Time management extends beyond keeping track of appointments and project due dates. It is taking control over your life, knowing when things need to occur to maximize your freedom from the stresses of the daily grind, as well as keeping you from getting too bogged down with the more mundane tasks that we all have to push through.
But time management is not just a work issue; a focus should be put on time management at home as well. If you can organize your home time the way you do your work time, you’ll find you can be much more relaxed at the end of a hard day.
What Not to Do
My office manager walked into my office one morning last week, sat down and said he was exhausted. When I asked what he had done the night previous that had him so tired, he replied “nothing.” Curious, I pressed him for an explanation.
Apparently, he had gotten home from work the day before, sat down on his couch and immediately fallen asleep. About two hours later he had woken up to find that it was too late to go grocery shopping, the one big thing he had to do that day, and, to top it off, taking such a long nap had thrown off his sleep schedule so that he wasn’t able to get to bed at a reasonable time.
Now, not many of us have the luxury that my office manager has of being a 24 year old single guy with no kids and minimal responsibilities, but the story does serve as a cautionary tale of what can happen if you let your day slip away from you.
By alowing himself the luxury of a two hour nap, (I can’t remember the last time I had a 20 minute nap!) he eliminated of the most productive part of his home-time and threw off his whole week’s chore and sleep schedule.
What To Do
1 – Get Organized
The first step to effective time management is to understand exactly how long common tasks can take. So, starting at the beginning of a week, make note of how long the different tasks in your life take. The washing machine takes 35 minutes to run, while the dryer takes 45, cooking dinner takes 25 minutes, going over homework with the kids takes 20 minutes and so on and so forth. Knowing how long these kinds of tasks take and being able to plan them into your week will allow you to more efficiently use your time and reduce your stress.
For instance, there’s no reason you can’t throw a load of laundry in before you start cooking dinner or just about any other household chore. Once you know how long these things take, finding ways to overlap these sorts of tasks will give you much more time to relax.
2 – “Man Plans, God Laughs”
Any plan is designed to minimize the possibility of interruptions that might keep vital tasks from being completed. The keyword here is “minimize,” since life is unpredictable and situations will occur that will cause you to have to disregard your time management plan.
A common failing for those that successfully adopt time management plans is attempting to make it adapt to every situation that can occur. You will become ill, Mother Nature will decide to bury your city in snow and your cat will get out and bring home an adorable litter of kittens… It is impossible to say what will happen, so when something happens that throws the plan off, just breathe and move forward.
3 – Be Flexible
Knowing that the plan will sometimes fail is vital, but the way to combat this is to be as flexible as possible. The way I do this is to leave some time aside where I can complete whatever activities that need to be rescheduled. If nothing happens and everything goes according to plan, then you have built in rest time. Otherwise, this will give you an outlet so that you can fit in new tasks without having to worry about the dozen other things going on in your life.
Time management is a core component of stress management. By getting organized, (and not passing out on your couch for two hours after work) planning out your time at home, as well as at work, and staying flexible, you can greatly reduce the stress of everyday life. Which, let’s be honest, would be a good thing for all of us.