Do you ever wish you had an extra hour or two in your day? If you just had one more hour, you could get so much more done, right? Yet, we are all limited by the same 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week. Instead of wishing for more time, we should focus on making the most of every day by practicing these time management tips that will help us maximize our time.
As busy moms, we need to practice good time management every day. But as the days go by, life gets busy. We start with great intentions and then get distracted and forget our time management best practices. Let’s take a look at some of the ways our time management gets disrupted and how we can get focused again.
Don’t Let Interruptions Control Your Day
We all have interruptions during our day. If we are not careful, interruptions will steal significant amounts of time from us every day. We cannot let ourselves lose hours of precious time to interruptions. Most likely, you lose countless minutes and hours every day when other people (including kids) or situations barge into your day.
Try these tips to help you eliminate and better manage daily interruptions:
Plan Time in Your Day for the Daily Interruptions that We All Experience
Interruptions break our concentration and work cycle. It’s unlikely you will ever have a single day that’s not interrupted by something unexpected. These unplanned interruptions can throw you off course. Once your concentration is broken, it’s harder for you to get the flow back.
If you’re at work and someone pops in for “just a minute,” you’ll notice that it always turns into a lot longer. Before you know it, half an hour to an hour will have passed and you can’t get that time back.
One solution for unplanned interruptions is to allocate time for these interruptions by looking at your day and figuring out how much time you have to give these.
For example, when you are working on an important task and your child wants to play a game or read a book. Plan ahead of time to give your child time and attention too. Let your child know that when mommy finishes working on this project, we will have time to play together.
At the end of the time you designated for your child, set expectations so you kids understand you love them, but you also have to finish your work, “We had a fun, but mommy has to finish her work. We can play again after dinner (or another set time).” Encourage your child to play with their siblings or with other toys quietly while you work.
Plan Your Day the Night Before
Planning your day the night before gives you time to think through your priorities for the next day and also prepare anything that needs to be done (i.e. set out clothes to wear, make school lunches, complete homework, set your priorities for the day and more).
Set aside 15 minutes every evening to plan your day for tomorrow. Be sure you take time to write your priorities in your planner.
Recommended for you: Make Over Your Evenings – a 14-day course to teach you how to create evening routines that work you for and will make your day a success.
Plan Your Phone Conversations
Unplanned phone conversations that are not focused or do not reach a point quickly waste time. But if you plan your conversations before you make the call, you can stay in control of the focus of the conversation and how long the conversation lasts.
Before you call anyone (including a pharmacy or doctor’s office), make a list of discussion points and be sure you cover each one. If you have a plan for the call, you are less likely to forget important information and will be more likely to stay focused.
If someone calls you and you need to get off the phone, you just politely say that you have to go or ask to call back at a better time for you.
Tips to limit the time of phone conversations:
- You can say that you’re in a time crunch and have to go or that you need to take care of something. Usually, that will cause the other person to say goodbye and end the call.
- It’s okay to tell someone you can’t talk at the moment and will have to get back to them. Some people will call you just to get ideas and as a sounding board for all of their problems. This becomes an endless loop and you can get taken advantage of constantly.
Don’t Let Technology Disrupt Your Day
Technology like email and social media also disrupt our day. Sometimes we will receive endless emails and social media announcements.
To limit the disruption of email and social media, turn off all alarms and alerts so you are not constantly distracted.
Then have a set time every few hours to review and respond to email or check social media.
Depending on the volume of email you receive, schedule 15 to 30 minutes for email review and response. Plan 2 or 3 times a day to respond to email. Responding to email should not be your first action of the day.
You can have a similar plan for social media. Select a few times every day to review social media. Limit your time and focus on your top priorities. Set a timer. When times up, you are done with social media.
Separate the “Must Be Handled” Interruptions from “Handle Later” Situations
Determine to set your own priorities, especially in your home and at work. You don’t have to make someone else’s urgency your priority. Take time to decide what tasks “must be” done now, and what can wait till later. Making these decisions each morning will help you control your day and accomplish your priority tasks.
Other times, you will have a friend or co-worker who wants you to stop everything you’re doing to help them get out of a jam. It’s important to be a good friend and team member at work. But if these types of “emergencies” happen frequently, you may want to consider why and help your friend or co-worker learn to be more self-sufficient.
Prioritizing Your Time
Every day we have tasks that must get done. But there’s only one you and you can’t do it all. So you have to prioritize what gets done and what gets moved to another day or delegated to others. Learn to set your own priorities or others will set them for you (including your kids who have many priorities of their own).
Look at Your Daily To-Do List and Start with the Most Important Item on Your List
Getting your most important task of the day done first, gives you an emotional boost. You start your day with a sense of accomplishment. It gives you the encouragement you need to complete additional items on your daily to-do list (even the items you really don’t like).
Getting one important task done first lets you see that you’re making progress. Don’t always start with the easiest task or the fastest task. Start with the most important task, then work your way done your “to-do” list based on your priorities. I frequently notice the fastest and easiest tasks are the least important so they are done at the end of the day.
