Whether you are working inside or outside of the home, are a student, a stay-at-home parent, or are currently unemployed, we all have busy lives to manage! Most of us could likely use some suggestions to ensure we prioritize certain tasks and activities over others and to make sure we have enough time for relaxation and fun! So here are 7 time-management tips that we can use for our everyday lives (or just mostly for the weekdays, like me):
- Each evening, write down a reasonable list of goals to accomplish the next day. Add fun and relaxing things to your list too. You can also try to estimate the amount of time required for each goal and draw stars or another symbol next to the most important goals to complete (a.k.a. your priorities).
I wrote “each evening” specifically because I find it helpful to have the day planned out before waking up in the morning. It is nice to lay down to go to sleep in the evenings without having to mentally plan out the next day. Also, getting “to-do list” type thoughts out of my head and onto paper helps me think more clearly and obviously feel less distracted when trying to focus on other things. I’ve been making a list of goals for each weekday lately, but do not write goals for the weekends. I add fun or relaxing items to my goal list too, like reading a fiction novel for a certain length of time or taking my dogs for a walk while listening to a podcast. It seems to be working well for me!
- Don’t try to multitask, rather focus on one task at a time.
There is no such thing as “multitasking” in the way that it is sometimes thought of/defined; we are actually just switching our attention back and forth between different things, not doing multiple things well at once. Therefore, it makes sense that if we try to multitask, we accomplish less because we have to use mental and physical energy to change our focus every few minutes. So if I plan to write a blog post, it is best for me to only have the necessary tabs open on my screen that I require for researching and writing. I wouldn’t try to write a blog post, check and respond to emails, have an in-person conversation, watch a TV show, and write text messages all at the same time. That seems like an extreme example to me, but I know there are people out there who try to do many of those things at once! I am able to concentrate on the task at hand/goal (to write the blog post) much easier if I get rid of other distractions.
- Take breaks while working on a task or engaging in an activity.
Taking physical and mental breaks will lead to greater productivity and help to prevent feelings of overwhelm and frustration. You will be able to focus for a longer period of time because breaks offer mood and energy boosters. Your break could be as simple as going for a ten minute walk, stretching, or going to grab a snack or drink.
- Set an alarm or keep a close eye on the time to ensure you actually take breaks.
I can focus for long periods of time when I am enjoying a task, but I often have the issue where I will simply need to use the bathroom, get a drink, or move around, but I don’t do it! The result is that I then get cranky and frustrated because I didn’t take a break soon enough. I keep saying to myself something along the lines of “Oh, I’ll just finish this part first before I take a break” and then I continue with what I am doing for longer than I anticipated. So if you sometimes have a similar issue, you might want to set an alarm for your breaks. There is a simple technique called the Pomodoro Technique; to try this technique, you just need to set a timer for 25 minutes, focus on the task for 25 minutes and when the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break. Then, you would build your way up to earning a longer break (say 15-20 minutes) after 4 sessions of working for 25 minutes at a time and taking 5 minute breaks. Here is a detailed explanation of the method and why it works: https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique
- Try to have a restful sleep at night by ensuring your room is dark, quiet, and organized/free of clutter.
Of course, sleep is super important for optimal daily functioning. We need to feel mentally and physically energized to enjoy the day that awaits us. When we are really tired, our hormone levels are affected, and this makes it harder to make good decisions and accomplish our daily plans.
- Break up large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks.
For example, I wouldn’t sit down and try to write an entire ten-page research paper without moving from my desk. I could complete readings/research and take organizational notes for my paper one day, write half of the paper the next, and finish it the following day.
- If you are a morning person, try to schedule your most significant tasks and activities for early in the morning or for the first half of the day.
If you are more productive late into the evening, obviously you can plan to complete your most important tasks in the evening. And if you are not a morning person and you would like to be, you can build the habit of getting up early over time. It just takes practice. When I was a university student, I was a night owl, but that changed once I started working full time.
I hope you found these tips helpful. I, myself, am working on following tips 3 and 4 consistently! 🙂
N.A. (2021). Using time management to improve study skills. Education Corner. https://www.educationcorner.com/effective-time-management.html
Hertzberg, K. (2017, August 23). 7 essential time management skills that will improve your life. Grammarly Blog. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/essential-time-management-skills/?&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=10827645803&utm_targetid=dsa-1233402314764&gclid=CjwKCAjwuIWHBhBDEiwACXQYscJmyqGQ4aZHdO0lLTO1PuwF-mOoKCMCN8RT64CX00SWUekDSyJDMxoC8gcQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Miller, K. (2020, April 28). 7 time management tips for online students. Northeastern University. https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/time-management-tips-online-students/
Scroggs, L. (2021). The pomodoro technique. ToDoIst. https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique