Let’s talk time management strategies.
Did you ever feel overwhelmed? Like you are always trying to catch up? Like you just can’t ever get it all done?
Like the shit you have to do takes up so much time, there’s nothing left for the stuff you actually want to do?
Like your life is just one big scramble?
While time management isn’t a cure-all to all these problems, it does have the potential to give you quite a bit of relief. It has helped me personally a bunch, playing a major role in my transformation from stressed out and exhausted to calm and energetic (most of the time anyway 😉 ).
So how do you get started with time management? Well, let me share with you the best of the best time management strategies that have had the most life-changing impact for me.
10 Best Time Management Strategies
1. Manage Your Time With A Purpose
Although time management has giant potential, it’s not entirely effortless.
If you haven’t put much thought into time management in the past, you gotta do something new and different and new and different is always scary and hard. And even beyond the beginner blues, maintaining a time management system requires some elbow grease.
In order to stay motivated, you need a clear purpose for your time management efforts. What exactly do you hope to gain from better time management?
And notice I said YOU. Putting more money in your employer’s pocket is not a valid answer. Making your spouse quit complaining about a messy house is not a valid answer. What do YOU hope to gain?
To help you get started thinking about this, let me share with you what I gain from using the time management strategies listed in this article:
- Enough time for basic self care, and therefore, good health and general well-being.
- More time for relaxation and doing things I enjoy.
- Minimizing stress and overwhelm.
- A higher chance of reaching the goals that I set for myself.
2. Be The Boss Of Your Time
You know how in an organization there are managers and then there are the underlings who do whatever the managers tell them to do?
Well, in order to manage your time, you gotta be willing to take on the role of the manager. That means that YOU decide what you do when. You can’t manage YOUR time if you are always in reaction mode and letting someone else dictate what your priorities are.
It also means that YOU decide what you DON’T do. My biggest time management breakthrough happened when I gave myself permission to start saying NO to shit I didn’t wanna do.
Now let me just clarify that there is a difference between “not feeling like doing things” and “not wanting to do things”.
- I don’t always feel like cooking dinner for my family, but I want my family to eat healthy food, so I cook anyway.
- I don’t always feel like getting out of bed in the morning and going for a run, but I want to keep my stress levels down, so I go for a run anyway.
But I used to spend SO much time doing things I didn’t in fact want to do and that were in no way contributing to my quality of life, because I was afraid to just say NO.
- Hanging out with people I had nothing in common with, because I was afraid of hurting the feelings of people I didn’t actually even want in my life.
- Working over time, because I was afraid of losing the job I didn’t actually even want.
I know all of this is going to sound totally obvious to some people, but if you are a people pleaser (like I used to be), actually taking charge and becoming the boss of your time can be the #1 biggest obstacle to effective time management.
If this is something you struggle with, check out my list of people pleasing articles.
3. Set Aside Time For Time Management
Continuing with the seemingly obvious… 😉
Yes, it may be obvious that time management actually takes time, but that fact has been another giant obstacle to my time management efforts in the past. You know, when you’re just way too busy to stop and make a plan or prioritize or set up a schedule…
If this sounds like you, the solution lies in convincing yourself that setting aside time for time management is an investment that will pay you back with interest. Whatever time you set aside for time management, you will get right back, because everything in your life will run more smoothly and efficiently.
Here’s how I like to invest time in time management:
- The last work day of each month, I set aside two hours to setting up my goals and a broad schedule for the following month.
- Every Friday, I devote the last hour of the workday to evaluating where I’m at and setting up a detailed schedule for the following week.
- Every morning, I devote a few minutes to reviewing my schedule for the day ahead and making adjustments as needed.
- Whenever I start any kind of new project, be it work- or house- or family-related, the first thing I set aside time for is creating a task list and a rough timeline.
4. Invest Time In Self Care
Another time investment that will pay you back with interest is setting aside time for basic self care:
- cooking and eating whole foods
I know there are always those people who say they sleep five hours and never workout and never take a day off and make a billion dollars per year, but those people are the exception (if they even exist at all, which I highly doubt).
The vast majority of us are regular human beings with needs. When we meet our needs, we function optimally. Our brains work and we have energy and motivation. When we don’t meet our needs, we fall apart.
I like to divide time into two categories:
- Self care
- Getting things done
For the “getting things done” category, I like to emphasize quality more than quantity. And I get quality “getting things done” time by increasing the quantity of the self care time.
Simply put, I get a lot more done when I’m functioning optimally (thanks to adequate self care) than when I’m dragging (because of subpar self care).
5. Put Repetitive Tasks On Auto-Pilot
Let me give you one more time investment tip that will pay you back with interest: put as much of your life on auto-pilot as you possibly can.
Here are some examples of what I mean by auto-pilot:
- Establish a morning routine and an evening routine – do all the repeating tasks in the same way in the same order every single day.
- Create a rotating meal plan for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
- Create a cleaning schedule.
- Create a laundry routine.
- Use Amazon Subscribe And Save to get household goods and personal care items auto-shipped.
