Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Time Management and Me

I wasn't born with that gene. The time management one. The one that seems to come naturally to so many people. Instead, I fight a daily battle with how to spend my time wisely and productively. Over time (no pun intended) I've found five time-management principles that work best for me.
  • Choose your 3 Most Important Tasks. This has changed my days! I had made lists and I had prioritized my lists, but I rarely marked things off my lists. But when I found Simple Mom and her Daily Docket, it was like the light came on. I tried it, and now I fill out my DD every night (sometimes not till after breakfast in the morning), thinking of the 3 things that absolutely must be done that day. When those 3 are done, I know I've done what had to be done, and the rest of the things on my list just seem to flow right along. Some days I still don't get everything on the entire list done, but most days I do get those 3 MITs done. And I love it.
  • Set a timer. Especially on days when I have a lot of unrelated tasks to do, setting the timer for 15, 20, or 30 minutes is a lifesaver for me. When I know that I only have 15 minutes to do a task, I will focus on that task and get it done. Otherwise, I find other things to distract my attention, and then nothing gets done. For big jobs, like sewing or reading, 30 minutes is a good amount of time to make some progress but not get so involved that it overtakes my day and nothing else gets done. Sometimes I'll have two sessions. It all depends on what else needs to be done for the day. Setting a timer is very flexible; it fits what you have to do and the time you have to do it.
  • Have routines. My morning routine alone has simplified my days and saved me time. I get up, shower and dress to my shoes, hair, and makeup. This frees my time for the rest of the day to do whatever comes up. My evening routine - which I have not mastered as well as my morning routine - prepares me for the next day. Routines help me get the little maintenance things out of the way, making room for the bigger things in my day. I hate playing catch-up when I don't do my routines!
  • Do it now. I am the Queen of Procrastination. If I can put it off, I will. I've learned, though, that doing things right away saves time in the long run. Washing or rinsing the dishes as I cook saves time after the meal. Wiping crumbs off the counter when I make a sandwich saves time when I'm finished with lunch. Putting away my makeup as soon as I'm finished with it saves time when it's time to wipe the sink and counter. Making the bed when I first get up saves time later when I come into the room to get the laundry and realize the bed hasn't been made and I have to stop to make it. Doing it now keeps my momentum flowing so I don't have to constantly stop to take care of little things before I can do the bigger thing.
  • Work ahead. I learned this principle working in the kitchen at church camp. When breakfast was over, we would begin working on lunch, buttering buns, shredding lettuce, cooking meat; we even did some work toward supper right after breakfast. All this work ahead of time made meal times for 80 people a breeze! Applied in our 5-person home, I'm finding that if I chop the veggies, thaw the meat, and make the salad, when it's time to cook I just throw it all together easily - and I even have time to wash the dishes and wipe the counters as I go. Every small thing I can get done ahead of time saves me time when time is pressured.
Time management is an everyday battle for me. I haven't arrived, and probably never will, but these five principles have been the biggest help in using my time wisely and productively. And when I do that, I can relax, knowing that I have looked well to the ways of my household.
What things have you learned that help you manage your time better? Do you use a schedule? Do you have routines? Does time management come easily for you?
Photo by John-Morgan

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