How to improve time management skills
I am still awestruck sometimes by friends who manage marriages, families, nonprofits, professional careers, and volunteer activities on days when I can’t even find the time to buy chewing gum from the Walgreens 5 minutes away from my house.
In last week’s blog post, (which you can read here), I stressed the importance of having vision and discussed one thing you can do to keep your goals in front of you as a way to keep you focused and motivate you toward your dreams.
But this is only half of the battle. The other half? Time-freakin’-management.
You see, the secret to squeezing every millisecond out of life that you can is not really about adding more time to your day—it is about wisely budgeting the time you do have. We all get 24 hours after all, right? So what do successful people do with their time that makes them so…well, successful?
First, I want to drive home this point: whether or not you can successfully manage your time has little to do with how big your to-do list is and everything to do with how much you care about achieving your dreams.
Years ago when I was meeting with a life coach, one of the things we discussed was my apathy for my work. Through a series of probing questions, together we found that my apathy came from my lack of energy; my lack of energy came from my lack of eating (I only ate once a day back then); and lastly my lack of eating came from my frustration with God, with my life, and with myself. Essentially, I just didn’t care enough to take care of myself.
The same holds true with our time management skills. We all have the ability to make the most of each day—but you have to care enough about succeeding, advancing, flourishing, and really seeing your dreams come to pass.
Back in the early Spring, I was trying to finish the last leg of my novel. I could’ve easily succumbed to the excuse that my brain was too fried by work to even look at the manuscript (an excuse I’d used many times before), but eventually I cultivated a deep enough love for my dream of getting published and that turned into me waking up at 5AM every morning to squeeze in some writing time.
Again, you have to care enough about what you want to achieve! Time management isn’t for the half-hearted, the faint, or the excuse-makers.
So if you’re ready to ditch the sorry reasons as to why you don’t have time for this and that, then read on!
One of the biggest traps for ambitious dreamers like you and me who have a bagillion goals is that we tend to overwhelm ourselves with our to-do lists. I remember times when I’d jot down 30 different things I wanted to achieve in one day! This will only lead to burn out and stress. Instead, follow the three steps below:
1) Segmentation. As often as you need to, scribble down all the things you have to and want to do—from simple things like mailing Grandma Lucy her birthday gift to huge things like going back to school for your Master’s or starting yoga or cooking classes.
Next, it’s time to segment. Grab yourself a blank sheet of paper (or feel free to use a giant poster board) and write out the following segments: This Week, This Month, Three Months, Six Months, Sometime This Year. Then put each of your items into one of these categories.
This is a method I learned from my mentor Marie Forleo, and it has proven EXTREMELY helpful to me. Now, instead of piling every single ambition into one day, I allow myself to have laser focus on things based on how time-sensitive they are.
2) Make or Break’s. Another thing you want to do is decide on your make or break’s. Basically, if a lazy day pops up, you’re not going to agonize over lost time so long as you were able to accomplish your make or break’s. My own make or break’s (the things I absolutely must do on my days off in order to feel accomplished) are: spirituality (yoga/meditation/prayer), health & wellness (exercise), reading, writing, spending time with friends & family, and teaching (through my blog, live events, or webinars). I have 8 make or break’s total but these are the ones that will 100% fulfill me and make me feel good even if it’s been a somewhat lazy day. So compose a list of your own make or break’s and keep them before you.
3) Use Every Possible Moment. Look for free time in your day the way you used to look for spare change in couches as a kid (and maybe still d0 –hey, I aint mad atchya!). I wanted to listen to teachings during the day and found that my 30-minute commute to work would be a great opportunity to pop in a CD. Since I have a DVR, I sometimes simply record a show and later watch it just so that I can fast-forward through the commercials and save myself 15 minutes. Think about minor adjustments you can make in your own day that can purchase you some time here and there.
Time management, at the end of the day, is really just a matter of shifting your thinking. How much do you care about your dreams? How much do you really want to achieve your goals? In the comments below, share your own time management tips or one of the three suggestions above that you plan on implementing this week!