So much to do and so little time, right? We all have 24 hours in a day, so being intentional with that time really makes a difference. This doesn’t mean rigidity. It does mean efficiency – working smarter instead of harder! Here are 11 powerful time management tips to not only keep your ahead above water, but to knock time management out of the park!
1. Plan Ahead.
As part of your nighttime routine, spend 5 minutes reviewing your calendar for the next day as well as the next few days, so nothing catches you off guard.
Do what you can that evening to get the next morning started off on the right foot. Set out breakfast dishes, pick out clothes, pack backpacks, and plan the order of your errands.
Your time is valuable! Outsourcing and delegating are great time management strategies because they free you up to spend time on other priorities or things that match your skill set and interests.
Consider a lawn service, grocery delivery, and help with kid care. If these aren’t in your budget, revisit your budget to see if you can shift anything around to free up funds. If not, get creative! Swap kid care or meals, or delegate things you normally do to other family members to help spread the load. Sometimes we resist asking for help, because we think it makes us weak or incapable. Nope! Just means we’re human, and looking to share responsibilities.
3. Prep and Plan Meals.
A couple hours of planning and prep once/week is sooooo worth easing mealtimes for the upcoming week. I don’t full on meal prep every week, but try to at least:
- get the kids’ lunches made for the week (my daughter makes her own)
- prep portions of meals, such as the meat or chopping veggies
- have a few meals identified and the ingredients on hand for them
Depending on your schedule, lifestyle, how often you eat out or have meals planned elsewhere, you likely won’t need a full 7 dinners/week planned. I plan for 3-4 because we eat out once and do leftovers or “this and that” the other days.
“This and that” has become a fun tradition. We put small portions of various foods out on platters – meats, cheeses, baby carrots, fruit – whatever we have on hand. We have this on a weekend or when we’re low key and looking for something easy peasy (when we’re out of ideas!) We’ll eat somewhere other than the kitchen table, just to mix it up. Since it’s out of the norm, it’s viewed as a real treat to the kids who love to spread out a blanket on the family room floor or eat on the couch downstairs.
4. Let Enough Be Enough.
Identify the tasks that need to be done just right and which ones can be done “well enough”. And let that be ok. Moving on…
5. Manage Your Email.
Don’t let your email manage you! Checking and responding to email constantly takes so much time and can pull us away from other things we’re trying to get done. Most emails do not need to be responded to immediately.
Many people have found success with chunking their time – setting aside a few times of day to check email, in the morning, at lunch and in the evening for example.
I, personally, prefer to stay on top of email, at least reading them throughout the day, but not responding to them all. I keep everything that I haven’t responded to yet in my inbox, and file everything else into folders.
Identify THE #1 item on your day’s to-do list that will contribute the most towards accomplishing X (finishing a project, closing a deal, making dinner, meeting a deadline, planning a party, cleaning the house, etc). That is your #1 priority for the deal. Tackle it first.
Many of us have more energy in the morning to put towards the tough stuff. Just get’er done! I find that if I procrastinate, I fill my time with lots of little things that don’t really matter. And at the end of the day I’m less satisfied with what I accomplished – not to mention that the big thing is still there, needing to get done, rolling over to tomorrow’s list. And this is how we get behind. Do what matters!
7. Write it Down.
That grocery list? Phone number? To Do List? Find a place for these things. For example, the grocery list goes on the refrigerator, or you could keep a running list on your phone. Phone numbers go directly into your contact list on your phone. To do list could go on a hard copy calendar or planner, or the calendar in your phone or computer. Find what works for you.
Regardless of how well oiled your systems are, there are inevitably going to be stray papers that accumulate – the ones that you don’t have time to handle right away. Identify a place for them, like a folder or shelf. But be careful! This can easily end up being treated as a permanent solution/home for these things instead of a temporary holding zone. To guard against this and to ensure the pile doesn’t continue to accumulate, set aside a certain time/day every week (put it on your calendar!) to go through and handle everything in the pile.
8. Be Realistic.
It’s so easy to let the to-do lists get overly ambitious. Keep track, for awhile, of what you set out to do compared to what was actually done. This isn’t intended to make you feel badly about what you didn’t do. It’s intended to, judgment free, increase your awareness of what is realistic – for you, in this season. When you have a good sense of this, you can scale your to-do list accordingly, and set yourself up for success.
9. Minimize Distractions.
When my kids were younger, I went through a time when I rarely read. I just found it hard to carve out time for this activity that I really enjoyed. Then, when I started reading more often, I was surprised to find how challenging it was to focus! I could only go a page or two without getting distracted – by things I needed to remember, or adding something quickly to my calendar, or any number of things…not great time management! I needed to practice identifying and minimizing distractions. The more I read, the easier it got. After all, practice makes progress!
Be aware of what your distraction triggers are. If I’m in the middle of something, but then go to lie down, game over. It triggers reaching for the phone or just checking out. If I don’t allow that scenario, the distraction is removed. This doesn’t mean I don’t take breaks. I just try to sit down instead.
10. Break Down Big Tasks.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! It’s no different with time management. If you have a large looming job such as cleaning the garage, spring cleaning, a DIY project, or something that you’ve been trying to set aside an entire day to tackle, try rethinking your approach.
It’s a lot more difficult to clear an entire day than it is to break up the job into manageable chunks of 1 hour or even 30 min, spread over several days. And, you’ll see the results as you go, which will motivate you to start and to stick with it. You got this!
11. Be present.
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, strive to be all there. This is so hard! We’re multi-tasking experts! But, if we don’t try to do a million things at once, we’re more likely to finish things to completion, and not leave a bunch of loose ends.
When we’re with the kids, but distracted, they absolutely know it. Then they can get whiny for attention, which in turn triggers us to get frustrated, and you’re on a spiral. Instead, I’ve found that if I give my kids even 15 min. of completely undivided attention, that fills their tanks (and mine) and they’re just fine when I take a break to do something else.
Lastly…Your employer/family/the world will take as much as you are willing to give. Noone is measuring this. It does not determine worth. So, as always, give yourself some grace, do the best you can with time management, and know that it’s enough.