- Get groceries delivered. There are various options depending on where you live, but I use instacart and I’ve been super happy with it. All I have to do is just copy over last week’s order, make whatever adjustments, and the grocery bags show up at my door during a time-window of my choosing. Bliss!
- Create a chore system for your kids to follow.
It takes some time and effort to set all this up, but you will make up that time a million-fold by:
- Eliminating time spent being overwhelmed and trying to figure out what to do.
- Eliminating time spent re-inventing the wheel.
- Performing tasks faster, because repetition makes you more efficient.
- Having other people take some stuff off your plate.
6. Block Your Time
Time blocking is an incredibly simple but probably the most powerful time management strategy ever invented. You divide your day into 15- or 30-minute blocks and then you decide – in advance – how you plan to spend each of those blocks.
Here are the benefits of time blocking:
- When you make a plan and write it down, you are more likely to actually do it.
- Time blocking forces you to track how long things actually take. You become much more realistic about what is doable and achievable and you get better at allocating the right amount of time for various tasks.
- Because you become more realistic about the time you actually have, you become much better about using it intentionally and focusing on your priorities.
Let me give you one word of caution though. Some people give up on time blocking, because things keep coming up and they can never follow their schedules perfectly. However, the point of time blocking is not to achieve perfection. The point is to:
a) give you big picture awareness of where your time is going
b) put you in charge of deciding when it’s okay to change your schedule and when it’s not okay
7. Experiment With Planning Systems And Find One That Works For You
In order to manage your time, you need some kind of time management system – a planner or a collection planners – where you write down goals, to-do lists, and schedules.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. Different things work for different people and different lifestyles. Some people like to have everything electronically, while others swear by writing things down with pencil and paper. Some people (like me!) like the structure of 15-minute time blocks, while others prefer a loser plan.
You just gotta experiment and figure out what works for you.
Here’s another strategy that took me way too long to adopt, but once I did, it changed everything.
This strategy is called focus. You gotta focus on ONE priority at a time and see it through before you move on to other things. This prevents overwhelm, helps lessen the “being pulled in too many directions” feeling, and gives you the satisfaction of actually completing things faster.
Of course, in real life you never only have one thing happening, but within a given slice of the pie of life, it’s important to have your priorities straight and focus on the highest priority above all else.
For example, I have about 10 ideas for products I want to sell on this website. I also want to start a second website focusing on a different topic area. But I’m not allowing myself to work on all these ideas simultaneously. I have to focus on one at a time. Other than writing one post per week, virtually all of my work time last fall went into creating Conquer Your Anxiety. Now that that’s finished, all of my work time is going to creating the next product – the next ONE product. Not the eight other products. Not the other website.
For another example, my house is a bit of a fixer upper, so my husband and I have a list of about one thousand house and garden projects competing for our attention. But here again, the rule is ONE project at a time. We have a certain amount of time allocated for house projects and ALL of that time goes to the same project until that project is finished.
9. Watch TV And Listen To Audiobooks
Okay, most time management gurus will second me on the focus thing, but now it’s time to get them to turn their noses up at me. Because I’m going to tell you to:
- Multi-task whenever possible.
- Watch TV every day.
Let’s tackle multi-tasking first… Everybody and their brother will tell you that multi-tasking is awful, but I think it’s awesome sauce as long as you know when it’s going to help and when it’s going to hurt.
And about the TV… Everybody and their brother will tell you that watching TV is a terrible waste of time, but I think TV is one of the greatest motivators ever invented. Yep, I did just say that. 🙂
Let me elaborate. Multi-tasking doesn’t work when you are doing tasks that require your complete focus and attention. But there are a whole bunch of tasks most of us need to complete on a daily basis that do NOT require your complete focus and attention. And many of these tasks are B-O-R-I-N-G.
This is where TV and Audible come in. Watching TV or listening to audiobooks while doing mindless tasks motivates me to actually do the mindless tasks. And I can even do them when I’m totally fried in the evenings when I would otherwise have a really hard time motivating myself to lift a finger for anything. This preserves my most productive day-time hours for things that require more brain power.
Here are examples of the types of tasks I complete while watching TV:
- Folding laundry
- Reviewing my meal plan and shopping for groceries (instacart!)
- Shopping for whatever the kids need online
- Budget review and paying bills
- Mechanical tasks I need to do to keep this website going
And here are examples of the types of tasks I complete while listening to Audible audiobooks.
- Doing the dishes
- Cleaning the house
- Putting laundry away
10. Use Tiny Pockets Of Time
Last but not least, I’m going to give you the secret to getting things done.
Here it is:
Things get done little by little.
They get done in 3-minute, 5-minute, 10-minute tiny pockets of time.
You don’t need to wait until you have an hour or two hours or three hours. Especially if you are a parent of little ones that kind of luxury is a very rare treat.
But if you are semi-organized and prepared, tiny pockets of time can add up to some serious hour power.
All you need to get started is a list. Whatever you want to accomplish, break it down into tiny tasks. Carry that list on a piece of paper in your pocket or an electronic file on your phone, and whenever you encounter a tiny pocket of time, use it to accomplish a tiny task.
Little by little.
One tiny task at a time.