thing to remember is that routines should be designed to help us not make things more complicated. Maybe your Saturdays tend to include lazy mornings – meaning you don’t really have anything scheduled. If that is the case, you might find it more helpful to let the kids stay in their pajamas until noon rather than making them get dressed as soon as they finish eating their breakfast and brushing their teeth.
Concentrate on Priorities
One of the foundations of effective time management is sticking with our priorities. We all have a lot of responsibilities on our plate. But in order to manage them effectively, we really have to prioritize. We have to decide on what is important to us, and concentrate on those things.
Think about your short and long term goals. And think of all the tasks and actions you have to take in order to meet those goals. Those are your priorities. Because they bring you one step closer to achieving your dreams (books below are my recommendation for those of you who are working on your dreams and look for inspiration and motivation).
Your priorities will also include some responsibilities at work and at home. These would be things like feeding your kids or buying their winter coats. Or working on resolving a problem that just arose and needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
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Make Everything a Priority
This is one of the common pitfalls that I have observed. We tend to think that everything is a priority. And that is simply because we tend to put priorities of other people on our plates and think of them as our own.
Think about your typical days. You might start your day with a plan in mind that involves working on specific tasks or projects. But then a co-worker calls and asks you for some report. Or maybe a family member asks for some help with searching for some venue options for her upcoming event (since you like party planning she is turning to you). And while it is totally OK to help out, we often do it in a way that is hurting our own progress.
Because we usually just jump to help someone else instead of addressing our priority first, and then moving to the priorities of other people. When you think back, most of the time those were not emergency situations. Those were not the cases where you truly had to drop everything right that moment. Rather, they were things that could easily wait a bit. And while the priorities of other people were waiting, you could have made some progress on your own goals.
Put Systems in Place to Run your Household
One of the great ways we can manage our time better is to implement systems into our household so things can run smoothly. We already talked about routines but there are so many more options.
We can set up a system on how we meal plan, grocery shop, and prep our food. That we can make sure that we don’t waste food and time each week trying to figure out what we eat, running to the grocery store for a forgotten item, or spending countless hours in the kitchen cooking food for our families.
Another area might be related to paperwork. Even in the world where there are a lot of things that are in electronic form, we still deal with a lot of paperwork. And in order not to waste time looking for things or spending hours cleaning up paper clutter that has accumulated on our kitchen counter, we need to set up a system for all the paperwork. Things like where do we put papers that require actions and where to keep paper work for record keeping purposes.
Be Afraid of Customizing your System
Remember that the systems we set up for ourselves have to work for us. We often see different types of systems that people use to stay organized and manage their household more effectively. And when we try to adopt them, we encounter some hiccups. That is simply because our households, our schedules, and our family dynamics are different.
So instead of getting discouraged that a given system is not working for us, try to see if you can tweak it a little bit to make it work for you. Sometimes small changes will make a huge difference.
And the same concept applies to the systems that you have already implemented and have been working great for you for a while. When things change in your life, whether that be work schedule, after-school activities, or some of your priorities, don’t be afraid to make small tweaks to adapt your systems to those changes. You already have a strong baseline, so most likely you will only have to make small changes to make the old system work in the new circumstances.
Block your Time to Work on Specific Things
Time blocking is a very useful time management tool. The idea of time blocking is to dedicate a specific amount of time at a specific time frame to work on specific things. So you can block 2 hours of your time from 1 pm to 3 pm on Tuesday afternoon to work on project A at work. Or you can dedicate 1 hour of your time each morning from 6 am to 7 am to your personal development.
The reason why this time management method is so effective is that it allows you to concentrate on one area at a time. Project A will get you undivided attention on that Tuesday afternoon. And you will also be immersed into personal development activities each morning instead of doing laundry or cleaning your kitchen.
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Schedule Every Minute or your Day
While time blocking is a great tool, you need to make sure that you don’t go overboard with it. And what I mean by that is that you should not fill your calendar with tasks from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to bed.
We all love to be productive, but scheduling every minute of your day will become overwhelming really quickly. I have done that in the past and it always left me feeling unaccomplished and inadequate when I was not able to do everything that I had scheduled for that day. Because life happens. Things will come up that will require you to change your plans for the day (a meeting running longer, your child getting sick, etc.). And if you do not have any flexibility incorporated into your daily schedule, then you will start feeling behind right away.
Instead of creating a very rigid plan for every minute of your day, concentrate on scheduling your priorities only. And allow for more flexibility in your days. Check out my previous blog post where I talk in more details on how to your planner to effectively plan your day.
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Track your Time
Sometimes we simply don’t know where our time is going. We seem to be busy all day long going from one task to another and seem to be saying ‘I don’t have time’ a lot.
The easiest and most effective way to find more time in your day is to track your time. Basically writing down what you are doing each day and for how long. I strongly suggest doing that for at least a week so you can get a clear picture of what types of tasks and activities fill your day.
What you will find
You will be able to find two things. The first one will be the types of tasks that are taking a lot of your time. It might be time you dedicate to laundry, cleaning, or cooking. If that is the case, you can then take a closer look at them and decide what types of changes you need to implement to manage your time better.
The second thing that you will discover is your time wasters. When you carefully track your time you will see where you tend to waste your time. The most common time wasters are mindless scrolling through social media, games, and watching TV. Now those are not bad things – but sometimes we tend to underestimate how much time we actually spend on those activities. And that time could be used on things that we want to do but feel like we never have time for.
Do it ALL by yourself
As I mentioned above, when you track your time, you might discover that you spend a lot of time on certain types of tasks or activities. And this is your opportunity to not only streamline and simplify those areas, but also to delegate some of those responsibilities.
If you are like me, you might have a tendency to do it all by yourself. It might be because it’s just easier and quicker or because you don’t think anyone else can do it as well as you can (aka, do it your way:)). But if we want to manage our time better, we must improve our delegation skills. We have to change our mindset that something done is always better than something that is still on your to-do list only because you want to do it yourself.
Ask for help both at work and at home by delegating things to other people. Delegate some chores and responsibilities to your household members. Delegate tasks at work to your team members (if you have that authority of course :)). And remember about the option of delegating to a third party – you can always hire someone to get those tasks done for you as well. Whether that be cleaning of your house or some aspects of your business.
Are you struggling with any of the Do’s or Don’ts on the list? Or maybe you have another one that you want to share with us?
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