I don’t know about you, but the very sound of that title gives me stress. The thought of scheduling and planning my time makes me feel inadequate and anxious. While I tend to be an organized person by nature, I am also a multi-tasker, procrastinator and one who struggles with ADD – all of these wreak havoc on a Time Management Plan. So, while Time Management is exactly what I need – I have struggled to follow the plans that I develop.
Keep It Simple
Years and years of stress from lack of planning my time have made me more vigilant about being intentional in this area. The one thing I have learned over the years, that I feel applies to any new habit or practice we are trying to implement in our lives is – keep it simple. Don’t pick a 20 step Time Management Plan where you’ll be managing every minute of every day. Start by focusing on one area that you can implement fairly easily and be consistent with for a couple months, then add in another area.
For example, maybe one of your areas of stress is meal preparation and all that goes into it – including meal planning, getting the groceries, and the actual preparation. One thing I implemented when my children were younger and all still at home, I took Sunday afternoons to pick my meals for the coming week (many times incorporating my children into the planning process) and make a list of needed food. I would post the meals for the coming week on the fridge so that everyone knew the options for that week. I did not go grocery shopping that day – I just planned. I would shop on Monday morning when there were far less people in the stores than over the weekend – which also made shopping less stressful for me. The planning process, even though I dreaded it many weeks, became my saving grace. I found that I didn’t stress or worry about what was for dinner or whether I would have enough ingredients for my meals or not. Instead, it brought a sense of calm consistency for not just me, but the kids as well because they knew what was planned. I did not stick to a rigid daily meal plan – just picked 5 meals for the week and sometimes we decided that morning which of the meals on the list we were in the mood for, or which ones would work with doctors’ appointments, sports schedules and church.
Another example might be laundry or other household chores. I learned a great tip from my grandma while growing up – her generation (or maybe it was just her) did certain chores on certain days. For example – Monday was laundry day, Tuesday was ironing day, Wednesday was dusting/vacuuming day, Thursday was bathroom day and Friday was baking day. I implemented a similar plan when my kids were too little to help much with the chores. The house stayed cleaner overall because I didn’t wait until Saturday to do all the cleaning. Leaving it all until Saturday can be overwhelming and sometimes doesn’t get done because there are other activities and places you want to go on the weekend.
Before you start implementing any new Time Management strategies, evaluate your situation. What works best for your family, as well as your priorities and/or goals that you’d like to obtain as a result of being a better time manager.
Here are just a few things that have helped me over the years and things I still use at the beginning of each year. While I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, I evaluate my roles, responsibilities and commitments at the beginning of each year. They tend to change over the course of a year of two. I like to make sure my priorities are still in order and that I am not so over committed that my family, my home or my job suffer in any way.
When you are going to implement any new habit or practice into your life you must first be honest about where you currently are, where you would like to be and how you are going to get there. Be intentional. Take at least 30 minutes to an hour of uninterrupted time to make a list of your priorities as well as all the things that cause you stress.
- Identify your priorities. Ask yourself – What are the things in my life that are the most important to me? Ex: Marriage, Children, Grandchildren, House, Pets, Career, Community and/or Church Involvement, Health, etc.
- Identify your stressors. Big things or little. From finances, job situation, or caregiving, to the things like making dinner or paying bills. (Keeping a notepad with you for a week or two and writing down every time you feel stressed, what you were doing at the time and why it stresses you will help you more clearly see your triggers.)
- Prioritize these lists. Rank them from most important to least important and from most stressful to least stressful.
- Focus on what you can change/impact. Separate into two categories – controllable vs uncontrollable. Some things are beyond our sphere of influence or ability to change – we aren’t going to focus on those here as we can’t change them. However, many times, our stress can be linked to poor planning of our time and/or over committing by saying yes to too many things and always feeling pulled in every direction. We will focus our efforts on the items on these lists that we can control and change.
Once you have your lists prioritized. Ask yourself if there is one area that seems to cause the most stress. Can I implement a Time Management technique that would help alleviate some of the stress associated with this area? Do I need outside help or accountability to stick to the plan? Do I need to step down from some committees, clubs or commitments (no matter how much you enjoy them) because they are causing additional stress? There were times and seasons of my life where I had to say no to some of the things I loved to do because my family and home needed my attention and focus more. And just because you step away from something doesn’t mean it has to be for forever, some seasons are just busier than others and overcommitting isn’t fair to anyone involved – especially you.
Time is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Addressing Time Management Stress without addressing ways in which we waste time daily would be like wanting to lose weight, starting an exercise routine without ever evaluating the food we are putting into our bodies. All aspects are crucial and necessary. We are all given the same number of hours in a day. However, we all spend them differently. Here are a few ways that we waste time daily without really giving it much thought.
- Constantly checking your email. The average employee checks their email 36 times per hour.*
- Screen Time (non-work related): The average American spends 118 minutes a day on social media.* This does not include the television, personal computer or phone usage. That’s 2 hours a day. 60 hours a month. 720 hours a year or 30 DAYS a year on social media!!
- Clutter & Disorganization – when items are not returned to their assigned place, we waste time looking for them.
- Procrastination – putting tasks off over and over leads to unnecessary anxiety and stress as well as wastes time that could have been used constructively.
Just like with losing weight. If we cut back the amount of food we are eating at the same time we are increasing our daily exercise, the returns are quicker and greater than just cutting back our food without getting an exercise. I would encourage you to take a long hard look at your priorities, your stressors and the ways you waste time on a daily or weekly basis. Just limiting your screen time (whether phone, computer or TV) could free up 7-20 hours per week. If you have a phone that allows you to track screen time and app usage – I encourage you try that for one week. You will be amazed at how much time was “wasted” on social media, short videos, games and more.
We only get one life to live. If we want to make the most of it, be the best that we can be, and invest in the lives of those around us then we need to be intentional about how we spend our time.