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