Top 10 Time Management Tips

Let’s face it; we’re all crazy busy these days, right? I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t succumbed to the “rat race” we call life in the 21st century. Americans especially, are overworked, overwhelmed, and out of control. It seems the more we try to make things “easier” and “more convenient,” the more complicated life becomes. Days pass at lightning speed as if time has somehow become accelerated and we are being jettisoned into the future, our hair practically on fire! PJ here, and I’d love to tell you I’m immune to such a condition, but alas, I am not. I see it barreling down like a freight train and yet I feel powerless to stop it. In spite of this stress-inducing phenomenon, I hold tightly to my belief that we are indeed still the masters of our Universe. We CAN manage our time, no matter what insanity surrounds us and tries to suck us in.

You may have heard some of these before, but here are a my TOP 10 Tips for Time Management. I hope you find them useful.

1) Regardless of what your to-do list indicates, there are only 24 hours in a day. Eight of them should be dedicated to sleep. You have control of this. Exercise it!

2) That leaves another 16 hours to do with what you will. Only eight of those hours should be dedicated to work on a daily basis. The other eight are meant for taking care of your own needs and interacting with family and friends. Unless you have a boss who is holding a gun to your head, you CAN walk away from your work after an eight hour shift. Stop letting guilt and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility rule your life! I often think about the old adage, no one on their death bed ever thinks, ‘gee I wish I’d worked more’.

3) During the eight hours you are working, divide your time between MUST do’s and WANT to do’s. Make a list each morning (or at night before you go to bed so you can sleep without the hamster wheel running you ragged in your sleep). You’re list of to-do’s can be as long as it needs to be. Write everything down that you want to accomplish in a day, but agree with yourself to do the top three MUST do’s. If you get those three done, then pick one more…then one more. Whatever doesn’t get done today will be moved to the following day. This is the magic of the proverbial “one bite at a time” trick. Ten things may seem overwhelming, but three are manageable. The to-do list will likely never go away, so chasing your tail to complete it is like rolling a boulder up a hill. Get over the need to complete everything and focus instead on completing one thing at a time. I have weekly, monthly, and quarterly to-do’s that are the action steps to meeting my goals that I set at the beginning of the year. I check in frequently to see how I’m doing, but I don’t attach myself to success or failure when it comes to getting things done. It is…or it isn’t complete. It doesn’t mean I’m a slacker. It simply means the item remains on the list.

4) Take power breaks. Chaining yourself to your desk or chair will not increase your productivity. It will more likely leave you feeling exhausted, frustrated, and resentful. Take frequent breaks. Stretch, do a few yoga poses, take a walk, get a drink of water, do a load of laundry–anything to get away from the work for ten to fifteen minutes and clear your head. 010 (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)Then sit down and get back to it. I’m finding great success with working in sprints like this. I’m getting my work done, but I feel as if I have time for other things as well, which leaves me feeling energized and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

5) Delegate. I cannot stress this enough. No man (or woman) is an island. No matter how much we feel that we alone are completely responsible for our households and for keeping life running smoothly for our fellow man, that is a lie of the ego that will keep you feeling inadequate every day of your life. Until we learn to a) ask for help b) delegate responsibility or c) hire an assistant, we will always feel isolated and overwhelmed. I know that hiring someone isn’t an option for many of us, but developing a network of people in your life that you can look to for assistance is essential to your mental and physical well-being. In most cases, we resist this notion because we don’t trust others to be dependable and we believe that we are the only ones who will do the job “right”. EGO is at the crux of this problem, so my suggestion is to check it at the door and be open to help from wherever you can find it. There are many creative ways that we can lighten our load…if we are willing to let go of the illusion of control. Barter, trade, return a favor. Just don’t expect that you can do it ALL alone and remain balanced and healthy.

6) Making time to exercise four or five days a week is non-negotiable. If you are not healthy, strong, and happy, your family life will suffer and so will your work. Training to be the best you that you can be is the only way you will be successful in every area of your life. Thirty minutes a day is all it takes. No excuses!

7) Keep a “time” diary. For one week, keep a diary of how you spend your time. Be honest. You would only be lying to yourself. If you spend four hours a night watching television, write it down. It’s a real eye-opener when the week is over and you realize how much of your life was spent watching commercials or mindlessly wasting your precious time under the guise of “relaxation” or enjoyment of “downtime”. This is equally effective when keeping a food diary for a week or two. Most of the time, we are on auto-pilot. Most of us are not aware of consciously making choices about foods we eat or how we spend our free time. Writing it down brings awareness. Don’t judge yourself too harshly…just notice, and then adjust accordingly. You have CHOICES! Take back control over those parts of your life that seem to be slipping away from you.

8) It may seem hard to believe that we actually have eight hours every day to take care of ourselves and the needs of our family and friends, but it’s true. And that time should be cherished! Find enjoyment in the little things. A short conversation with a friend, a walk with your dog, a bike ride with your kids, or hanging out with your husband and sharing the events of the day should be highlights, not stolen moments. Be willing to let go of the feeling that you should always be working. I know it’s frustrating when you’re on deadline and HAVE to get that next chapter written, but try to remember what’s really important and don’t let resentment steal your joy.

