This article was last updated on December 30, 2015
Whether we like it or not, we have to deal with time management every day. We all have certain chores and responsibilities that cannot be delayed, but somehow we end up chasing time right before the deadline. Proper time management can certainly make a busy day easier to handle, but there is something more important than that: it’s called life management.
How can we manage to study/work/maintain a family while working towards a greater goal? You can start by understanding that there is always hope. You need a system! It should be based on time management, but it also needs to have a greater cause.
3 Simple Time Management Strategies That Work
1. Define and organize your personal goals and responsibilities
Before you proceed any further, you need to have a goal. What are you working towards? Does your daily life make sense? These methods will help you realize that:
Make a list of everything you need and want to do in your life. Don’t focus only on the big things like raising a child or getting a postgraduate degree. Write everything you can think of. Maybe you want to read all books written by Nobel Prize laureates? You need to get a new car/apartment? Write everything down! This list will never be complete, so you should leave some space for new goals.
Write the tasks as well! Do you have an important project for work or school? Maybe you just need to clean your home or go grocery shopping?
Once you are done writing your current goals and tasks, take some time to contemplate. You’ll probably realize that your life is busier than you thought it was, so the big goals seem impossible just because the daily tasks consume your time. This is the moment when you make priorities. Cross out at least 10% of the to-do list and focus on the most important tasks first. Turn this into a daily routine. With time and practice, you’ll learn how to prioritize. That skill will make a huge difference in your life!
Take a look at your to-do list again. You’ll notice that some of the tasks need to be completed immediately, while others give you more space. Create these categories:
- Short-term tasks (which take up to 3 hours);
- Mid-term tasks (3 hours – 1 day), and
- Long-term tasks (which allow more than 1 day).
Now that you have a detailed to-do list, you might be tempted to complete the most urgent tasks and leave the long-term ones for later. That’s not a good strategy… it will get you in race with time before you know it.
The best thing to do is break the mid-term and long-term goals into short-term tasks and try to do part of the work on a daily basis. With this method, the big goals will seem less intimidating and you’ll be able to complete them without placing yourself in stressful situations.
2. Build a plan!
If you start completing random tasks from your to-do list, you won’t be able to focus on the big goals. You need a detailed plan that will give you space for everything!
Deadlines are freaking you out? I understand where you’re coming from. However, that doesn’t mean they are not important. Without a timeline, you’ll just keep delaying the big goals until it’s too late or you completely forget about them. Think about the due dates of each task on that big list of yours. Write them down. Make sure they are realistic and make promises only when you know you can live up to them.
Finish every evening by making a to-do list for the next day. That will prepare your mind to deal with the responsibilities. Prepare a weekly plan during the weekend and create the daily lists in accordance with it. At the end of the month, plan the things you are supposed to achieve throughout the upcoming month.
Of course you can use a traditional planner, but don’t you want to be able to add new tasks or give up on the less important ones without making a mess? Your smartphone is a much better planning tool. Install a task-management app, such as Todoist, Wunderlist or Any.Do.
3. Implement the system into your daily life!
You didn’t do all that work for nothing. Now that you have a plan, you need to live in accordance with it.
Do you know what can make your day more enjoyable? Cover the most annoying tasks first thing in the morning, so you won’t be thinking about them for the rest of the day.
Do not force yourself to achieve more than you’re capable of. Your body and mind need to regenerate. Have you heard of the Pomodoro technique? According to this system, you should take a 5-minute break after each working session of 25 minutes. You need a longer break of 15-30 minutes after 4 working sessions.
You can use a special Pomodoro timing device to measure the time, but you can also install an extension on your browser if you’re mainly working on a computer. Try Strict Workflow for Chrome or pomodoroFox for Firefox.
You’ve surely seen photos of yoga inversions. If you never tried yoga, you must be thinking: what are these people doing upside down? When the body defies gravity, fresh oxygen gets to the brain, so the entire system is energized and relaxed.
Relax; no one said you should start doing headstands right away. The important thing is to understand the effects of physical exercise for better brain activity, choose a system that works for you and start practicing it on a daily basis.
Before you make a plan for the upcoming day, review the one you just went through. Did you complete all tasks? Maybe you’ll need to transfer some of the tasks for the next day. Make the needed corrections and put everything in a journal.
If you notice that some of the tasks were simply impossible to complete, then you should delegate! For example, if you’re applying for a new job, but you cannot find the time or you don’t have the skills to complete a perfect resume, hire a service like resumesplanet and focus on the things you can do.
Understand the importance of sleep! If you don’t adhere to a healthy sleeping pattern, your memory functions will be affected and you won’t have enough energy to complete all tasks on your list.
Take at least one day off every week. Do not think about your work and do something you love! Your body and mind need to regenerate before you can put them back to work.
Trust Me; I Know What I’m Talking About!
Let me tell you about my grand goal: a trip around the world. Yeah, I know it’s a cliché. I’ve seen the news about those couples who give up on their jobs and clean toilets on tourist destinations just to make their dreams come true. Good for them, but I’m not ready to do that. I didn’t want tourist destinations; I wanted to see African villages and the Brazilian rainforest. Thus, I had to work my tail off to earn enough money to get me going.
I did that thanks to the system described above, and I managed to save enough for travel, living and accommodation expenses. It took me 7 years to get to that point, but it was a long-term goal and the efforts were definitely worth it. Here I am now; full of experiences and new dreams I’m working towards. I’ll tell you about them in another occasion.