You might also like: How to Complete Your Priority “To-do” List Everyday
Refuse Opportunities That Require Too Much of Your Time
It’s okay to say “no”. You can’t handle every activity and you can’t attend every single meeting that you’d like to. You’ll end up overworked and stressed. Based on your priorities, decide which meetings and tasks you are required to complete and which ones you can pass on or delegate to another person.
Remember at home, if your children are old enough, start training them to help with chores and tasks that take up too much of your time.
When you decide which opportunities to accept or decline, consider which ones will give you the most benefit either personally and professionally. Sometimes there might be something you’re interested in, but it’s not fit into a good time management schedule. That means you have to pass.
Get Plenty of Rest
Lack of sleep has a negative impact on all of us. We lose our focus and tend to be short tempered.
If you are too tired, you’ll start doing sloppy work and find yourself having to redo work – or you’re sluggish to begin with. When you miss your needed rest, it weakens your immune system and you’ll be more susceptible to catching whatever virus is going around.
If you are always tired or sick, you’ll end up losing time rather than being a good manager of it. You might want to stay up later and wake up earlier to get more done, but being well-rested means you become far more productive and quality improves, too.
You might like: 10 Self-Care Ideas for Overwhelmed Moms
Take Care of Yourself with Exercise
Exercise is another way to take care of yourself and improve your focus. Getting the exercise you need actually helps you with time management. It keeps your energy levels high.
Plus, when you take a break from personal and work responsibilities you give your mind a chance to be refreshed and come back to the task with a fresh outlook. Increased focus helps with productivity and saves you time in the long run.
Take Time Off for Rest
Do you feel like you always run like the Energizer Bunny? Are you always going even after a full day of work, whatever it takes, to get all of the things done that you need to do? Don’t let yourself give up time with friends and family to try to gain more work time.
Are you the person who brings work home on weekends or do you have a to-do list for around the house to keep you busy all weekend to get things done. Sometimes we need to get important tasks done, but this should not be our practice every week. Remember to take vacations and rest. Take a break from all work activities and enjoy your hobbies and special interests too.
When you take time off, away from everything you need to do, you are able to get more done because your body, as well as your mind, needs time to recharge where it has absolutely nothing it “must” focus on.
Let Go of Perfectionism
A perfectionist is a person that feels the job has to be done perfectly or it is not done. Perfectionists tend to be high achievers that can experience more stress than a person who is not a perfectionist. When it comes to time management, perfectionism will work against you.
Multi-tasking is a time waster. Multi-tasking is synonymous with doing several jobs poorly all at once – and people with perfectionist tendencies will always be frustrated when they multi-task.
You don’t have to complete everything in one day. Instead, concentrate and focus on just one thing at a time. You might only get one main goal done every day, but if you only focus on one thing, you can do it well. Get that finished and then move on to the next item.
Set Time Limits for All Your Tasks
Even if you are not a perfectionist, setting time limits for your tasks is a good rule of thumb for everyone looking for better time management. When you start a task or project, set a time or date it will be completed. Open-ended tasks have a tendency to pile up because there’s no finish time set.
When you look at the whole picture of what has to be accomplished with the time you have, it can feel overwhelming. It’s better to break the things you have to do down into smaller pieces.
For example, if you have a project that has to be completed by a certain date, you need to divide that project up by how long it will take to get the work done.
If the project will take 30 hours to complete and you have two weeks to get it done, you know you have to work on it 15 hours each week or 3 hours per day. Be sure to take into account interruptions and other challenges that will get in the way.
Don’t Schedule Back-to-Back Appointments
Allow yourself some margin time. Even just a few minutes where your mind can relax and get away. Being mentally exhausted is often more draining than being physically exhausted.
Margin time gives you a little extra time to prepare for the next meeting or if you are traveling to handle traffic delays. A few extra minutes will help you reduce stress and be focused for your next appointment or task.
Divide All of Your Tasks By Personal and Professional Life; Then by Hours, Days, Months, Seasons or Year
Start by adding all your monthly, annual and seasonal tasks to your planner. For example, if you know that every fall the gutters on your home have to be cleaned from the leaves that fell, you’ll want to put some time for that task on your schedule.
If you know that every year, there’s a Christmas party at work and you’ll need to bring something as well as show up, put that on your calendar, too.
If you own a business that has seasonal items, you’ll want to schedule to take care of releasing those products, press releases or email newsletters ahead of time. You don’t want to wait until December to talk about December projects.
Look Over Your To-Do List – Have Only One Task List for Home and Office
As much as possible, use a unified calendar for your personal life and your professional life. One calendar will show you all the tasks, appointments and work that needs to be done. You are only one person with just 24 hours in each day.
Many people struggle with poor time management because their to-do list has too many items on it. We all like to achieve things and even the possibility of achieving things makes us feel good.
But we often set up tasks that we can’t accomplish because we don’t have enough time. Overplanning your to-do list is like setting yourself up for failure. Whittle the list down and if there’s time left over, you’ll feel a bonus that you got something “extra” done rather than failed to complete something imperative.
If you feel overwhelmed and your time management is out of control, take time today to review your daily time management habits and start implementing these tried and true time management solutions and you will find more success each day.
Photo credits: Haute Chocolate and IvoryMix
What’s your best time management solution? What makes you more productive each day?
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