LAST week I wrote about the stress that comes with the holiday season, hoping that everyone keeps an eye on their potentially elevated stress and can healthily manage it. I received several emails on specific requests such as managing substance use, family conflict, etc. I will get to those before the season is over, but I would like to focus on time management techniques, as quite a few asked about some tips within this area.
It can be frustrating as we all know someone or many others who get so much more done in a day than we do – those people who make us feel like we don’t do enough. They do not have more hours in a day than we do. They simply use their time better. What may not be obvious is how to do this. Many of us have a wide variety of responsibilities- familial, employment, educational, social – most of us even have all at the same time. Considering all our duties and the fact that time management is a crucial factor for our mental health, I hope that you all practise these skills and do further research on other types that may be most beneficial and applicable to you.
If we plan our time well, we not only get more done, but we are more efficient, satisfied, and motivated; we are also less likely to procrastinate over time. We experience less stress and simultaneously build more self-confidence and self-esteem. We find stability and reach our goals. I think we would all appreciate a life where we feel we are getting everything done at the appropriate time and still have time for adequate self-care.
What are some things we can do to better manage our time?
Firstly, it is important to identify your obstacles, which keep you from your desired goals. Is it procrastination? Disinterest? Distraction? Forgetfulness? Knowing this will allow you a starting point and the knowledge of the true reason you don’t manage your time well. If you do not know the answer to this, a suggestion is to document your time for a few days to identify how productive you are, at what times, and what typically interrupts this.
Write a to-do list of what needs to be done. Start with the most to least important. This means that the most essential things will be completed at the very least. After you have done this, it is time to organise and prioritise. Disorganisation often leads to procrastination and unproductivity. Keep your spaces clean and your tasks easy to find and do. Prioritise base on your values. Sometimes we won’t get everything done, but your day has a good ending if we get the right things done.
Your to-do list must be a realistic one. Visual progress fuels motivation. If you see yourself ticking things off throughout the day, it will provide the push to continue and complete more. However, if the list is unrealistic and you don’t get it done, it will have the opposite effect and de-motivate you for the following day.
Break the items on the list down. It becomes easier to do when it’s easier to read, decide and execute. For example, if you have a report to write over the next three days, decide on what day you are doing research, writing, proofreading, etc. It’s much less overwhelming this way.
The to-do list also creates a schedule that allows a high chance that our day will go as planned. Also, remember that when doing a task, it is more likely to be completed if you devote your entire focus to it.
Keep in mind that time management is not about doing everything that needs to be done, at all costs but rather using appropriate time effectively. For example, forfeiting sleep, eating well, or exercising to get other things done will ultimately result in added stress and additional issues. Spread out tasks that are sources of stress. We can often predict the tasks that cause us large amounts of stress. If avoidable, try to do only one of these a day. If you try to do multiple or all, it may result in burnout where nothing is done.
Turn important tasks into scheduled habits. Research shows that even the most mundane tasks become easier to do when made a habit. For example, whether it is cleaning your house or responding to emails if you schedule a certain time to do these every day or week, they become habitual rather than stressful.
Learn to say no and delegate. If you already have lots to do, it is okay to say no to other people. On the other hand, if you have too much to do, it is okay to pass some on to the appropriate people. You do not have to do everything yourself.
Finally, remember to take a break and know your capacity for stress. Overworking is counter-productive and more often than not results in burnout. One research study I found showed that the most productive and efficient an individual can be is when they work straight for 52 uninterrupted minutes, then take a break for 17 minutes, go back to work for 52 minutes, and so on. I’m aware that many of us do not have the luxury to do this, but the moral of the story is that short but frequent breaks allow for more and better work to be done.
It doesn’t matter what the tasks are. Learning to better manage your time to do them will result in less stress and more focus, productivity, efficiency, and (in the end) relaxation.
Thanking you for reading. Please keep sending any topics you’d like to talk about to firstname.lastname@example.org