How often have you said, “If I only had more time, ” or, “I wish there were more hours in the day.” We say that often intending to imply that if we only had more time then we would get the rest we need or slow down to a more normal pace. But chances are that if we did have more hours in the day, we would immediately fill them up with more things to do instead of creating the space we need to take a much needed break.
We don’t really need more time in the day. What we really need are strategies to better manage our time. The concept of time management is not new: most of us have schedules, planners and reminder notes a plenty. What’s lacking though is the prioritization, decisions, and boundaries required to ensure that the schedule works not just for your job, family, friends and commitments, but the schedule has to work for you as well.
One of the things I hear consistently from clients is that they are overworked and reaching a point of being burned out. And when I ask them if they have purposely and carved time out for themselves and protected that time regardless of who makes a demand, they look at me as if I have just acquired two heads. Too many of us, especially working mothers) prioritize time for ourselves last on the list. It seems to slip our minds that if we get run down (and it really is more of a “when” than “if”) we put ourselves at a higher risk of being out of commission, unable to care for our loved ones. I’ve often wondered why we are only willing to take a rest once we get sick or reach a point of exhaustion.
Effective management of time begins with setting priorities. Start by making a list of all the task you have to do this week. Once you’ve got a completed list, go back to the very top of your list and add your name. If your name or doing something for your self was already on the list, give yourself a pat on the back and make sure it is at the top. I recently suggested to a client that creating more time in her schedule for herself, started with her recognizing that she is more important than her job. Maybe for you, it’s something or someone else that has become more important than you to the point that you constantly sacrifice your needs and wants in a way that borders on unhealthy.
Now that you have your list, you have some decisions to make. Unless you’ve done a really good job of filtering, you probably have a list that is way too long to be realistic. Make a first decision to carve out time for yourself, it doesn’t have to be a bug chunk of time to start with. Try setting aside 15 minute blocks of time for yourself. Use the time to walk, read, take a nap, call a friend. Make a list of things you can do in 15 minutes so when you take the time you don’t spend your block of time trying to figure out what to do. Other decisions: Decide on the number of things that are number one priorities. Will you have four things or just two things that must get done? Choose what you can realistically handle. That does not mean that you won’t get to other things, it just allows you to take some of the pressure off that comes with feeling like you have to do everything now. Please note that this is not procrastinating, you’re not putting it off out of avoidance or fear. You are wisely taking control of your clock and taking care of yourself.
Lastly, you want to set boundaries. Look for ways to set healthy limits in your relationships. This includes relationships at work and with friends. It also means setting limits and keeping promises to yourself. Most of us wouldn’t dream of breaking a promise we made to someone else, and if we did, we’d spend at least a week beating ourselves up about it. But we break promises to ourselves all the time, crossing the boundaries that we’ve set for ourselves. Until we matter enough we will continue to dishonor ourselves by breaking our promises and running over the boundaries we’ve set.
While it’s true that no one gets more than 24 hours in a day, we still have power over how productive we are by managing our time. Managing time is more than just the ability to layout an organized schedule. True time management means setting priorities that communicate clearly what’s really important, making wise decisions that help set realistic goals, and setting firm boundaries that allow us to keep the promises we make to ourselves and others.