9) When people talk about time management, they often recommend that we PRIORITIZE. Well that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? When it seems like we have a thousand and one things that have to be done and they’re all hanging over our heads like a cold bucket of water just waiting to spill over if we don’t “get to it, asap,” it’s time for another “P” word…PERSPECTIVE. Try measuring everything on a brain tumor scale of life. Zero is nirvana. Everything’s coming up roses and going your way. Ten is you or someone you love having a brain tumor. If your “emergency” is less than a five on that scale, don’t sweat it. In the grand scheme of the Universe, most of our daily “emergencies” don’t rate the amount of stress we attach to them. We are simply so used to being in adrenaline overload, that every detail of life becomes a life and death situation to overcome.

10) Relax! Breathe! Be in the moment! Time is not the enemy. Experience life and all that it has to offer in each minute of every day. Don’t let stress, work, deadlines, or anything else rob you of your peace of mind. If you are unhappy with your life and feel like time has become unmanageable, take back control. There are choices to be made, and despite your current reality, you can choose how you live your life…and how you spend the time you have here on this planet. Every choice you make brings you one step closer to creating the life you want.

So there you have it, friends. These are only a few ideas. I’m sure you have plenty more! Feel free to share your best time management tips below for our readers, and if I haven’t said so recently, I appreciate you all so very much!! Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to spend a few minutes with me.

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21 thoughts on “Top 10 Time Management Tips”

  1. Awesome tips PJ! One thing I like to do when I feel stressed, is stop what I’m doing and take five minutes to stare out the window or pet my cats. I think it’s important to live in the moment and just appreciate being alive.Nothing stunts creativity more than forcing it. I often get my best ideas or solutions when I’m thinking about something else.

  2. I loved your post Paula. Eight hours of sleep always seems like a waste of precious time, but w/o it, who can think? And exercise, the one activity that expands your life. Even an exercise as simple as walking, even if you need a walker or a cane, it is still the best. Just thirty minutes a day, for five days, then take a break. These activities are for your survival, survival for the fittest. Thanks for the reminders.

    1. Right on, Gail! Many people have limitations due to their health or fitness level, but there is ALWAYS something you can do. I tell my clients that healing takes place in the presence of movement. if you can’t walk on land, get in a pool. Just because your knee hurts doesn’t mean you can’t lift weights with your upper body. There are a million excuses NOT to exercise…none of them are absolute dis-qualifiers.

    1. Writing is a rather God-like pursuit, so it’s no wonder it attracts us “control enthusiasts”, Linda. LOL. For me, it’s all about trusting that I can depend on someone else to do the job to my standards. I hear my dad’s old mantra “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” That message was apparently drilled deep into my subconscious because I hear myself saying it any time I’m tempted to ask for help. One more item on my “untraining my brain” list of to-do’s:-)

  3. Sonya Weiss emailed me this tip since WP was being unfriendly toward her this morning:

    I use the power of 10 minutes whenever I think about doing a task. I timed it years ago and there are a lot of tasks that can get done in 10 minutes. I did that because a lot of times we think ‘oh, I only have 10 minutes, I don’t have time for that’ but in 10 minutes, you can toss in a load of laundry and make a bed. Dishes can be loaded or unloaded etc. I do the same thing with writing-related things. Ten minutes can’t write an entire chapter, but it can write a scene.

  4. Thanks for your great suggestions. Lately, I’ve been concentrating the most on #10. I LOVE to write, but it’s so easy to get bogged down and forget the love. Thanks for another reminder!

  5. I look forward to the day when I can walk away from work after 8 hours. As it is now, at the end of 8 hours, I end one job and start the next, because while I don’t get paid to write (yet), it is a job. :0)
    I’m working on tip No. 5 & 6. Some times, it’s just easier to do it yourself than explain it 5 or 6 times and occasionally, it gets to count at No. 6. :0)
    Great tips, PJ. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I hear you on all counts, Gail. I,too work a “day” job and then come home to my writing life. Not so long ago, I was working about 70 hours a week between the two jobs and man was it making me cranky! I was at the point where I wasn’t enjoying either job and spent much of my day thinking about quitting writing. That’s when I knew I needed to step back and re-evaluate. I’ve cut back my massage job to three days a week which added an extra full day off for writing. At the same time, I cut my writing back to 20-30 hours. That means when I come home after working a full day of massage and personal training I do something other than write. I’m much less stressed, despite the pay cut, and I’m back to enjoying both jobs. I’m always happier and healthier when my life is balanced. if it takes a few extra months to get that next book out, then so be it. That’s why I continue to indie-publish. I’m the boss:-)

  6. Good suggestions and I try to do many of them but sometimes things work better on paper than in real life. I tried delegating one thing for my husband to do, he’s disability retired and has medical problems, but after working I came home to find he didn’t do what I asked even though I set up everything for him. Frustrating!!!

    1. I find that expecting anything to be done on my time table with my husband is a lesson in futility. We’ve had way more than one conversation about how important dependability is to me when it comes to asking someone for help, so he really does try to be helpful, but I find unless I stand there and say, “Yes, I’d like it done now,” he will procrastinate til the cows come home. Best not to include family members on your team unless you know they are willing to work for you. There are several on line personal assistant sites these days and I’ve heard they aren’t all that expensive, though I haven’t tried any of them myself. I have a client who is willing to exchange massage for doing tasks like looking up all the English Dept. heads at the local high schools and giving me a list with email contacts so i can sen out proposals for speaking engagements–stuff that is on my list but that i never seem to get to. her next task is to make a list of reviewers to send my books to. That one will cost me!

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