Time: Manage It and You Manage Your World. 10 Tips Explained.

A black and white picture of hundred of clock faces piled on top of each other: a focus on timeMonika B. Jensen, PhD

Have you ever wished for an extended day, a few hours more, a 10-day week or a long weekend? Would this extra time relieve the enormous pressure exerted on our daily lives? Would our trail of unfinished tasks – unanswered letters, uninvited friends, unwritten articles, unread books, unseen movies and more – be completed then? Probably not. But if you focus on improving time management, you will be able to check the completed box on the most critical tasks.

Why is managing time necessary?

Without creating a conscious plan for what we focus on, and when, it is inevitable that we will fill the extra hours with more activities. Doing this makes us just as harried as we are now with our 24-hour day.  

If we create a system to improve our use of time, we take control of our schedule. We finish more of what is essential. It sounds more complicated than it is, and we share valuable tips in this blog to help you control one of your most precious resources: your time.

Our issue with getting things done extends beyond the shortage of time.

Not managing time prompts anxiety.

Some tasks will remain unfinished out of necessity. Figuring out which ones to complete comes down to a matter of priorities.

Consider this. Challenging work does not hurt us. It is the unreasonable demands and expectations we perceive that may drive us onto a reef of frustrations, where doubts and misgivings create anxiety.   

How many of those demands and expectations do you feel come from others, instead of yourself?

Our minds ping-pong, jumping between what we think is urgent and what we view as valuable. The problem is that the critical task is rarely time-sensitive. Yet the urgent task calls for instant action with endless demands and challenges every hour and every day. Or at least it can feel that way due to the access that mobile phones give us. How many times does the urgent task prompting you to drop everything to react valuable in the long term? 

1. Decide to spend your time in the service of you: your values and your commitments.

Interestingly day-to-day, everyone has the same number of hours.

Unfortunately, time cannot be banked, turned off or stopped, or replaced. It is consumed at 60 seconds every minute, 60 minutes every hour. Until finally, 24 hours expires.

View time management like all other resources: for its benefits and its limitations.

Effective time management is a personal process that fits your style and circumstances. It takes a strong commitment to change old habits. However, this choice is available and is yours for the taking.

2. Start by recognizing who makes demands upon your time.

No one has total control over one’s daily work or leisure schedule. There is usually someone or something that makes demands on our time. However, we do have more power than we realize. You have more control than you realize.

When you review your daily schedule, also pay attention to when you are most energetic in a day. Some people are best in the morning while others peak in the afternoon or evenings. Whenever possible, plan your day to match your “prime time.”

If you are a morning person, plan to work on your most urgent and most demanding tasks then.

If you feel a slump around 3 pm, schedule in some meditation, stretching

or rest time to help rebuild your energy.

3. Set boundaries to manage unreasonable demands.

When demands exceed resources, communicate with the source of the pressure, and reset deadlines or expectations.  

Resetting demands may require identifying the most critical deadline. You may suggest that a project or initiative shift to a colleague. You may decide to make a pitch for more resources. These are all valid questions to ask, and the professional tact to take. Good managers, directors and executives recognize this and will work with you.

Recognizing which tasks to delay or shift comes down to setting priorities.

4. Identify and set your priorities.

Use the two-step process to list the things to be finished. While doing this, recognize who is responsible for each activity and its overall project or goal.  

Then put them in groups according to:

  1. Must Do’s
  2. Should Do’s
  3. Nice to Do’s

5. Review and adjust your priorities and tasks daily.

Consider your priorities as being flexible since circumstances change over time. For example, what a B is today may be an A tomorrow when the deadline is nearer. 

6. Create a daily routine for regular activities.

One of the healthiest practices we can create for ourselves is to have a routine on weekdays and weekends. That means creating a morning schedule that accommodates activities to prepare you for the day ahead. For you, that may mean waking at a consistent time, having regular grooming and dressing times, eating breakfast, working out, meditating or praying. Your daily plan may include time with friends and loved ones, crucial times to do certain types of work, hours that are best for meetings, and some moments to decompress from the day. 

It may take you a month or even two to figure out what schedule works best for you. Permit yourself to experiment with different activities allocated to different time slots.  Recognize what prompts more significant stress or lessens it. Adjust your schedule to time activities in a way that improves the rate at which you finish tasks and minimizes anxiety.  

7. Eliminate unnecessary and inappropriate activities.

Have you noticed that we do things out of habit, and sometimes not because they are essential? Maybe we never questioned it. Question everything now. Research life hacks that may make daily tasks faster and simpler. Stop doing activities that are unhealthy for you. Taking this step will save you time: hours each week. 

8. Delegate

When reviewing your tasks and your priorities, seek ways to delegate activities. Just remember to factor in time to get progress reports.

9. Minimize distractions

As you work through the personal process of time management, you will start recognizing what distracts you. Try turning off music or televisions when you are working. Turn off notifications and sounds on your computers and mobile devices. Set regular times to check your emails and respond. If you work from home, set up clear rules about when family or pets visit you in your office and have an office! If you are working at the kitchen table in a high-traffic household, you are making it harder for yourself to focus.

10. Do difficult tasks when energy is high.

We all have natural energy cycles.  Complete the most difficult tasks when you have the most energy.  If you are an early bird, work on the most robust activities early. If your stamina is better just before lunch, dedicate this time to arduous tasks. Trying to work on complex, tiring or intense projects when your energy is adding strain to your body and your mind. 

Bring it all together and find time.

You are the best judge of what you need to do. Let the pang of guilt you feel from not getting something done sharpen your judgement and help you improve how you prioritize your tasks. That is the art of time management.

As you compare activities, it should become clear that some are more urgent and important than others. Ask yourself the question, ‘What is the best use of my time now?’

Deadlines have a way of shifting priorities. So, set a starting time with enough leeway to finish an assignment by its deadline. And, plan to do your most difficult tasks when your energy is at its peak.

Most people have the potential to save five to 10 hours a week and to be more effective with their time. Follow these basic principles of time management, and you will see your productivity improve as well as your state of being.

Remember, we each have 168 hours per week. How do you use yours?

Quick Tips on How to Control Your Use of Time
  • Decide to take control of how you focus your time.
  • Recognize who makes demands on your schedule.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Establish responsibilities, priorities, and objectives.
  • Review and adjust priorities daily.
  • Plan and schedule the use of your time – weekly and daily.
  • Stop unnecessary and inappropriate activities.
  • Delegate as much as possible.
  • Reduce distractions.
  • Optimize your peak energy times.
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