Time Management: Simplified

Time management is a hobby of mine.  I love reading up on it, trying out different techniques, trying out different products.  The most significant thing I have learned is that there are a gazillion different methods out there for a reason.  No one system seems to work perfectly for everyone and often times, a blending of systems seems to work best. 

Personally I love Leo Baubata's system.  It is my favorite at this time.  However, it may be the very worst thing for you.  You really do need to research several methods and try them out before you begin to learn what will and won't work for you.  Assuming can lead to more frustration.

So I thought I would list out what works best for me on determining where to begin.  First is becoming aware that you are out of whack or feeling like you could improve.  If it aint broke, or you believe it aint broke, you are more resistant to change.  I believe most people can improve.

Just don't make a lifestyle of trying to get more done with your time.  Learn how to use your time more efficiently so you have time to enjoy it, not work more.  Preach it sistah! 
click on this picture for two downloadable time logs

Second, we've all probably heard of food logs.  When you go on a diet, it is recommended that every drop or morsel that goes into your mouth is logged and the time is noted.  We often consume more than we think with a little nibble here and a little nibble there.  Same thing with our time. 

Time logs can help us to see where we are spending our time.  How many times are you checking your email?  How many hours are you surfing the net?  Soltaire anyone?  Record your time.  If you follow the same pattern every day then a few days may be all you need.  I usually log for a week as my schedule varies depending on the week and the days.  I have one week a month when I am in the classroom more often than usual. 

Record everything you do and the time spent.  The above photo leads to a site with two printable time logs.  I use a notebook.  You could use your phone, moleskin, steno, etc... For those with delicate sensibilities, a moleskin is a very nice option.  I used them for years, but now my fav is Levenger's Circa system or Rollabind's lesser quality version.

Once you have a basic understanding of your schedule you can move on to step Three: prune back the unnecessary.  If you don't know how to do this or if you feel you could use some help here, check out some books, classes, or online websites.  This is the area that most people need help.  Here are some tips that quickly come to mind for me:

Email: don't check it first thing in the morning or at the end of your day.  This habit has totally ruined my day and my sleep.  Get your most important things done, then check email.  You can check it twice a day if you need to, but do you really need to check it more often? 

Internet: many of us need this for work, however how many times does a simple task that takes 5 minutes turn into an hour or more because something else caught your attention. 
Facebook: along the same lines as above, many of us business owners need to keep up an online presence to help promote our business, but an hour of facebook a day?  Or more?  I am struggling with boundaries with this one.  I either don't check it or I spend too much time on it.  So in this case I will need to structure it more, like I do with email.  Check it once a day and consider how much time do I want to spend on it knowing that it takes away from more enjoyable things such as playing with my children, going for a bike ride, reading fiction and nonfiction, etc...  Facebook isn't comparable to that and neither is the internet or email and yet how often do we allow things of this ilk to use up our time. 

One of the things I have found when assisting others with managing their time is the practice of overscheduling.  The desire to maximize your time can lead you to trying to schedule as much into it and underestimating the time required which leads to burn out, frustration, and failure that leads to falling back into previous habits.  This also leads people to believe that time management isn't for them.  So what to do?

Fourth:  once you have a trimmed down schedule sort them into order of priority.  Because I don't like to schedule my time I like to list out my to dos and work on one task until complete or until the portion I wanted to get done for the day is done and then move onto the next task.  Block out your time for meals and appointments and then work around that.  If you haven't overbooked yourself, you should be done at a reasonable time and can move onto the fun parts of life or if you are lucky work counts as one of those then move onto family and friends. 

Fifth: chances are your schedule still needs some tweaking as either you overscheduled, underestimated time needed, or you still have some trimming needed.  I like to continue my time log until all the tweaking is done.  How do you know you are done (for now)?  If after a week of time logs and you don't notice an area that needs adjusting, then you can let go of the time logs. 

Sixth: from time to time grab your time logs and check how you are doing.  Have you slipped?  Have you added in more things?  Are you ready to cut back some more on emails, internet, and social media? 

This is a pretty simple form of time management.  If you need something more structured, let me know and I can either write something up or recommend a resource.  SWAK!

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