Time Managment: Where Does Our Time Go?
Time management is a big concern for many people, including most of my clients. I am constantly being told, “There are just not enough hours in the day…” or asked, “Where does my time go?”
Face it – we all live busy lives. Work, family, hobbies, friends, and a litany of other commitments keep us all hopping. To have better time management, it’s important to recognize where the specific problems are, and to do that you need to know your goals. Is it not having enough time for you or your family? Maybe you are just not sure where all your time is going and just want to account for it. Or, you could have a full schedule that you are having a hard time keeping up with (i.e. you allow yourself to become overbooked). Whatever the reason, time is a precious resource that we cannot waste.
After you have defined goals and know your priorities, the first important step in time management is evaluating our schedules and knowing where we spend our time. You ready for some fun?
For one week, starting the minute you wake up, log everything you do. Chart the time you start a task, and when you end it. And I mean EVERYTHING. The time you get up, when you start and finish getting ready for your day (brush your teeth, shower, get dressed, etc.), eat breakfast, get the kids ready for school and drop them off, drive to work, etc. Throughout your day, log each task. And be honest – if you spend an hour on social media or surfing the web, log it. No judgement will be passed and there is no report card – this is for you! And continue doing so until you lay your head down on your soft pillow. Resist the temptation to review it until the week is over. Remember, you’re not trying to make any changes at this point, you are strictly trying to get an accurate account of your time.
Will it seem tedious? Yes. Will you probably get annoyed after a day or two and want to quit? Absolutely. Will you be calling me names and wanting to hunt me down and…well, it’s not that bad. Maybe. Remember you’re not getting graded on it but using it as a tool. Just be as accurate as you can. No one besides you ever has to see it.
When the week is over, it’s time for the review. Look back over each day. Do you see any patterns? Do you see where you were more productive or wasteful with your time? Be honest with yourself. We all have more productive and wasteful days or times. We just all need to be aware of them and learn how to recognize them.
By looking at your log, you will be able to identify places where better time management could be used. Are you satisfied with your results? Why or why not? Highlight where you could have made better choices or what you would like to change. Do you want more time to pursue personal interests? More time to be with your children? Or just more time to get everything done?
Now it’s time to make sure your priorities are in order. Grab a new piece of paper or open a new digital document (I prefer to use pen and paper when strategizing or planning as it helps me focus, but we’re all different and there is no right or wrong way to do it) and create three columns. In the first column, list all appointments, events, or commitments that are “set in stone” (Priority 1): things that take place at a set time and happen daily, weekly, or monthly. This list can include work, school, club meetings, practices, standing doctor’s appointments, or anything with a set and non-negotiable schedule. Be sure to include BOTH professional and personal commitments and plans. In the second column, put “flexible” tasks or commitments that can be done around your “set in stone” commitments (Priority 2), such as grocery shopping, house cleaning, or having lunch with a friend. In the third column, put those “occasional” appointments, activities, a school play, an old friend coming into town, or anything that does not fall into the other two columns (Priority 3).
Then comes the fun part. The part that will change your life: creating a Master Calendar, detailed down to at least the hour (mine is broken down to the 1/2 hour). This will feel overwhelming at first, but trust me – your life is about to get SOOO much easier to manage.
You can use a notebook or a spreadsheet, with the hours listed on the left side of the page. You'll want to have a enough pages or space for an entire week. Start adding your Priority 1 items, then move on to your Priority 2, then Priority 3.
And you’re going to start doing this at the start of each week, and look at it and adjust as need each day. (Do you want my template? Click here to request it and I'll personally send it do you).
The objective is to balance out your days and to maximize your time. Do you see where you had been wasting time? Why make a separate trip to the pharmacy when it is on your way to your son’s soccer practice? I always try to plan appointments in the same area on the same day, this reduces my travel time and gets the most out of my day.
One thing to consider is: are you doing too much? No matter how well time is managed there is such a thing as an overload of commitments. Time management is not just about structuring your week so that you can get everything accomplished. It is about creating a manageable schedule that will give you time for the important things in life. So, before looking at your time management skills look at what you are trying to juggle.
Be sure that included on your lists are things that you want to do but just don’t seem to have time for in your day. What is the sense of managing your time better just to fit in more work? A part of time management is balancing so that you can have time to enjoy the fun stuff in life, too.
If you are booked so solid that you cannot schedule an hour and a half of quality family time, an hour of time with your significant other, and at least at the very minimum 30-45 minutes of time for yourself throughout the week, then you have too much on your plate and it is time to ask for help – or remove or shift some commitments. Being run down and worn-out will not assist you in better time management – in fact, it will hinder it.
Being aware of and having a handle on your schedule is the first step to creating the world and life you want. Challenge yourself. Hold yourself accountable to goals and plans you make. And if that’s hard to do – as it is for most people – you may need a coach.