Time Management: The Struggle is Normal
Time management, I hear this concern raised over and over again. So many of us struggle to find a balance in our busy lives. We feel that something must be broken or wrong with us because we just can't stick to a schedule or get everything we want to get done, finished in the day.
For a long time, I thought that it was just me. I thought that I was under achieving, scatter brained, and unable to get the tasks done that I wanted or needed to accomplish. I struggled to manage the household chores, kids activities, work tasks, and all the other things that we deal with as adults. Then the idea of being able to squeeze in time for myself, forget it. I would sit and ask myself, "How do other women do it all? Why can't I get myself together to be organized and efficient?". I was assuming that it was only me who had the issue, and assuming that everyone else totally kicked butt at life.
An example of my thought process would go something like this: I need to send an email to Sarah. I would go to the laptop, fire it up and open my web browser. I would open Facebook to check messages and also my email so I could send the email I had opened the laptop for in the first place. When facebook loaded, I would see a question and go to answer it or fix whatever problem needed to be addressed. From there I might see an ad for something really cool that I needed in my life. I would click on the ad and check it out. Maybe I bought it, maybe I didn't. From there I would see another facebook message notification, I would go and respond. Then maybe another, and then I would be reminded that a group needed my attention. I would address that concern and realize that something on my website needed to be fixed or added. I would go to my website and get that done. While I was on my website, I might remember I needed to change a price on several products. I would get all those tasks done and be feeling quite accomplished with myself. I close the laptop only to realize I completely forgot to email Sarah and so the process begins all over.
I have found from conversations with other business owners and women, that actually, we ALL struggle with this. Time management is hard and struggling with it is NORMAL. Now wait, some of you may be yelling at me right now. "I am quite scheduled and organized. I can manage my time wisely." This is also true, however, that doesn't mean that it came easy. My husband is very organized and manages his time well. I asked him if he also, can get as distracted as I get. He explained that although he can, he as learned to focus on the task at hand and then move on to what is next or to the things he wants to do or look at. He explained that during his time working in physical therapy, he was trained to manage time as a religion. Time management for medical practitioners is a huge part of their day. After talking with him about this, I realized that even my husband, whom I assumed came out of the womb with organized plans and logical thought processes, had to learn time management to be successful with it.
The good news is that although struggling with time management is normal, we can take steps to be better at it and use tools to help us manage our time more efficiently. Here are some ways in which you can begin to govern your time and feel more successful at the end of each day.
Mono-tasking Instead of Multi-tasking
We all know that multi-tasking is ineffective and wastes more time in the long run than if we were to focus on one project or thing at a time. Studies have shown that simply answering a text message or email in the middle of project can add 10 minutes to whatever the task is at hand! If you add that in every time you click on a new message, you are wasting way more time than you intended.
Focusing on one thing at a time is the best solution for anyone looking to work on time management. Make a list each day of the things you need or wish to accomplish. Now, mark letters or numbers in order of most important to least important of these tasks getting done. Here is an example:
Lindsey's Awesome Day Checklist
A- Update pattern test in group for testers
B- Answer customer emails
C- Correct error on product
D- Check in all test groups
F- Grocery shop
G- Create graphics for new sale
H- Fold and put away laundry
The letters create a way for me to easily see what order in which I need to work on things. It allows me to mark off the most important things to finish in my day. You can do this with numbers, colored highlighters, etc. Just make sure you know what the most important things are to finish each day.
Take Care of Yourself
Exercise, hydration and plenty of sleep not only keeps us healthy and our bodies operating at top notch, they help us to focus. Studies have shown that women who are dehydrated and/or sleep deprived are less able to concentrate and stay focused. I know that not everyone feels they can work these things into their day, but taking care of you is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your family. If you want to be a great business owner, parent, spouse, friend, child, then you have to treat yourself with kindness first. Find ways to work exercise into your day in short bits. I love to do 10 minute youtube videos like Fitness Blender. I can choose what areas to work on or do a full body in 10 minutes from the comfort of my home...um, yes please! You could also take a short walk during a break or lunch to get some fresh air and boost your spirits. Whatever you decide, make sure you love doing it so that you will find more reasons to stick to it.
Put Your Phone Away
If the main distraction in your day comes from your Smartphone, put it away. Find a way to leave it behind so that you do not have the ability to check it when you get bored or feel the need to shift your focus during a task. This will feel alien to you at first, but eventually, that hour without your device will allow you to get more done in short bursts than you were getting done in the entire day.
Break Tasks Into Time Chunks
If you find that you only can devote 10-20 minutes per task without feeling overwhelmed, break tasks down into smaller time chunks. If you allow yourself 20 minutes to complete something, you will be able to focus on getting it done efficiently. The time limit will encourage you to complete tasks and might even become a fun game of beat-the-clock!
There are lots of ideas and strategies out there to help you with time management. Find what works for you, but don't beat yourself up if you don't do it perfectly or you fail sometimes. We are all human and from failing we are encouraged to try again!