woman, list, make time when you don't have any

How to Manage Your Time When You Don’t Have Any

Time Management? Really?

I know. If you Google time management, you get a lot of corporate stuff from places like Harvard Business Review.

How is that going to help you?

Well, it might. And it might not.

I picture you as a busy woman, maybe a mom still raising her kids, with not a minute to spare. You wake up running, right?

And I know you don’t have time now to get everything done. You stay up late to either finish things or just to have a little quiet time for yourself. (And sacrifice your sleep in the process.)

But the truth is, you need to get a handle on your time, and learn to manage it more effectively, in order to have more of it.

So you take some time now, and end up with more time later.

Good, right?

Start with Two Things

I’m just asking for two things to begin managing your time; we’ll build from there.

And you can’t cheat on one of them. Promise me you’ll at least try.

  1. Get more sleep. (This is the one you can’t cheat on. You know you need it, and your brain and body will thank you,)
  2. Get a notebook. One you can carry around with you. Everywhere. All the time. If you already have a planner, yay! You get a gold star. And you can begin using it the right way. Maybe I should have said three things, but obviously you’re going to need a pen to go with your notebook.

A planner really is ideal, because it has the calendar in it, and hopefully a space for notes, like your brain dump. But I know that it’s hard to choose, so use what works for you. And don’t spend a lot of money. Once you get into this, you may change your mind about what you need.

OK. You’re well rested and ready to begin.

Start by doing what I call a brain dump. Other, more refined people call it an inbox. Whatever.

This is going to be your master list. Write down everything that is currently occupying your head, from trying to remember to pack Timmy’s sunscreen for camp to picking up hamburger at the store and making sure to call and schedule an oil change for the car.

All of it. In whatever order it comes out in.

And if something has a date attached – like an appointment – be sure to write that down too, if you remember it. (I swear, every single time I am at the hair salon, I make my next appointment. They print it on my receipt, and I go home and misplace it. And of course, I don’t really remember it, either. Drives me nuts.)

Prioritize Your List

By the way – you don’t have to do this all in one sitting. If you space it out and do it when you have a minute or two, that works. As long as you do it.

So now go back through your list and start ordering things by importance. I like to use highlighters for this because it makes it easier to see what’s going on. If you have 4 – 5 colors, that would be awesome. If not, you can try circling important things, numbering them, or maybe putting a star next to some; do what works.

I would start by highlighting anything with a date attached. They sort of establish their importance by the fact that they happen on a certain day.

Next highlight anything that can be done in ten minutes or less. That way, when you have a few extra minutes (it happens, or it will), you can get something crossed off your list. That’s smart time management.

After that, you can start ordering everything else in order of importance.

How Important is it? The Eisenhower Matrix

After you highlight things with dates and ten minute tasks, you will probably have about 5 million things left.

I don’t expect you to number them from 1 – 5 million in order of importance. We would have to lock you up; either because you went crazy or you killed me, or both.

So what you do instead is consult this handy little tool called an Eisenhower matrix. It’s basically a square with four boxes.

So a number 1 – important and urgent – would be things like being sure you made the house payment because it’s almost the first of the month, or remembering to pick up an inhaler for your daughter because hers ran out this morning.

Number 2 – important but not urgent – is scheduling an appointment with the eye doctor for new glasses or taking your car in for an oil change. When the car starts to make a funny noise, it moves up to a number 1.

A number 3 – urgent but not important – might be ordering or picking up groceries or returning your library books. Someone else could handle those things for you; maybe your teen or (gasp) your husband. At the very least, they can wait if they have to. (The teen, the husband, and the groceries and library books. Just don’t get a fine.)

And a number 4 – forget about it. Really. You can do that. Example? Baking cookies for the 4th grade or bringing homemade coffee cake to work. Buy it and be done. Or in the case of work, don’t even bother. Also, anything that puts a guilt trip on you.

Getting Things Done

OK, maybe this goes beyond your notebook a little bit, but after you have your prioritized list, you need to start getting things done and crossing them off your list. You’re not managing your time well if you get nothing done.

And this way, you’re getting the important things done first, instead of the first thing on your list.

Hopefully, your dated items are on the calendar. The one you always have with you. That could be a planner or your phone. Whatever works for you. I plan on doing a post on using Google calendar soon.

You could even draw or paste a calendar in your notebook. That way, everything is together. By the way, your notebook is also a great place to add any notes or anything else you don’t want to forget. (Note: I have a free printable monthly, weekly, and daily calendar in my library. Just sign up below for access.)

The next step in managing your time is to start to schedule some of these tasks into your day, week, or month. And that sort of requires a planner, but I’ll cover that more in another post.

For now, take a look at the next couple of days and see which high priority tasks you can add in and take off your list. Or maybe you can work in some number two tasks, since they involve mostly scheduling at this point. A few phone calls and you’re done.

Remember not to overdo things. You want some time to yourself, too. Preferably before midnight. Because you’re going to bed at a reasonable time, right?

Make It a Habit

Learning to manage your time and make the most of it takes practice. You won’t master it overnight.

Begin by checking your list every morning and every evening, maybe right after dinner. That way, you have a better idea of what to expect from the day ahead and the following day.

And remember to write everything in your notebook and get it out of your brain.

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