Five Tips and Skills to Manage Your Time That Actually Work
Do you have too much to do and too little time to do it? Do you have tons of unread emails in your inbox? If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. In today’s hectic, connected world it seems like we should be busy 24/7 just to keep up with the basics. What we do never seems to be enough and there doesn’t seem to be enough time to do things well.
Time Pressure and a “Scarcity” Mindset
Too many demands on your time can lead to a “scarcity mindset” in which you are so busy running around taking care of the problem right in front of you that you neglect to take actions or make decisions that will help you in the long run.
Feeling deprived of time or energy makes you eat fast foods instead of cooking healthy meals, forget to pay bills on time, not return important emails or phone calls, or allow your house or apartment to disintegrate into chaos. A scarcity mindset may lead you to you neglect the people you care about and your own health and well-being.
Take Control of Your Time
So what can you do instead? The key is to take control of your time, rather than letting time control you. One study found that people who were under time pressure and felt they had control over their time reported greater life satisfaction, felt less overloaded, and had less tension than those who were equally busy, but felt they had little or no control over their time.
Even if you can’t control how much free time you have because of a demanding job and/or taking care of kids, you can start to be more intentional about how you manage the time you have.
Take a step back and think about your larger life goals. Decide what goals are most important to you. Is it to build and maintain relationships, be a good parent, advance at your work, contribute to your family or neighborhood, make lots of money, or take care of your health and live a balanced life?
Once you’re clear about your priorities and goals, you can use this as a basis for planning your time and commitments.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish
If you’re like most people, you’re likely to overestimate what you can get done. You may forget that you’re less productive when you’re tired, that you’re bound to be interrupted, or that you may encounter issues along the way (like a printer jam) that sidetrack your time and attention.
Take your initial estimate of what you can get done and increase it by at least 25 percent to begin with. See how well this works and adjust it up or down as needed.
Limiting how often you get interrupted is key to getting things done. This is particularly difficult if you’re a parent of young kids. If you’re in an open plan office, you’re likely to get interrupted by co-workers wanting to chat or ask you questions. Texts or emails may keep pinging on your phone. Or the dog may start a cacophony of barking because the UPS truck just pulled up.
You can’t avoid interruptions altogether, but you can do some things to limit them. Wear earphones, close your office door (if you can), set your computer not to ping with each email or turn off the sound on your phone. Make sure the kids are entertained during the time you plan to work or delegate someone to watch them. If you can’t get work done at home, leave the house and work in a library or quiet coffee shop.