“You can write sprawling to-do lists, and you’ll even get a small dopamine hit just from writing the list, because it will feel as though you have actually done something by making the list, but you have actually done nothing.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud
It’s thought that if you write planners, you must have time management down to a science. However, just because one knows how to plan doesn’t make them an A-plus student in the art. For me, it’s been a learning process. What I’ve discovered has more to do with my own personality and habits than it does with knowledge and application.
I’ve learned that I have a tender heart and quickly want to take care of others or fix problems. My eagerness finds me quickly saying yes without thinking through the expectations or time commitments. I’ve had to master the art of saying no, reminding myself that the sting of disappointment is most likely only on my part. Most people understand when you have your hands full. If they don’t, well, let’s just say it’s even better that I said no.
How do you manage your time best?
As I sit down to ponder what actually works for me, here are a few things that come to mind.
On the practical day-to-day planning, I’ve found it best to start with coffee in hand and write out my daily goals. I typically begin by moving over items from the previous day that didn’t get accomplished, then add additional to-dos. My list is often long, so I study it for a moment, then try to prioritize with numbers, using 1 for the first item to start on.
I prioritize the to-dos that affect others first. For example, if I need to write out lesson plans so my son can start on school work, that’s on the top of my list. If I wait until 2 pm to do that, I usually find him aimlessly wandering around or trying to sneak in gaming!
As I finish each task, I zealously cross though it. However, my A-type personality often tends to ignore the fact that I’ve added a birthday each year. I still try to get done at forty-something what I did at twenty-six, so I frequently find myself with a long list of things that didn’t get done.
My feelings are stuck between feeling great that I’ve gotten much done and struggling with what I didn’t. So, I remind myself that it’s more important to sleep, eat well, exercise, and build relationships than to check off every to-do.
For the following week, I evaluate what I missed in the previous week and move over what is needful. I try to keep long-term ideas and desires in the forefront of my mind by jotting them down on my weekends. I don’t really expect to get them done; I just don’t want to forget.
Asking the Team
I asked my team what helps them manage their time. Here’s what they had to say.
Setting a timer for work blocks, followed by break blocks, is incredibly helpful for me. But, the most helpful trick has been to walk away from trying to maintain both paper and digital calendars, at least for my personal daily tasks or weekly school planning. It’s too easy to lose a commitment! Paper has always been easiest for me to maintain, so I only choose bags or purses that can accommodate my On the Go planner. This also makes it easier to jot down notes quickly or keep up with lists whether I’m out and about or at home.
(Just as a note, I do still use the online planner for long-term goals and full-year lesson planning. I check it weekly to make updates and transfer any immediate information into my paper planner for easy access.)
Is coffee a time management tip? (I’m only half kidding!)
Checklists are my must-haves for time management. I don’t mean the never-ending checklist, but a short, daily list. If you’re overwhelmed, then pick only the top 3 things that you must get done. Write them down on a sticky note or in your planner and keep that list in front of you! They don’t even have to be big things; something as simple as “do one load of laundry” is enough. At the end of the day, you can check them off and know that no matter what’s come up, you’ve gotten the most important things done.
Setting a timer. On the one hand, it helps me to know that I only have to do a distasteful task for 15 minutes. On the other hand, it lets me cross something off my list as “good enough” rather than “perfect.”
I make sure to write everything down in my planner and on my calendar, and I NEVER say yes without consulting them. If necessary, I say, “Let me check and get back to you.” Anytime I have been over-scheduled or double-booked it has been either because I didn’t write something down on my calendar or I said yes without checking first.