I know that time management is not everyone’s forte. Some people are infinitely better at it than others, and many of us default to being busy instead of being productive.
But life is more about being busy for the sake of being busy. I’m working on training myself to stop replying to, “How are you doing?” with any sentence that involves the word “busy.”
Instead, I’m trying to be productive, work towards my goals and value my own time – all at the same time and not at the expense of each other.
Trust me, this has been a huge pivot for me, and I’m still working on it.
1. Identify your goals and priorities.
The first and most important step towards ultimate time management and respecting your own time is identifying what your goals and priorities are.
This is not the first time I’ve preached on this, and it won’t be the last. Erin Falconer, the author of my favorite productivity book, How To Get Sh*t Done, recommends that you set three goals for a year.
One should be a career goal; one should be a relationships goal; one should be a personal goal. If you have to have multiple goals in one bucket, it should never be more than two.
2. Set real work hours for yourself.
In this new world of flexible work hours and working for yourself, it can be easy to toss out the traditional 9-5 workday.
I’m all for flexibility and working when you feel the most productive, but don’t be so quick to rule out the 9-5 workday completely just because you can.
When you know your job ends at 5 p.m., it’s a lot easier to go home and make dinner, exercise, spend time with your friends and significant others and family and make time for yourself. When you have no set “begin” and “end” time to your workday, your workday suddenly becomes all day.
3. Make yourself take breaks.
Marathons are great for long-distance runners.
Marathons are not great for your workday.
Take a dang break, friend. I love to power hour from when I get to work in the morning until my meetings start at 11 a.m. However, I always make myself take 15 minutes before those meetings start to fill up my cup (figuratively and literally), use the restroom, stretch my legs and maybe even see the outside world.
Working all day with no break is no good for you.
Feeling overwhelmed? Step back. Wrapping up a long round of batch tasking? Step. Back. Let your mind reset.
4. Make time for your relationships.
If you agree to get dinner or coffee or drinks with a friend or you grab a seat in a yoga class or you promise to call your mom after work, stick to those commitments. Yes, even when your calendar gets packed and your to do list gets long.
I grew up with some pretty hefty anxiety and have been prone to panic attacks when I’m stressed, so I am definitely guilty of cancelling these commitments when my work life gets to be too much.
But this is the stuff you should prioritize! I’m trying to remind myself of this, every day. The stuff that makes you feel good shouldn’t be the stuff you cancel or reschedule.
5. Say no.
Ah, saying no. The magic word.
Remember those goals and priorities we talked about in Step 1?
Make sure every time you say yes to committing your time to something or someone during your workday, it’s helping you achieve a goal.
(Note: Having dinner with a friend doesn’t need to help you achieve a goal. If it helps you blow off steam and feel better so that you can work even harder towards your goals the next day, then you should always say yes!)
If something pops up and it doesn’t help you achieve a goal, but it does require an investment of time and energy on your part… consider saying no if you can.
6. Schedule time for fun.
Be kind to yourself, and be kind to your calendar.
Fill your calendar with meetings, appointments and batch task blocks, sure.
But also make time to walk your dog, eat breakfast without a phone in your face and do yoga. Too often, we don’t schedule fun stuff or personal stuff. We plan to make time for it later.
So, what’s the first thing to get forgotten or shoved off to the next day or week? The stuff we didn’t prioritize enough to schedule in the first place, of course.