Time Management in five simple steps - are you super organised? Meet all deadlines on time? Or do you feel as if you're suffering from information overload, a 'to do' list that keeps growing and never shrinks, tasks that are pending for what feels like an eternity and you just can't say 'no' to people properly when they want a slice of your time and you don't really have time for them?
Without proper time management, it'll always feel like information overload, pressure, stress, tiredness and that never ending feel of lack of accomplishment. Life is complex. It involves work, family, friends, studying, keeping up with qualifications, social functions, exercise, commitments and a million more things. Often it's difficult to juggle everything because we work longer and longer hours. There's less time in the day to finish our work, to perform our house chores, to manage our private life and also ensure we keep in touch with family and friends, keep healthy and look after ourselves.
Especially if you have children - it may be easy to feel overwhelmed, tired and stressed.
There's a few things that you can do to try and change your life for the better, to feel under control and to start achieving your goals and your objectives.
1. Dreams and Goals.
"If you don't have a vision for the future, then your future is threatened to be a repeat of the past." A.R. Bernard, clergyman.
Write down all your dreams and goals for the short (1 year), medium (1-3years) and long term (3-5, beyond). Next, determine what you will need to do to achieve these targeted goals. Writing this down will consolidate the big picture for you so that you will start having a good idea of where you want to head towards, what you want to be, and where you would like to see yourself. The younger you are when you do this, the clearer the journey will be. Now is a good time to start!
2. Prioritise your daily life.
"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one" Mark Twain, author (1835-1910)
Once you have the big picture outlined above, you will need to sort out your day to day life. What are you doing now? Write down how you spend your entire day, week, month and year. Are you taking time to invest in yourself? By that I mean, are you learning anything new everyday? Are you looking after your health/wellbeing, your relationships and your finances? A good way to do this is to keep a diary with professional and work obligations and duties and keep a separate calendar of social activities and obligations.
Once you have a planner/diary/calendar of important events then you won't need to worry about forgetting anything. You will also beable to diagnose where your time is spent. Can you combine certain tasks together so you can streamline those duties? Can you identify where you're not effectively spending your time?
If you haven't already formed one, write down a 'to do' list for today and one for tomorrow. Anything that isn't completed today needs to be carried over to tomorrow's list and so forth.
If you find yourself constantly carrying over that same task again and again, force yourself to do that task...it will be such a relief to finally complete it! Yes, I know... I know the reason why you haven't done it for so long is because you're not looking forward to it or it's messy, time consuming or complex or just plain difficult. Procrastination is the worst tyrant and makes us our own worst enemy. Simply pick a time of the day where you are feeling your brightest, best and perky...and drop everything else you're doing and just pick up that task that you've procrastinated on and do it!
If your to do list is too messy with stuff you've accomplished crossed out and it's hard to decipher, create a new one. These days, people manage themselves with Outlook calendars, I-Phone calender and note pads. If you can't manage yourself very well in electronic format, switch back to the old fashioned method of pen and diary.
Clump silimilar tasks together. If you can't find time to have separate lunches or dinners with a few friends, if they're from the same group, meet up with them as a group and free up that time for other things.
Don't sleep too much. By saying this I refer this to those who sleep beyond 8-12 hours a day. Lounging around in bed isn't going to achieve anything other than tiredness, feeling drained and lacklustre.
If you can delegate - then delegate! If you have staff, teach them and then use them. You're not a one person working machine.
Pay your bills on time. There's nothing that makes a person feel more helpless than late fees and penalties. Reducing your stress and anxiety will relieve your mind. So organise all bills to be paid in one file/folder/pile and write them into your planner/diary/calendar to pay so that you can see that it's due before it becomes overdue!
3. Review what you've done and what you've got to do next.
"Determine never to be idle. No person wll have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing." Thomas Jefferson, Third US Presiden (1743-1826)
Flick through your diary/calendar for the next few days, weeks and months to see what's planned and what is coming up so that you will always feel in control (mainly because you're not being ignorant and drifting along helplessly!).
4. The ability to focus.
Be focused on everything you do - if you're at work then you work! If you're socialising with friends, family or partners - have fun and enjoy yourself! Don't bring your personal problems into your work hours because it achieves nothing, only worry and stress on top of your workload. Similarly, if you're out socialising, mentally worrying about work issues is not going to solve anything either. If you're also studying, don't bring work or personal issues into your study sessions or else you are not studying effectively and you waste your time.
5. A messy desk, a messy mind.
Tidy up those papers, dirty coffee cups, used plates, dusty surfaces and general rubbish on your desk. Searching through piles of paper does not look professional. Having a huge pile of documents on your desk does not look like you're in control and just have a lot to do. You don't want to be handling the same paper twice or sorting through the same senseless pile again and again. File it away. Bin it if it's uselss (or recycle!).
Have a meaningful file so that you know where to look things up. Filing really is underrated. File your bills, file your work, create folders in your email program and file those emails away.
Anyway, those 5 steps has a lot of little steps in them ;) Before you know it, if you put those steps into practice you will find time to relax, breathe and feel happy. It's too easy to find ourselves caught on a little hampster wheel, running around and around yet going nowhere. When this happens we feel stressed or unhappy. So take control and life becomes much more enjoyable.