Time Management Tips: Yes, You Do Have Time
Lessons learned about time management from a lifelong over-committer.
As a Registered Dietitian and Online Nutritionist, I talk about food, a lot. But, the second most talked about topic in my office? Stress. Overwhelm. The feeling of not having enough time in the day to get it all done.
Stress is the body’s response to a real or perceived threat. The Canadian Mental Health Association recognizes that stress comes from both the good and the bad things that happen to us.
When clients and I talk about stress, we work together to develop individualized strategies for working with that stress, stepping away from overwhelm, and you know what? We still try to get it all done if it is important. This includes making time for cooking, physical activity, sleep, and down time.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have not yet perfected life’s balancing act. Partly, this is because I have spent my entire life over-committing. I want to do it all. All of it! The traveling, the hiking, the working, the social time, the family time, the down time, the cooking…everything. Every few years, or maybe even every year, I say yes to just a little too much, and it backfires on me. Then I visit that familiar feeling of overwhelm.
Over the years, I have built up more and more strategies to avoid stretching my time too thin and visiting my old friends “Stress” and “Overwhelm”. And they work. They have allowed me to take on more and to get closer to being able to do it all. But there is always a tipping point.
This past fall, I reacquainted myself with “Stress”, to the point that “Overwhelm” joined in on the fun. I added a Master’s program, requiring 10-20 hours per week of my time, to an already very full schedule. Oh boy, I wasn’t ready for it at first. And then I had my “aha” moment. I could do this. I could find the harmony between work, school, family, friends, fitness, personal time, sleep and whatever else was important enough to be on my plate.
Do you want to know how I do it? Here are my top tips and tricks I have learned:
Time Management Tips and Tricks:
1. Time chunk your schedule
Each week, on top of work and activity schedules, I add in time for doing homework, physical activity, getting groceries, and cooking. By building in some time for even the more tedious things, I have a better awareness of what else I can plan for or say yes to.
2. Prioritize as much as possible
Try to have no more than 1-2 priority things that must get done in each day outside of work.
3. Schedule down time
Sometimes the priority MUST be down time. We cannot go-go-go all the time. Thanks to a very helpful suggestion, I now keep at least one evening a week that I do not book anything at all. It stays free and is in my calendar just like an event would be.
4. Moments of mindfulness
In the middle of it all, I create time to practice mindfulness. I write in a journal, daily. For this I keep a (password protected) word document that I use to write out my to do’s, check in with how I am feeling and sometimes plan for the future as well. I can spend 2 minutes or 20 minutes doing this depending on how much time I have and what I need from it. I have also added mindful activities throughout my day such as: deep breathing every time I put on hand lotion or before I start a new work task.
5. Engage in JOMO
Instead of the fear of missing out, engage in the joy-of-missing-out. I cannot take credit for this term, but I can fully embrace it! “NO” is a skill. Allow yourself to say “no” or to bail on plans if they are only adding to your stress and overwhelm. Your friends and family want what is best for you, and they will understand, but it is nice to give them as much of a heads up on your stepping out of plans as you can.
6. Do one thing at a time
If the task is important and requires your attention to get done well, then put away the distractions and focus on that one task. I have learned, that when I do homework, I need to avoid as many distractions as possible. Put the phone on silent. Keep the phone, and smartwatch, out of your reach. Close all of the extra web browsers and find a quiet space to get the job done.
7. Multi-task when it actually works.
For the more mindless tasks, multitask. When I get ready for work in the morning, I will run a load of laundry or I will cook one thing (pasta noodles, rice, hard boiled eggs, etc.) that I can set a timer and leave alone. To get in productive social time, I will visit with friends and also go for a walk or cook together and then take home extras for lunches.
8. Sleep. Get enough of it!
This is so important for being able to manage stress and a busy schedule. A regular sleep routine can make the busiest of days feel manageable.
If it is important to you, you can find a way to make it happen. However, every time you take on more, you will need to re-evaluate your priorities because some thing else will have to give way to make space for your world takeover.
What are your best strategies for time management? Let me know in the comments below.
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