Time Management Strategies

Building time management strategies is similar to planning a budget. Just as the goal of a budget is to put you in control of your money, your goal in time management is to regain control of your time. The first step in forming time management strategies is to analyze how you spend your time.

For one week, list everything you do and the approximate time it takes. At the end of the week, you’ll see how you “spent” your time. Now you’re ready to begin planning. Humans are creatures of habit and chances are you’ll find you adhere to some sort of daily routine.

Examine your routine and determine where you can make changes. Include all of your daily tasks, scheduling them at their usual times and allowing ample time to complete them. If you’re normally five minutes late, schedule your time so that you are able to leave ten minutes earlier. At first, this may mean starting your day 15 minutes earlier, but effective time management strategies soon put you back in control of time that used to fall through the cracks.

Frequently time management brings a picture to mind of a daily planner with every minute plotted from the time your alarm clock sounds until the time you crawl into bed. However, time management experts suggest that you planning only 50% of your time leaves you time to relax as well as time to cope with the unexpected.

Create a To Do List
After you’ve analyzed your time, begin planning by creating a To Do List for tomorrow. Divide the list into classes.

  1. Today’s schedule or high priority activities that you must complete today. Be sure to include personal appointments and social obligations like doctor’s appointments. Just as important are activities like promised family outings or playtimes with children.
  2. Projects with a deadline beyond today (tomorrow, this week, this month, etc.)
  3. When I get around to it. (i.e. clean out the garage, the closets)
Your first inclination may be to put all small projects in the first category, but remember the first part of your list is for things you need to accomplish. You’ll also optimize your time by including some small projects in number two or number three. Secondly, prioritize each of the three sections of your To Do List, listing items first by deadline (e.g. needs to be done in the a.m, p.m. or exact time or date). List Class 3 projects by their order of importance.

Class 1: Today’s Schedule
Start planning your day using your routine as a guide. Pencil in times for Class 1 projects, making sure you give each one a generous block of time. If you estimate a job will take 15 minutes, give yourself half an hour to complete it. If you estimate it will take an hour, give yourself an hour and a half. If “today’s projects” are few, fill in the rest of your day with Class 2 projects. Be flexible. As you work through your daily plan, if you finish a task ahead of schedule, either move on to your next scheduled task or work on part of an unscheduled Class 2 project. If a routine break is the next thing on your schedule, reward yourself with an early break, still allowing only the normal amount of time to give yourself an early start on your next task. Also, take advantage of multi-task opportunities. Work on a page of Friday’s report while today’s report is printing. Refill your coffee cup when you pick up the fax from the office fax machine. Fold a load of laundry while the potatoes are boiling. When new things “crop up”, either put them in a free block of time or add them to part two or part three of your list. Also, remember to leave 10 or 15 minutes at the end of your schedule to make your To Do List for tomorrow.

Class 2: Projects With a Deadline
Whenever possible, split up projects with a deadline. For instance, laundry needs to be done this week, but you can divide it into loads and finish it over several days. At work, long reports can be broken into pages. If you finish a task from today’s schedule with time to spare, use the “extra time” to complete part of a Class 2 project. Throw tonight’s load of laundry into the washer or work on a page of the report that’s due on Friday. Cross off any parts of finished projects to avoid repetition and to help you see what you have accomplished as well as to stay focused on what you have left to do.

Class 3: When I Get A Round To-It
As you did with Projects With a Deadline, divide larger projects into smaller tasks whenever you can. For instance, you might want to detail the inside of your vehicle. Washing windows, cleaning the steering wheel, console, dash, upholstery and carpets can all be done separately. At first you may find “round to-its” are a rare breed. In that case, you may want to schedule a Class 3 project or part of one into your day. However, as you become more organized, you’ll be hanging “round to-its” on the wall like trophies, especially if you take advantage or our Time Management Tips.

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