Something I struggled a great deal when I was younger was time management. I had no prioritization, no structure, I was always late (okay, that is something that I still struggle with), and I definitely did not utilize a to-do list or a planner. Frankly, I was just winging it and hoping for the best. As I got older, obviously I also found myself with more responsibilities. I have a job, a relationship, a house to maintain, pets to take care of, errands to run, and now a child that depends on me completely to survive. Lack of time management and “winging it” was no longer an option.
Even if your situation is not identical to mine in regards to responsibilities, we all become busy as hell as we get older. Whether you are a full time student or a full time mom, (or both), it feels like we never have enough time in our day to get everything done that we need to get done. At least that is how I feel and I know I’m not the only one!
All of a sudden, it is like adulthood hits full force, and we have to start planning our days, weeks, and months. We have to start prioritizing, or potentially pushing things aside to get the “more important” tasks done. It is difficult! 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 to those questions is to simply learn 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 the last few years of my life. These are the tools that help me stay organized and allow me to avoid stressing out over deadlines or getting things done on time. These are also the tools that have been extremely important to me as a new mom, a time in my life where I felt so strapped for any free time. Initially I was stressed over how to give this new little human the constant love and attention she needed without completely losing myself and my “me” time, and also managing to maintain a house, shower, spend time on my relationship,and maintain my blog. And honestly, It was Utilizing the following time management tools helped me adjust to parenthood a bit easier. elevated the feeling of stress and overwhelm. I was able to ensure I prioritized self-care and time for myself even when I felt like I had no time to do so.
So, let me just jump right into my 15 simple tips for better time management!
1 | Prioritizing
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 that I didn’t really want to do (like cleaning), but by using my prioritized to-do list keeps me on track. My list allows me to avoid procrastinating because I even schedule in my free time. For example, I know I have time in the evening when my daughter is in bed so I clear that time for my favorite show or for some self-care time.
Related Post: 6 Hacks for Fitting More Self Care Into Your Life
2 | Ask for Help or Delegate Tasks
Something I have always struggled with is asking for help or delegating work. Sometimes life just gets too busy and we have to ask for help. There are absolutely nothing wrong with that, but for some reason it is an area I have always struggled with. I hate being a bother to anyone, which is a big reason I hate asking for help with anything.
Once I became a mom I learned I had to let go of that because there was just no way I could tackle everything alone. I learned to just ask for help from my partner when I needed it, and it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I realized I didn’t need to try to do everything on my own, and he was obviously more than happy to help with anything I needed, but sometimes I just needed to ask. Having him grab the groceries or clean the kitchen freed up the time I needed to work on my blog or fit in some self-care. If I was trying to get groceries, clean the house, take care of the baby, make dinner, etc., my blog would have easily been neglected, and self-care would be unattainable. Simply reaching out and asking my partner to take something off of my plate for me was so beneficial in my time management strategy.
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 be done right 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!
3 | Write Things Down
Now, like I mentioned, I try to start my day with a to-do list, but that list is basically composed of the tasks that I am aware of at 9 AM, and, as I’m sure you understand, new things pop up throughout the day, so my priorities and my to-do list may change a bit. But, if I don’t add the new things to my to-do list, they very often get forgotten!
While working at my day job, something I quickly learned is to write things down as they come up throughout the day. I would make a to-do list first thing in the morning, and then something would come up mid-morning, and if I didn’t write it down, I would usually forget about it until late that day or sometimes even the next day. If you are busy and trying to hit deadlines, that is not a great strategy. I learned to carry a notebook with me at all times, so that way when new tasks came up, I simply jot it down in my notebook so I don’t forget!
4 | Use a Planner
Using a planner has been a game changer in my life. I buy planners that have a monthly weekly and daily layout, and that have lots of room to write down my daily tasks. I also love planners with additional productivity tools like meal planners, goal tracking, habit tracking, etc.
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.
Here are some great options:
5 | Set a Block of Time Aside for Menial Tasks
Sometimes tasks like replying to emails or filing papers can take up way more time in our day than we intended. For me, I use Social Media and Pinterest as promotional tools for my blog, but it is so easy to get sucked into scrolling Instagram or Pinterest for WAY longer than I wanted. Maybe I planned to post something on Instagram and then work on a blog post, and next thing I know it has been 45 minutes and all I did was post something on Instagram and then scroll through my feed for 40 minutes, and now I only have 15 minutes to work on my blog post.
So, to overcome this issue, what I started doing is setting aside a block of time for specific tasks such as answering emails, posting on Social Media, etc. So, for example, I give myself 45 minutes in the afternoon to manage my social media and emails. This works well because you give yourself a specific block of time to do whatever the task is, and then move on. Any task that can suck you in and steal your time, create a specific time block and it will solve your problems!
This is especially helpful if you work in an office job that involves a lot of email communication. It is so easy to spend your whole day sending and replying to emails. If you set aside 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour before you head home, you can avoid spending all day in your inbox, and instead focus on your other higher priority tasks.
6 | Start 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.
7 | Eliminate Distractions
When I am struggling with getting an important task done, I will set a time frame to work on it with no distractions. So, for example, I tell myself I need to sit down and work on that task for 25 minutes, without my phone, tv off, in a quiet space. 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, sometimes I do my 25 minutes, and then I move on, and that is okay too.
