Effective time management practices are the Holy Grail. No matter if it is in your personal life or professional, many individuals consistently want to improve their time management. Why? To get more stuff done with the finite amount of time we have available to ourselves.
I am no different. At any given moment I have a ton of stuff on my plate and no one to blame but myself.
For instance, I decided it would be smart to look for a full time job during my first year of grad school. I don’t regret doing this but it does shrink the amount of time I have to devote towards other things such as grad school. Fortunately, it allows me the luxuries of living in a home and eating delicious food.
I decided that I would begin blogging. I do not regret this decision either, but it does add extra constraints on my time.
This semester I decided that along with my closure project I would take a fairly tough class that is so out of my wheelhouse that it is almost embarrassing. Once again, no regret, I will learn valuable information from this class, but the time necessary to becoming skillful in statistical analytics and methods is rather large.
All along I still play in a band, and enjoy spending time with my friends, family, and girlfriend.
Do not mistake this as me whining and sounding sorry for myself. Honestly, I think all of these projects, assignments, life, etc. are quite manageable if I observe and implement effective time management.
So what can we do when life seems to be piling up on us?
We employ simple, effective, time management practices.
What things do you have going on right now, and which ones are most important to you?
Make a list from first to last. Some things like work are kind of unnecessary to be added to this list but if it allows you to assess the situation better then go ahead and add it. I know that no matter what happens I am going to go to work. If my computer blows up and I drop out of school I will still go in.
Although this first step seems like it would be easy, don’t overlook it. It can be easy to relegate spending time with friends and family, or just plain old free time, to the backburner but be careful. These little things can be the fuel that keeps us going and should not be taken lightly. Racking up all sorts of accomplishments won’t matter as much if you are not able to share your experiences with others.
Second, set up a calendar.
It doesn’t matter if it is in a spreadsheet or an actual calendar (I prefer the spreadsheet myself). Set up your days Monday through Sunday and divide the days up in half hour intervals.
Then plug in your constants.
Your constants are things like work, or picking up your children from school every day. Basically anything you know you have to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Don’t forget sleep, really, don’t forget it. I am bad at this I always push myself to the edge and then crash hard after a few days. I am getting better at this but everyone has things they struggle with.
After you have done this you will have a much better idea of how much time you have to work with. This is where your itemized list comes into play. Start by estimating the amount of time you would like to devote to a certain task or activity (don’t worry you can always adjust this later on). Plug it into your calendar/spreadsheet on all days you will be involved with this task. Step back, observe, rinse, and repeat.
Observing your schedule may be the most important time management practice. After a week or so, see what worked for you and what didn’t. Did you schedule enough time for that really hard class? Or maybe you are blogging and put in way too much time into social media. Whatever the case may be, take a good look and adjust.
Most importantly, for these time management practices to work you must be reasonable. If you get off work at 4:30pm don’t schedule a workout at 4:45-5:45, homework from 6:00-7:30, spend time with friends from 7:45-8:30, and blog from 8:45 until bedtime. Life doesn’t work that way. If you can stick to something like that week in and week out you are amazing and incredibly diligent. I know for me this doesn’t work, I have tried. In fact maintaining any kind of schedule that includes parts of my life that are not absolutely necessary is kind of a struggle. But this doesn’t mean I give up, it just means I try to be better at it.
Sometimes these schedules are not permanent either. Maybe you have a special project you need to kick into gear. If that’s the case then yeah, go ahead and get a little crazy with your schedule and throw yourself at your project. If it is only for a small amount of time, the discipline it takes to adhere to an intense work schedule is probably more doable. If, on the other hand, this is something you are trying to stick to for a few months or more, please refer back to the part of the post where I talk about being reasonable.
A month ago I probably wouldn’t had wrote a post like this, or who knows maybe I would, but with my current circumstances I realized it was very necessary for me to map out a schedule.
On a side note, I remember a few years ago before I went back to college, I was way more diligent about working out. I had one rule for every day of the week except for Sundays. What was it? It was that I worked out before I did anything else, barring extreme emergencies. If friends wanted to go out, sure I would join them, but only after my workout. Mow my grass, go grocery shopping, anything. By sticking to this rule, or should I say prioritizing, I was able to get into the best shape of my life.
Well things have changed in that regard, I rearranged some priorities for better or worse, but the idea is still the same.
Know what you want, realize what is important to you (that means everything), prioritize and go for it. Step back, take a look at how it is working for you, and change where needed.
I am sure many of you understand this process and probably employ it already, but sometimes, at least for me, you can derive a benefit from having it laid out for you. I hope you can take something from this and help your own time management struggles.
Do you have any time management techniques that differ? What did I miss?
Cheers, may we all overachieve in something!
Note: Please do not think that I am a master of time management. I continually struggle with it as I believe many individuals do. This post is only an account of the process I use when scheduling my time. It has provided useful to me on many occasions.
Second Note: Biggest reason I detract from my schedule is after work naps. I love them. I probably should actually schedule them.