Monday, May 30, 2011

Time Management

I'm just going to touch briefly on the topic of time management today, as I know a lot of you may be interested. I'll try to keep it simple for today as I (very ironically!) don't have enough time to go into great detail. It's a topic that I get asked about from various busy people. I am not a time management expert- I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you today.

I think time management can be broken down into a few very simplified steps-
  • Clearly know what it is that you wish to spend more time on
  • Have a good look at how you DO spend your time and do some prioritising
  • Devise a plan that suits you and your immediate family; and lastly
  • Set this plan into motion.

So, what is it that you feel like you don't have enough time for? Is your goal to spend more valuable time with your family; more on the garden; more on de-cluttering your home; or more "ME" time reading books and relaxing? Whatever it is, you may feel that you don't devote enough time for it, and these feelings often lead to guilt, which can make you depressed. Depression can be exasperated with feelings of denial or avoidance; and guilt can creep back in when you think back to what you wish you could be doing more of- and on it goes in a vicious cycle. All of these feelings can prevent you from making progress towards achieving your goals, and of course make you very unhappy.

But the problem can be solved. Perhaps you could set aside a whole afternoon (take the phone off the hook, clear your diary, say "No" to commitments), and set the time for yourself to work out your time management. I think a couple of hours without distractions would help you to clearly work out your thoughts and to set up a system for yourself. If you find its too difficult to do this on your own, it might be worthwhile (if you can afford it) to get some professional assistance. Do you know Marcia's blog Organising Queen? I highly recommend you check this out, as Marcia is an expert on time management (unlike me).

Make a list if what it is you want to spend more time on, say, in the next month. Its a good idea to do a short term goal here, otherwise things can get very tricky and you will spend far too much time on working out what it is you want to do with your time (Phew what a mouthful!!) So its best to keep things simple, and this will ensure your success.

So your list might be-
  • Spend more time with family
  • Finish the sewing project
  • Read a new book
Next, have a good think about what it is you ARE spending your time on. Do you spend too many hours in front of the computer, as I am doing lately?? Or are you working long and demanding hours at work (been there, done that). One of mine and my husband's jobs was at a luxury lodge in the middle of the Aussie bush, on top of a mountain. We were short staffed, but very busy; so we were forced to work around 80 - 90 hours per week, for a while. It was full-on and we had NO time whatsoever to do anything other than sleep, work, sleep.  We knew it wouldn't go on like that for long, so it was ok. But my list of "What I would like to do More Of" grew very big- and I had to spread out the Things to Do over the next few months, a little here, a little there. I was only able to complete my goals a long time after I'd stopped working those crazy hours- but I got there in the end. If you are working ridiculously long hours, is this feasible long term? Can you see an end in sight? If not, should you consider a career change? Personally I don't think its healthy to work very long hours if you are unhappy, constantly stressed and never feel like you can get anything else done, because of work. Yes its true, I am not exactly what you would call ambitious- I doubt we will ever be rich because I like my free time too much.

Perhaps you find you are at one of those stages where there are a lot of TV programs you like to watch, and that takes up a lot of your time. I go in and out with TV- sometimes I watch waaaayyyyy too many soapies, other times hardly any TV at all. For me I have to discipline myself, set myself perhaps 1 hour of TV per day; most of us would have a digi-recorder, you can always record your fave program and watch it another day (after your sewing project is completed?).

I think when one thing is taking up a lot of your time and preventing you from achieving your goals, and making you depressed or anxious; its a good idea to set a time limit for yourself and be very strict. A great idea is to set a timer- I use my phone clock, you could also use an egg timer for example. Set it for 1 hour- when it beeps, stop doing that thing. Turn the computer off (after saving what you were working on!). If you are writing, and you are on a 'flow'- jot down the ideas you were thinking of in note point- so you can pick up where you left off, tomorrow.

Is your entire day taken up looking after your family?? You rise early, make breakfast, pack lunches, drive to school, grocery shop and run errands all day long, pick up from school, drive to children's football practise, drive to children's ballet class, make dinner, bath and bed children, iron, clean, fall into bed, sleep 5 hrs or less, get up next day and do the same thing again. The weekends are spent shopping for presents for school friends' birthday parties, baking cakes, going to more sports practise, doing all of the washing etc, etc.

