Time management is something most of us grapple with. If time is racing away from you and taking your energy with it, it’s time to make some changes in your life.
I’m an organised person, but time management hasn’t always been my strong suit. It’s only been the last few years that I’ve managed to find a middle ground between getting things done and having them perfect. I’m a prolific list maker, but I often get down when the list runs away from me and time disappears into a vortex. I run out of energy to keep up with my own good intentions.
But not so much anymore.
These days, I tend to have more of a routine and set aside chunks of time for tasks. Even with a family, casual work as a teacher and my website and business to run, I move these chunks around to fit my day. If I have interruptions, most of my chunks are small enough that I can move them to another day or let them go for a week.
Time management is now more my friend than my enemy. I’ve worked out some simple processes that help me stay in control, even when I’m feeling weary.
Do you feel like you’re a little mouse running on one of those wheels? I have to fight that feeling, so much!
Joe Matthews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival wrote “How to Manage Time with 10 Tips That Work” for Entrepreneur and describe a liberating way of thinking of time.
They explain that we either think of time as being “clock time” or “real time”.
Clock time is the exact seconds, minutes and hours our watch or clock records. You can’t stop it or speed it up. It’s not fixed. Real time is more of a perception. It’s how we can do something for hours but feel like time has flown by.
We have to be careful not to mix up real time with clock time and see a task for the amount of time it really takes up. That’s the root of my problem. I think about things in real time more than clock time.
I’ve had to learn to track the clock time to give tasks their real time value. Something that I enjoy might feel like it takes an hour, when it’s real time value is closer to two. Good time management starts with being realistic.
Time management tips
Once you’ve got your head around the concept of real time, you can start to claw back those lost moments. You can also deal with the overwhelm. Brigid Schulte wrote in her book, Overwhelmed, about her journey to discover just how much time was escaping her day through an unrealistic grasp of time. If you’re looking for a book to help you feel more in control at work and home, I recommend you grab it.
But if you need some immediate help, here’s five tips that have made the world of difference to me:
- Keep track of what you spend time on. All the experts suggest if you’re running out of time, you need to work out what you’re spending it on. If you seem to get stuck online watching cat videos, then give Rescue Time a go to see how much you’re losing. For all your other tasks, keep a logbook for a week, like you would a food diary. Track all those little time suckers that you don’t even notice.
- Identify tasks you can chunk. Lots of things we do as parents and workers are individual tasks that take a set amount of time. Hanging the washing; 15 minutes. Cleaning up the kitchen and unpacking the dishwasher, 20 minutes. Sorting through the email inbox; 30 minutes. Writing a report; 1 hour. If you can identify all the tasks that you need to do in a month or week, you can then set aside chunks of time to get them done.
- Make use of dead time. It’s amazing what you can do while waiting in a queue or while something is downloading. Even 5 or 10 minutes will help you knock over one of your tasks.
- Make a plan for each day the night before. If you’re life is like mine, we’re in full steam by 6am. But my brain often takes a little longer to catch up. I like to make the most of my last minutes before bed to set things up for the next day. If I have work as a teacher, I’ll pack my bag. If I’m seeing clients, I’ll print out my list. For all my other little chunked tasks, I map them out on Sunday evening so I’m clear what I need to do in the week ahead.
- Say no. Everyone is hoping you’ll say yes, but it’s ok to say no when you need to. It’s also not necessary to answer every phone call right away or respond to texts within an hour. We need to fight this instant reply tendency our world is developing. Instead, use it as a prioritising strategy.
If that’s too much reading, check out this video I’ve made.
Time management is something that we can always work at improving. We often have to adjust our strategies for different seasons of life too.
What do you think about the concept of real and clock time? Have you got some time management tips you can share?