work smarter, not harder: tips for successful time management

Have you heard the expression, “work smarter, not harder?”  Today, I’m going to share some tips for doing just that.  Whether you are in corporate America, running your own business, managing a household or some combination of these, you have no doubt felt the burden of  ”doing it all.”   First, let me encourage you with this great quote that a friend shared on Facebook recently.

Why would I bring up insecurity in a post about time management?  Because insecurity inevitably creeps into our psyche the moment we feel like we can’t keep up.  The good news is that you don’t need to keep up with anyone but you.  How do you do that?

clutter, desk, work space, time management

Decluttering

First, we need to clear the clutter.  It’s difficult to accomplish any task with a cluttered workspace and more importantly a cluttered mind.

~A great way to clear your mind is to write down everything that is preoccupying your thoughts.  This is not a list of priorities or even a to-do list.  It’s simply a mind clearing exercise, so write down everything: phone calls, appointments, errands, chores, projects, relationships, commitments, in no particular order.

~Clear your inbox every night.  Go through your email and filter each one through this list: delete, do, delegate, and defer

If it is a junk email, delete it.

If it requires a quick action on your part, take the minute or so to respond.

If someone else in your household or job is better equipped to respond to the email, forward it.

If the email will require more than a minute or so to respond, save it to a folder to address when you have more time.

You might consider creating separate email accounts for work and home.

~ Organize your work space.  First determine exactly what purpose your work space will serve.  Then, set it up for maximum productivity by 1) getting rid of anything doesn’t belong and 2) making sure all necessary supplies are on hand. Now your creative juices can flow freely!

 

Time Wasters

We are all guilty of distractions and these distractions directly affect your productivity.  As you go through your day, pay attention to those things that tend to get you off task.  For me, it’s my smart phone and the computer.  If I check my phone at every ding and alert, then I can’t focus on the task at hand.  If taking ten minutes to check email turns into two hours, I’ve lost valuable time.

As I suggested in my Mother’s Day Out series, we will live unfulfilled, unhappy lives if we don’t live according to our priorities.  I encourage you to take time to think about what is most important to YOU.  Then, determine how much time and energy you need to delegate to those priorities.  And ask yourself, “do I need to be the one to carry this out?”  In other words, what can you delegate?  Do you need to give up some responsibilities to make more time for your priorities?

I have a friend who teaches Kindergarten, runs a side business, and cares for her two small children, one of whom has serious health complications requiring several hours of physical therapy each week.  As she went into this school year, she re-evaluated her priorities against her time and energy.  She wants a home cooked meal on the table at least three times a week.  Realistically, she doesn’t have the time, and in her mind, the skill.  So, she hired someone to deliver home cooked meals to her home.  She’s also considering hiring a laundry service. Taking advantage of these services frees up her time to be better spent elsewhere.  She’s happier for it and so is her family.

schedule, calendar, time blocking, time management

Time Blocking

Now that you have determined your priorities, you can make time for them.  Take advantage of the tools available to you to organize your time.  I mentioned a few resources in a former post about time management.  I like to use the iCal on my computer which is pictured above.   Each area of responsibility is color-coded for easy reference, then given an appropriate amount of time.

One of the skills I learned when I worked as a waitress was to consolidate.  In the restaurant business, that meant making the most of your trips to the kitchen while taking care of your section rather than going back and forth for each table.  In life, it means organizing your time so that you aren’t all over town running errands, or making multiple trips to the grocery store.  How many of you find yourself in Wal-Mart every other day?  My hand is raised.

If I take time to look at the “given” responsibilities in my week: daughter’s tumbling, volunteer on Wednesdays, etc. then I can plan around that.  For example, while my daughter is in tumbling, I visit the shopping center next door to get what I need from Target, T.J. Maxx and Office Depot. ;)

Whatever the task is, be fully present.  This is where I struggle.   When 4:30 p.m. rolls around and my daughter walks through the door, I have difficulty shutting down the computer, putting away the camera or stopping mid-project.  We need to give ourselves permission to leave things unfinished.  No one gets it all done in a day. We need to resolve to make the most of our time, and then pick up where we left off the next day.

 

Self

You may have noticed that “personal day” was blocked out on my schedule.  This is the single most important tip I have for you today.  You must take care of yourself if you expect to accomplish anything.  Start with the basics like getting adequate sleep ( my personal downfall), eating right, exercising, nurturing your spiritual life and emotional well-being.  You cannot tackle that to-do list if you don’t have the energy for it.

Also, be sure not to over-load your week with all work and no play.  I say work hard, play hard!  I’ll leave you with one final thought,

“Your value  is not measured by your productivity”  ~ Sharon Hines

until next time,

Sharon

Disclosure: These tips are a compilation of my own life experience coupled with training provided by Jessica Herrin, founder and CEO of Stella & Dot.

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After 17 years in an elementary classroom, Mrs. Hines retired from teaching to pursue her passions: decorating, writing and homemaking. While her formal education is in teaching, she discovered her talent for design at a young age and is a self-taught decorator. Mrs. Hines' DIY spirit has earned her appearances on the show Deals which airs on the Live Well Network. She continues to teach and inspire on her popular Lifestyle blog, Mrs. Hines' Class. Homemaking is Mrs. Hines' first love. So, when she isn't decorating or writing, you can find her at home watching television with Mr. Hines or trying to keep up with her teenaged daughter.

Comments

  1. Fantastic advise. I do some of these things, but certainly NOT all. My problem is saying yes to too many things. I always hate to disappoint anyone therefore, sure I can do that, I can be there I can help you, etc. I need to stop being a yes girl and get tough:)

  2. Sharon, I love this. I’ve bookmarked your post to come back and read again, and will probably re-read a few times. Your quote at the end says it all. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post.

  3. I love all of the information! As always I thank you! My mama worked at what was know many years ago as Union Carbide. They would ask for suggestions to go in the suggestion box. My mama said that quote and the company ran with it as a slogan….”Work Smarter, not harder!” Just wanted to share that little tid bit.
    Dolly

  4. My biggest struggle is stopping in the middle of a project. I will work, too late, and past tired to finish something!

  5. I’m so glad that I could share, Miriam. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to help out my Blogtalk family!

  6. Awesome post- love your tips. I know I can for sure benefit from doing some of these things! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Tami @ Curb Alert! says:

    Great advice. Thank you for sharing!
    Tami

  8. Thank you, Courtney! I’m still working on putting much of it into practice myself. It’s a work in progress. Isn’t everything?

  9. Thanks, Tami! “Do as I say, not as I do” comes to mind. ;) But it is certainly a goal!

  10. Great post, you have it all together my friend. Thank you for sharing xo

  11. Thanks so much for letting me share this fabulous post Sharon! I seriously need to get organized – I tend to move from room to room with my laptop, papers everywhere. And your calendar is fabulous – love the color coded (and that you always have a lunch break)!
    Kelly

  12. Thank YOU, Kelly for sharing my post. I tend to carry my laptop into the living room and clutter up the coffee table. I’m trying to get into the habit of using the desk. I focus much better there. While I was still teaching, lunch time was essential not only to quiet my growling stomach, but for mental health too. I’m not as good at taking a lunch break not that I stay at home, but it’s a daily goal.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] My mind has been cluttered with reminders, questions, doubts and to-do lists.  One sure-fire way to clear your mind is to write it all down, in no particular order, just write it down.  Clearing your mind is the first step to successful time management. [...]

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