THE IMPORTANCE OF TIME MANAGEMENT
As women we often feel like we are pulled in so many directions due to the fact that we wear many different ‘hats’ over the course of a day – that of a daughter, sibling, mother, friend, wife, business owner, employee, chef, caregiver, and the list goes on. It can regularly feel like you are a ‘juggler’ with many balls in the air all at the same time.
Another thing women have a tendency to do is to turn on themselves at times when things don’t quite go the right way with everything they need to do. However, we should all remember that in most cases we are doing our best and usually that we are doing a pretty damn good job too! No one is a superwoman 100% of the time.
We all face time pressures and even myself as an organising expert & academic life coach, I often say I’d just love another hour or two some days just to get something done. Unfortunately, though time is finite and this is not possible – what is possible though is to ensure we manage the time we do have as effectively as we can. It is also extremely important to ensure that we still manage to find time for the little things we enjoy even though our schedules can be hectic and personal time can become a rarity.
To assist with all the various ‘hats’ we wear it is crucial to be a good time manager which in turn then links very closely with our level of productivity.
Here are my 16 tips to assist busy women with managing time both professionally and personally and in turn increasing productivity:
1. Using the right diary/calendar that works for you, your business and/or your family – this could be either a hard copy diary, a whiteboard planner, a wall planner/calendar, an electronic diary or even one of the many Apps that are available these days. In order to manage time, one needs to be able to see time and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using something to assist you.
By using a diary that all the family or team is across it will make it much easier to know what is on and when. It is important that when using a diary that you note everything in it and those other family/team members can also access and use it. There are pros and cons to using either a hard copy or electronic diary but the important thing to keep in mind is whatever you use is that it works for everyone it needs too!
2. Use to do lists – often as women we have many different things on the go at once and sometimes think we will be able to remember everything. Unfortunately, our minds can only take so much and it is much easier on us mentally if we don’t try and retain it all. It is much better to declutter your mind by keeping to do lists.
You might like to keep physical to do lists or have these electronically in a device or an App (there are many great Apps available today so check some out and find something that suits you). Useful to do lists include having different ones within – for instance you might like to consider breaking it down into daily, weekly and longer term projects.
3. Take the time to plan – this is really important and by doing this you are more likely to save yourself time in the long run. With a plan you know what you need to achieve and don’t waste time having to work out what it is you need to do all the time.
I usually suggest to my clients that a Sunday night is a good time to prepare for the week ahead and if you have a family then having a meeting (doesn’t need to be long) with partners and older children in particular to ensure all activities are covered for the week ahead. This way no one can complain they didn’t know either!
4. Set boundaries for family time and personal time – women are often guilty of trying to just get that one more thing done which encroaches on one’s family or personal time. It is however important to have times where you do switch off from work both physically and mentally for both you and your family.
5. Stop multitasking – often as women we think we can juggle many different things at once. Whilst at times it can seem possible, multitasking is really a bit of a myth and we are much better and more effective if we concentrate on one thing at a time and get that done before moving on to the next task.
6. Prioritise – knowing your priorities is another vital step when it comes to managing your time. In particular, it is worth taking the time (as mentioned in step 3) to plan so you know what things actually need to be done and what ones can actually wait.
One technique I often suggest is to have 3 items on your daily list – what are the 3 things that you must get done today? Then if you get through them then you can add others. Some days you may or may not achieve more than the 3 things and other days you might get through a whole lot more. It is important to recognize that either way it’s actually okay!
7. Don’t seek perfection/let go of what doesn’t really matter – as women one trap we can at times find ourselves in is trying to lead the so-called ‘perfect life’ and be seen to be in control of all those ‘juggling balls’. Sometimes on a work front, we can also get caught up in the finer details of something when just completing it can often be enough. Often in seeking perfection, we end up not being able to get the things we want to get done as we strive too hard for everything to be perfect rather than sometimes just saying it is good enough and it will do. Keep in mind that ‘done’ can be better than ‘perfect’ on occasions.
It is important to again take the time to determine what you can live with and what is essential in your eyes and that of your family to get done i.e. Can you live with the floors not being mopped every week or having all the beds made daily? Please note there are no right and wrongs here and you need to determine what your essentials and non-essential things are both on a professional and personal level.