Sometimes, even without setting a time frame, just putting away possible distractions such as our phones, televisions, noise, kids, pets, etc. can be just what we need to focus and get a task completed. A great example is when I write a blog post. A lot of times, I write on my couch in front of the TV, and it takes me significantly longer than it does if I sit at my desk with no distractions and write. When you give a task your full focus, you can get it done much quicker and move on to something else.
8 | Don’t Try to Be Perfect
Something that often interferes with planning and time management is trying to be perfect. Now, I want to make it clear, there is definitely a difference between doing things with quality + giving it your all, and trying to do everything perfectly.
Do you know how much time I spent on my blog layout before I finally launched it? A LOT. Like, WAY too much. 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 we are allowed to make mistakes, and we are allowed to ask for help when you’re 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.
9 | Make Time for Down Time
Now, something I want to touch on, is the important of down time and taking some time for yourself. There are days, weeks, even months, that are so busy, we often have no time for ourselves. But, making time for yourself is SO important when it comes to productivity.
When we get into the habit of being in go, go, go mode, without any breaks or down time, we can get burnt out. Burn out will impact your time management in a big way, so even taking an hour a day for yourself, can be a huge help to your productivity!
Obviously it is great to be a hard worker and someone who hustles to accomplish their goals, but it is also important to take breaks so that you do not burn yourself out and end up needing to take a chunk of time off, leaving you way behind on your work, stressed, and overwhelmed.
Self-care is important in time management too!
Related Reading: How to Recover From Burnout: 8 Tips for Getting Back on Track
10 | Tidy and Organize Your Space
I personally find I am much more productive when my work space is clean and organized. If I have papers everywhere, empty coffee mugs, and other random stuff all over my desk, I am wasting time trying to find things, and I find it also impacts my mood and productivity when I am trying to work in a mess. When I have a neat, organized work space, I can easily find my notes, etc. and I just feel much happier and more inspired to work.
11 | Batch Your Time
Have you heard of time blocking or time batching? Basically you block out certain amounts of time in your day to focus on similar tasks. For example, you block out 2 hours in the morning to complete all your cleaning tasks, 2 hours in the afternoon for errands, 1 hour to answer emails, 1 hour to file, etc. Obviously how you batch your day and what tasks you batch together depends on your life and career.
Related Reading: Time Blocking: The Time Management Tool That Will Change Your Life
12 | Take Advantage of Your Most Productive Time of Day
Have you ever noticed there are morning people, there are night owls, and there are those in between. Which time of day do you feel the most productive? Take advantage of that time! If you are most productive at night, use that time to complete the things you need to rather than watching TV or browsing the internet. Save those mindless activities for your least productive time of day (mine is the afternoon). I am most productive between 9-12 and then probably between 9-11 at night. So, I make sure I am using those times to do productive things when I am feeling most motivated. In the afternoon when I am feeling tired and sluggish, I let myself have some down time to relax or do tasks that involve less thinking and focus.
13 | Get up Earlier
Something I am working on getting better at, is getting up a little earlier to have some extra time in my day. Ideally, I would like to get to a place where I exercise first thing in the morning, because I do find it hard to fit a workout in during my day. The only time I currently have to exercise is after 7PM, and by then I am pretty tired and not motivated to workout at all. I have been reading The Miracle Morning in hopes that I can get motivated to take advantage of that extra time in the morning and it has really been giving me the inspiration I need to start that new habit.
As a mom, this time in the morning before my daughter wakes up is such a great way to fit in some extra things that I just don’t get to while she’s awake. Also, taking that extra time to start your day in a positive way such as exercising, stretching, or even just taking the time to eat a good breakfast, are all great ways to set the rest of your day up to be productive.
14 | Pay Attention to Your Time Wasters
For 3-5 days, track your time completely. Write down and record all of your time. At the end of the period of time you choose to track, reflect on where you spend your time, and how much time is spent on unproductive “time wasters” (think social media, TV, etc.).
Another great option is to set up the screen time tracker on your phone. I was SO shocked when I started paying attention to how much screen time I was using, and I worked hard to get that number down.
If you reflect on how you spend your time, and you are happy with the amount of time you are spending on “time wasters”, then that is great! If not, well then I suggest working hard to get that number to a place where you are more satisfied. I’m not saying you need to cut out those activities completely, I am just suggesting you limit them to free up some additional time to do more productive tasks. I think by doing this, you will be amazed at how much additional time you really have for more important activities.
15 | Learn to Say No
This is a tough one for many people, myself included. We want to be able to do it all and we all hate to disappoint those around us. Sometimes we simply don’t want to admit we simply cannot manage it all. But saying no is extremely important for not only your time management, but mental health and well being too. The truth is, we cannot say yes to everything all the time. When we bite off more than we can chew, it can cause stress and anxiety in our lives. Sometimes saying no is important for your sanity. By not taking on too much, and learning when to say no, you will improve your time management and be able to focus on what is most important. Saying no when necessary and removing an overwhelming quantity of tasks allows us to focus more on quality instead.
So, those are my little time management tips! I am still working everyday to get better with my time management and productivity, but the 15 tips in this post have been a great help and wonderful places to start! What is your best productivity / time management tip? Leave me a comment below!