by Marc McCallister

If you are reading this, you may be like many others; you feel overwhelmed by the demands for your time. The relentless struggle to balance work appointments, kids’ activities, doctors’ appointments and finances leave little to no time for exercise, wellness and quality personal time. Even worse, you are constantly playing catch up to complete tasks and your ability to follow through on long-term goals is average at best.

Time management is the primary skill that increases an individual’s ability to stay focused and juggle life’s stresses and distractions. Time management is the process by which an individual decides how to divide up their time to complete tasks and specific activities. With the advent of computers, e-mail, smartphones and wearable technology, the ability to control interruptions and distractions have decreased significantly. While the internet and new technologies have created opportunities for efficiency and communication, the number of distractions we are forced to navigate has increased exponentially. In some instances, the capacity of the new technologies (e.g. social media and e-mail) exceed our physical capabilities to engage and respond in a meaningful way.

Here are a few ideas to consider when thinking about “time management” and how you can reclaim control over your busy life. None of the recommendations are meant to be a cure-all. However, if you can implement a few of them, you may improve your sense of purpose and better navigate life, even during busy times.

Do not start the day by looking at a smartphone, or any screen for that matter. Avoid e-mail and social media for the first 30 minutes of awake time. This will be very hard: nearly impossible at first. Instead, spend the first minutes of each day thinking about the tasks and commitments you wish to complete. As a part of this exercise, spend time visualizing the day. See yourself moving through the day from start to finish. Visualize how you want to spend your time and accomplish meaningful tasks.

Maintain a prepared To-Do List. The benefit of having a prepared To-Do List is that you never waste time trying to think of all the things you need to get done. Without a list, time and energy are wasted trying to remember what needs to be done and what is most important. Once you create the list, prioritize tasks as best as you can. Lastly, separate your To-Do List into three buckets: (1) Emergencies/ASAP; (2) Shallow Work (<10 min); and (3) Meaningful Tasks/Large Projects. Review and re-prioritize the items on this list frequently.

Keep a calendar. Time management is improved with routine and repetition. In addition to recording appointments and deadlines in a calendar, it is equally important to schedule blocks of time for meaningful tasks and self-reflection. Discipline will be required to protect these blocks of time from interruption. The routine and repetition of keeping a daily calendar will help set healthy boundaries and increase your sense of purpose as you work to complete tasks.

Be selfish with your time – Learn to say “No.” Think twice before you say yes. If you agree to something, be aware of whether the commitment helps to accomplish an item on the
To-Do List, or whether it will detract from your goals and suck time and energy. The goal of staying on track and achieving a good life balance is to eliminate or simplify the demands for the finite time you have each day.

Own the moment. On days when you feel like you are drowning and you don’t know how you can accomplish everything that needs to get done, slow down and be present in the moment. Take control. Take action and give your best effort on the most important task at hand. By owning the moment, you force yourself to focus. You also minimize the chance that you will misuse your time and allow yourself to be distracted by unimportant matters.