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Something I struggled with as I entered the real world of adulthood, is time management. As we get older, we take on more and more responsibilities. We have jobs, and relationships, and cleaning, and errands, and hobbies, and potentially children, and so much more. We become busy, and suddenly it feels like we never have enough time in our day to get everything done that we need to get done.
All of a sudden, we have to plan our days and weeks. We have to start prioritizing, or potentially pushing things aside to get the “more important” tasks done. It is difficult, and just one of the many things we are trying to figure out as a twenty-something. How do we balance life and work? How can we possibly fit in a date night or an hour at the gym? Well, the answer is learning the proper time-management tools.
You don’t have to cancel your plans with friends in order to get that last-minute work project done, or skip the gym because you had to fit in your errands. You just have to prioritize your time and create some organization in your life! I promise, it works!
Today I wanted to talk about the time management tools I have implemented throughout my twenties. These are the tools that help me stay organized and allow me to avoid stressing out over deadlines or getting things done on time.
ONE | Prioritize Your Day
Something I started doing every single day, was created a to-do list. This originally started in the workplace, but it was so effective at work, that I quickly incorporated it into my personal life as well. Everyday I make a list of the tasks that need to be completed that day. After I have my list of to-do’s, I prioritize them by most important task to least important task.
Once I have my tasks prioritized, I know which ones I need to focus on the most, and I start with those tasks. This specific tool works for me because I find it very easy to choose a fun task over a daunting task, but my prioritized to-do list keeps me on track. My list allows me to avoid choosing “posting on social media” over “creating workbook content”. Obviously I would love to sit on Instagram all day and engage with my readers and post photo’s, but my biggest priority right now is creating a self-improvement workbook, so that is number one on my list, and therefore my main focus for the day.
TWO | Don’t be Ashamed to Ask for Help or Delegate
Something I have always struggled with is asking for help or delegating work. Sometimes, we just get too busy, and if you have people in your life that can help you, do not be scared to ask for it.
Maybe I have to get a blog post finished by tomorrow morning, and I know I also need to get groceries, but it is already 7 PM. I ask my wonderful boyfriend if he can grab some groceries, so I can focus on my deadline.
Now, on the other hand, from a professional level, I still find it very hard to delegate work. It is something I am working on, but I am totally that person who feels like “I know it will get complete if I do it myself”. BUT, I have also learned there will be days when I just can not get everything done, and therefore I may ask a team-mate or co-worker if they can take on a task for me. We just have to accept that we can’t always do it all, and asking for a hand is totally okay!
THREE | Write Things Down
Now, like I mentioned, I start my day with a to-do list, but that list is obviously composed of the tasks that I am aware of at 9 AM. But, as I am sure you understand, new things pop up throughout the day, and my priorities may change a bit.
When I was working in HR, I quickly learned that I need to write new tasks down as they pop up. In the beginning of my career, my manager would give me a mid-morning task, and I would not write that new tasks down. Then all of a sudden, it would be 3 PM, and I would be almost finished my to-do list for the day, only to remember about that task my manager asked me to complete. I didn’t write it down, so it slipped my mind completely because I was focused on my original to-do list.
I like to carry a notebook with me at all times, so that way when new tasks arise, I jot it down in my notebook so I don’t forget!
FOUR | Get a Planner
So, like I mentioned I like to start my day with a to-do list, but I also rely very much on my planner. With my planner, I like to plan out both my month and my weeks. I use the Day Designer Planner, which has a monthly layout, as well as daily layouts. So at the beginning of every month I write down my whole month in the monthly layout (including deadlines, events, birthdays, bills, etc.) so that I can quickly glance at that monthly layout and have an idea of each week and what I have going on.
But, I also utilize the daily layouts which are broken down by hours. Each Sunday or Monday I go through my whole week and write down what I know is happening. For example if I had a meeting, or a conference call, I wrote all that in. If I had deadlines, I wrote those in. Then, throughout the week, as things come up, I add those into my planner as well.
Need a Planner? Try the Day Designer Here.