I think its easy for mothers in particular, and of course, dads (really trying not to be sexist here!) to get into the routine of putting everyone else first; but not only do they put them first, they put them "ONLY". Does that make sense? You only do things for others, never for yourself. If this sounds like you, do you think you could delegate some of those tasks that keep you so busy? Who can help you? Can you organise car pooling with other parents for sports activities, teach the kids how to make their own breakfast, make a rule for the whole household of only 1 hr TV per day? If you hear "I'm bored!!!" after this hour has lapsed, great! "Well in that case, please help me to fold this washing and then we can do the dishes together!". Also, as we all know, it can be very difficult for us to say "No" to (outside of the house) commitments, because you don't want to let the person down. But sometimes, you need to be selfish and put yourself first. So, say "No"! And then let go of the guilt- guilt is the least useful emotion and often the most soul-destroying.

I don't have kids yet- our first is due in 5.5 weeks (Cant wait!!). So I know I don't really have the right to talk about such things yet- I am just drawing on my experiences with busy-busy Mums and Dads who have personally told me how it is for them, and have asked me for help to give them "More time in my day".

OK so where were we- we are now up to "Do some serious prioritising". You can do this in list form, numbering the items from 1 to 10 for e.g., where 1 is the most important. Or you could just do this mentally; you know what it is that you want more time for. I find lists very useful when I am working out my time schedule, I am a visual person so I need to be able to see it in front of me.

This is turning out to be quite a long post, so I am going to leave it here for now. Please share with me your thoughts (if Blogger allows you to comment- what is with that??) I hope I have made sense here, with the few ideas I've shared with you. I'll summarise with this-
  • WHAT is it you wish you had more time for
  • WHEN is a realistic time to complete it
  • HOW are you spending your time? Prioritise!
  • WHO can help you achieve these goals
  • SAY NO to commitments that you don't really have time for
  • BE selfish- put yourself first for a change!
  • LET GO of guilt
  • ACHIEVE your goals! :-)
I hope you have a wonderful week. I'm now going to turn off the computer and work on number 3 on my To-Do list - my baby's crochet blanket. Its coming along very slowly but surely :-)


  1. Dear Sarndra

    What an excellent post (and you say you're not an expert!) and thanks so much for the shout-out.

    I agree and often work with clients for 2 hours to sort out some real and pressing issues, and then we have weekly or biweekly coaching to keep them accountable and give support.

    I am totally like you - I LOVE MY FREE TIME - so I jealously guard my boundaries and revisit what I'm doing All The Time!

    Enjoy these last 5.5 weeks without the baby. you'll dream about it afterwards :)

    When is the baby due? My twins' birthday is 7 July....

  2. What a Great Post.
    Through work I was lucky enough to attend a Time Management course and prioritising was a big part of it. Not only making a to do list but also prioritising it into what I HAVE to get done and what I would like to get done has really helped me. The egg timer is a great idea too, I use one when doing my cleaning!
    Pink Fairy Vicky x x

  3. A wonderful post and I tried on my Ordinary People Series to work on this issues as well, I however did not have enough readers to continue the series..Anyway...You, may find this assessment tool interesting..
    After taking the test...It totally explains how each of us are unique with dealing with people and circumstances...

  4. Hi Marcia- thanks so much for your lovely comment! Gosh that really means a lot to me to have an expert praise my post- thank you :-)I'm looking forward to learning more on the this topic one day when I have time to go back to studying. Our little boy is due on the 11/7, very close to your twins' birthday! Both Shane and I have a feeling he may come earlier though- he is soooo active it already feels like he wants to burst out the side and skip away! :-)Yes I am trying to just enjoy these last few weeks of peace and quiet, sleeping when I want to and watching a whole movie and having quality time with Shane. Thanks again for your comments and for visiting my blog

    Hi Vicky
    Thanks for visiting lovely, yes prioritising is so important, and even knowing how to proritise can be tricky. "Do i use my heart or my head to know whats important"... Love that you use a timer for cleaning- its amazing what you can get done in a few minutes hey!

  5. Dear Blessings,
    Thank you so much for your feedback- always much appreciated :-) and for the link, the series you started sounds interesting. I think I am going to find that test very useful.
    I'm so happy to hear your home wasnt affected in your recent storms. A very happy birthday to your daughter :)