“How’s it going?”
“Good, just busy!”
Raise your hand if you’ve had a conversation like that in the last week.
I can’t say I have time management nailed down 100% of the time, but I have learned a few hacks to help me get the most out of my free time.
1. Be realistic with your to do list
Many of us sit down and set ourselves a to do list. How often do you get to the end of the day and realize you were wayyyy too optimistic on the amount you could get done? Guilty.
I like to set a to do list for the whole week, and then break it into 3 or 4 tasks per day. If I finish those tasks, I can go back to my weekly list and add something else. If I don’t finish, I roll them over to the next day.
If I pile too much on my plate, I get discouraged when I don’t get “enough” done. If you’re anything like me, that just makes you even less motivated to work on those items that continually roll over.
2. Prioritize by when tasks are due
I know, I know, sometimes the most urgent tasks are the least fun. This one is still a work in progress for me. Often I busy myself with tasks that are more fun and less urgent only to find myself in a scramble to finish time sensitive tasks at the last minute.
A perfect example is scheduling Instagram posts. Anyone who manages any sort of social platform knows that consistency in posting is key. Yet I ALWAYS leave posting to Instagram for the last minute and if (when) I run out of time, it’s so easy to let it slip off the to do list and think, “Oh, I’ll just post tomorrow.”
3. Habit tracking
Fill in the blank: “I would love to ________ more if only I had more time.”
Exercise? Read? Volunteer? Cook? Work on a hobby? Read the Bible?
I say that sentence at least once a week, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Forming habits is such a crucial step to reaching our goals and goes hand in hand with time management. I often found myself feeling like I was using my time wisely doing all those things, but couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t reaching my goals. Once I actually started tracking them I found I was way off the mark.
A few years back I started making myself a habit tracker every month. I prioritized tasks that I want to commit time to each day. Again, I had to be realistic. As much as I’d love to curl up with a good book for hours at a time, I knew that committing to that would take away time available for other goals, like exercising and working on my photography business. So I set myself some attainable goals, and kept track of them each day.
I’ve been tracking habits for years now, so each month I can compare to the last month. Did I improve? Did I fall behind in a few areas? Why was that? What can I do to make next month better? I’ve found the whole process to be very insightful.
I like to doodle, so I make my own in the back of my planner. You could easily create this in a spreadsheet, and there are even apps to help track these habits.
4. Understand your priorities
If I could build a dream week day, here’s what it would look like:
60 min exercise
60 min devotion/Bible reading
30 min breakfast
45 min to get ready for the day
4 hours of work
60 min lunch/relax time
2 more hours of work time
60 min exercise
3 hours outside
90 min cooking, eating, and cleaning up
3 hours of photography work
90 minutes of reading
90 minutes to wind down, relax, get ready for the next day
7 hours of sleep
Sounds great, except that when you add it all up it’s almost 29 hours of activities in a 24 hour day. So something’s gotta give.
I can’t prioritize the same things every day–my life just isn’t that structured. So instead each day I pick the realistic amount of time I can spend on each. Some days, it may be less sleep and more work. Other days it may be more work and less cooking. We could go on like this all day. The point is to give yourself grace, allow for flexibility, and know that we ALL have only 24 hours in a day.
What other time management hacks or tools have you found? Let me know in the comments!