FIVE | If Your Having a Hard Time Getting Started – Move on
A rule I use, is that if a task is taking me 20+ minutes to get started, move on. Sometimes were just not in the right zone to give a task our attention. If we move on and complete an easier task, that may help us get into the focused zone we need to come back to the previous task and get it done.
SIX | Set a Block of Time to Complete Menial Tasks
Sometimes tasks like replying to emails or filing papers can take up way more time in our day than we intend. For me, I can get sucked into the social media world for far too long when I am managing my social media for the blog.
What I started doing, and I do find it has helped my time management and productivity, is to set aside a block of time. So, for example, I give myself 30-45 minutes in the morning and 30-45 minutes in the afternoon to manage my social media. This can also work with replying to emails, give your self an hour block of time to reply to emails, and then move on. Any task that can suck you in and steal your time, create a time block and it will solve your problems.
SEVEN | Let Go of Perfectionism
Something that often interferes with our planning and time management is trying to be perfect. Now, there is a difference between doing things with quality + giving it your all, and trying to do everything perfect. Do you know how much time I spent on my blog layout before I finally launched it? A LOT. The reason it took me so long to finally launch, was because I was too concerned with being perfect. I was terrified at the criticism of others, and even though I liked my layout, there was always that one thing that I could pick apart. Finally, I just said enough is enough, I need to spend my time on more important things like quality content and gaining a following, and I just went ahead and launched it.
We have to let go of the idea of perfection and realize that were allowed to make mistakes, and were allowed to ask for help when your unsure. You will never please everyone, so you need to stop trying. No matter what you do in life, someone will have a criticism or disagreement of some kind. Once we realize that giving it our all is all we can do, life gets a lot easier. Stop worrying about what others think of you, and stop trying to be perfect in the eyes of everyone else, just do your best! As long as you are happy with your results, than that is all that matters.
EIGHT | Accomplish Something Small
When you’re feeling unproductive or having a hard time getting things done, start with a small, easy task. This is something I often use when I am trying to clean my house. I obviously don’t want to clean, so I procrastinate. But, what I have come to realize is if I start with something easy like unloading the dishwasher or wiping down the counters, I get into the cleaning zone, and it makes it easier to just continue on and finish cleaning.
This can work in any area of your life, professional or personal. If you’re having a day at work where you don’t feel like doing anything, start with something small like answering a few emails, or completing some data entry (or whatever your job entails), and then try moving on to something larger that is at the top of your to-do list.
NINE | Control Distractions by Setting Time Frames
When I am struggling with getting an important task done, I will set a time frame to work on it. So, for example, I tell myself I need to sit down and work on that task for 25 minutes, and then I can go get my coffee, or take my break.
I literally set a timer, and I make myself work on it for that 25-30 minutes. Now, in most cases, this allows me to get in the zone and I end up continuing for longer then the intended 25-30 minutes. But, that is also not always the case. Sometimes I do my 25, and then I move on. But that is okay, I did something productive for 25 minutes, and now I can move on and come back to it later, maybe for another 25 minutes.
This is also a good tool for exercising, I tell myself I will go for a 20 minute walk or run, and usually I end up going for a lot longer. I use this method for many areas of my life.
TEN | Make Time for Breaks and Down Time
Now, something I want to touch on, is the important of down time and breaks. There are days, weeks, even months, that are so busy, we often have no time for ourselves. BUT, do not get into that habit.
When we get into the habit of go, go, go without any breaks or down time, we face burnout. Burn out will impact your time management in a big way, so you are far better off taking an hour a day to take a break, or take the weekend and enjoy some fun activities.
Obviously it is great to be a hard worker and a go-get’er, but it is also important to take a break every now and again so you do not burn yourself out and end up taking a week off because your ill, or even worse, on stress leave because you took on far too much.
Self-care is important in time management too!
ELEVEN | Keep Your Eye on the Prize
When you’re struggling to get through a work task, cooking a healthy meal, or an hour at the gym, remember the bigger picture. Sure, at that very moment it may seem annoying or impossible to complete, but when you visualize the bigger goal, it helps you remember your priorities and the reason why your trying to tackle the specific task.
What tools do you use for time management? How do you stay on top of everything adulthood has to offer? Let me know below in the comments!
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