As I was doing my best to talk myself down from the increasing anxiety I felt about my list of “to-do’s” for the day, I automatically did something that was very helpful. However, I didn’t really appreciate how powerful a strategy it is that I have learned. It’s something that is so obvious to any kind of time management that many people might think it silly to address in an article. Nevertheless, I believe that
“The simplest things are the most profound.”
This is one of those simple, profound things.
Here is what I did.
1. I made a list of all of the things I hoped to accomplish that day.
2. I put my best estimate of how long I thought each would take (going from my experience of how long something might take, rather than how long I think or wish it would take!)
3. For several items, I put a range of time that something might take, like 3-4 hours or 20-30 minutes.
4. I added up the total time, both the shortest and longest times.
5. Not to be excluded because of its seeming simplicity, I also did my best to
realistically calculate how much time I had to work with
to get those items done. It is so easy to skip over this essential step or drastically overestimate how much time I have by, say, not allowing time to prepare or eat lunch, or assuming that I can work for 6 hours straight or forgetting that I need to factor in a 15 or 20 minute walk for my dog, (who will then be much calmer and quieter for the remaining part of the day…)
6. I thought, “Hmmm, there’s no way that I can get those 8-10 hours of things done in the 6 1/2 hours I have left before my daughter returns from school! (I have realized that it is important to connect with my now 13-year-old, rather than continuing to attempt to get things done on my list, which takes away my focus and also takes away my presence for my daughter and for myself!)
7. I identified the most important things for me to get done that day, either because of a deadline or because of the value they hold.
8. I added my time estimates for the shortened “most important things” list.
9. I compared whether my shortened list would fit into my “how much time I had to work with” estimate. Still too long. Bummer.
But, there’s hope.
10. Back to #7. Really zeroing in on
“What are absolutely the most important things that I want to get done this particular day?”
Sometimes the problem is that I was all geared up to finally get a particular thing done, but it is something that can actually be done on another day. Sometimes the problem is needing to prioritize whether it is a family or personal or business thing that is most important on this particular day. And sometimes it’s just that I have to recognize my own particular limits and appreciate that all of the little things I do in my home not only do matter but also do require time. It’s still hard for me to do that, which is often why I run into trouble with time management.
Hopefully by this point, the length of time of my list of “most important things” now fits into the available time that I have. If not, I repeat Step #10 until it does. Sometimes I take my chances and jump headlong into it, in the hope of getting a bit more done than it appears I have time for. Because I almost always use my longest time estimates when I add my total, sometimes this works, but typically it backfires, and my anxiety and frustration increase. Not helpful and not what I’m aiming for!
Things always take longer than you think they’re going to take.
For reasons I’ve already addressed and for many other reasons. Call it life, call it change, call it being human, call it whatever you want to, but it certainly helps to have this kind of strategy to increase the likelihood of getting done what you hope to get done.
And then, of course, follow your plan and do the things you’ve identified are most important! By following through, you’re letting yourself know that what you have identified as important is of value and does matter. Ultimately you are saying that you matter and what you decide matters. Seems an obvious point, but it’s significant in our view of ourselves.
Keep your view of yourself positive and give yourself the support or strategy you need to more effectively manage your time. And, as my husband sometimes suggests to me, you might even keep your lists for several days or a few weeks. You’ll be astounded at what all you actually do get done as time goes on!
If you’d like the support of a coach who intimately understands this issue and can give you the support and structure you need to be more effective in this area, contact me. It is such a joy to be a part of you creating a lighter spirit for yourself!