Few would argue that time is precious, but most everyone agrees that it is hard to manage! To help you get the most from your minutes, let’s start by looking at why time can be so hard to wrangle and what you can do to pin down your particular challenges.
It’s easy to recognize the symptoms of not being in control of time—the frustration of missing appointments, guilt over standing up a friend, late fees, or the stress of trying to find your keys when you needed to be out the door five minutes ago. Identifying the causes can be trickier. Here are a few reasons people struggle to manage their time well:
· Distractions—kids, pets, clutter, not to mention all the rabbit holes of technology, can sidetrack the best of plans. BuzzFeed alert, anyone?
· Procrastination—this common enemy of the perfectionist, or of anyone who is having difficulty breaking a big task into do-able action steps, can lead you to get lost in distractions instead of doing the important stuff.
· Disorganization—whether it is a space that is too cluttered to think, a desk without the right supplies, or to-dos written down in five different places, lack of organization waste times and saps motivation.
· Lack of delegation—no one person can do it all, but many of us still try, leading to busted schedules and burn out.
· Physical and mental health—Illness, injury, depression, and anxiety are among the many things that can make it difficult or impossible to get things done, let alone done on time.
· Reactivity—constantly putting out fires means the important but less urgent things get pushed off until later, even indefinitely.
· Lack of end goal—not having a clear picture of where you are heading, or why, makes it that much harder to get there.
· Trouble prioritizing—when there are a thousand to-dos buzzing around in your head, it is really hard to figure out where to start and what is most important.
Understanding your particular stumbling blocks is probably the most important step you can take to find solutions that will work for you. To begin, imagine that you are a curious child. Observe your current habits and behaviors without blame or shame, asking yourself the six questions of journalism, or as Rudyard Kipling wrote:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
Asking yourself these questions six questions as often as you can throughout the day will give you valuable information about your particular time management strengths and challenges. For example, you can ask:
· What am I doing at this moment? What did I intend to do? What are my prioritites?
· Why am I doing this vs. that? Why do I want to make a change?
· When did I plan to do it? When can I realistically finish this? When did I last eat, get a drink of water, or take a stretch break?
· How is what I’m doing now working for me? How could I do this differently? How long did I think this would take? How long did this actually take?
· Where am I spending my time? Where do I have the most stress? Where do I stay on track best?
· Who could I ask for help? Who is needing my attention? Who is capable of doing this if I don’t have time?
Write down your observations. If you have trouble remembering to take notice, set an alert on your phone, watch, or computer to remind you to check in with yourself. You won’t need to do this forever, just for a few days. Once you have a sense of where your time is going, what you are doing, and where you are getting off track, you will be able to strategize solutions.
In Time Management: Part 2, we will discuss some solutions that might be just what you need to make your time work for you!