8. Seek help/outsource and delegate – sometimes we again try to do it all when really it can be useful to ask for help from time to time, particularly during times of illness or business. Don’t be afraid to ask, as you will be surprised that others are more than happy to assist you. No doubt you will have the opportunity to repay the favour at times to assist them too. Why not look at sharing drop-offs and pick-ups with other mums for school or for after-school activities.
In terms of outsourcing and delegating there are no doubt some things that you actually don’t have to necessarily do yourself if you don’t have the time that can be outsourced or delegated to others. This can include administration tasks for work or on a personal level – cleaning, walking the dog, doing the shopping and even the laundry.
9. Have a ‘plan B’ – it can be useful to think about having ‘plan B’s’ for those times or things you are trying to do that don’t actually work out the way you had planned. Sometimes it is useful to think of these prior to doing something rather than putting pressure on yourself to come up with options or ideas when you are really busy and time poor.
For example, it can be useful to have a list of people you can contact if you get really stuck when you can’t leave work to pick up the children from daycare or school or your babysitter can’t make it as planned.
10. Take breaks – women sometimes just try and power through long to-do lists in order to just get it all done. Whilst at times this can be possible, on other occasions we can be more productive by having short regular breaks.
11. Learn to say NO – this is something many of us as women we can struggle with. I know that I was very heavily involved in kindergarten, school and sporting clubs at one stage and fortunately I realised that I had to learn to say NO to some things as I just didn’t have the time to do it all. It can be easy to over commit and volunteer our time before we actually even realise we are doing it! Being aware of your time in terms of what you do and don’t have time for can be useful in learning to say NO.
12. Weed out distractions – these days we are surrounded by distractions and most of what seems to take up both our time and energy can be our smart-phones, email notifications (on both our computers and phones) and in particular social media. It is so important to be able to manage and disconnect with this as it can be a huge time waster. Be aware that when you get distracted it can take you an average of 15-20 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. Think about how much time you could be saving by eliminating such distractions before they occur.
13. Start your day a bit earlier – this can be a really effective way of just gaining a bit of time to make your day simpler. Even just 5-15 minutes more can make all the difference sometimes and take the pressure off both at work and at home. Why not give it a go and set the alarm a few minutes earlier tomorrow and see if it helps?
14. Put everything in its place – a lot of disorganisation, clutter and feeling overwhelm many of my clients experience, both in a work and home environment, is as a result of items/belongings not having a home or if they do not taking the time to put them away.
Often this is how clutter piles up and what would have been a very quick task in putting something away can become a larger task that you don’t really have time to tackle. A few examples of this include:
- Paperwork – rather than having multiple piles of paper, files and notes on one’s desk it might be better to plan the time to regularly file away those you need to keep. Otherwise you can find yourself wasting time looking for things over and over sifting through piles rather than putting your hands on it quite quickly.
- The laundry – when it is clean and dry take the 5-10 minutes to fold and put the clean items away rather than letting them pile up where you then add the next lot of clean clothes on top and then the pile just becomes bigger and more overwhelming.
It really does help by putting items away where they belong, as it can save you more time in the long run!
15. Cook extra meals – this is something you don’t actually have to do specifically but rather when you make a meal like pasta sauce or something else why not just increase the quantity. This way you will create a few extra meals you can add to the freezer for those times when you either run out of time to buy supplies or to cook a meal. Sometimes this can also assist by having that bit of extra food that you can take to work for lunches.
16. Prepare the night before – preparing the night before, by either working out what you need to do the following day or by putting out clothes or making lunches, will take the pressure off the next morning and make it a bit easier. Try and get the whole family on board for this, as it is a useful habit to develop for everyone, particularly children!
Finally, I’d like to highlight whilst you might be trying to do it all, please do remember one of the most important tips in that you also need to factor in some ‘ME’ time as well for your own sanity as well as that of everyone around you. Finding that ‘ME’ time for yourself is crucial. If you fall in a heap, then quite often so can everyone else!
I trust some of these tips will assist you with the many juggling balls you no doubt have in the air all at once. Maybe even just pick out a couple and give them a go – what have you got to lose?
About Amanda Lecaude
Amanda Lecaude is an organising expert and academic life coach who loves being able to help people – her clients – get organised. She sees the difference it makes in their everyday lives, particularly families, just to have a way to create some TIME, SPACE and BALANCE! She is also very passionate about equipping school students with organising skills for life to maximise greater results primarily in secondary school and limit the overwhelm and frustration for both them and their parents. To find out more please visit her website www.organisingyou.com.au