This week’s theme for the #Last90Days is how to plan AND be effective. For me, and probably for many of you as well, being able to accommodate work-life balance (including things like healthy eating, relaxation, working etc) is a serious challenge. When I see clients at Healing Path Counselling Services, they often express the difficulty they have in trying to “fit everything into a 24-hour day!” BUT it’s not impossible.
First, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to do everything, every single day. In any given week, however, you will want to have time to work towards your defined goals. How can you make that happen?
Think in advance
The best possible starting point is to spend 5-10 minutes in the evening planning your next day or spend Sunday evening planning your week. However you like to roll just make it work!
1. Make a Schedule – and Stick to It
Start improving your time management skills by organizing your days and weeks in advance. There will always be surprises, but it’s likely that you have an idea about the kinds of tasks and responsibilities you have to deal with every day.
If you’re feeling a little lost, spend a week or two tracking every single thing you do each day. This will help you identify patterns and recurring tasks, which you can then incorporate into your schedule.
The second lesson in time management is learning how to prioritize. To efficiently execute any project or work towards your goal(s) you need to decide which stages or components are most important to you. You also have to look at the impact of each stage/component in the short, medium, and long term.
3. Set Some Boundaries
When working with clients, this skill is paramount – not just for effective planning but also in having healthy relationships (whether its work, friends, family). People cannot read your mind, so it’s up to you to set boundaries when necessary. You can communicate your limits in a polite – but direct – manner.
To make this effective, you will have to make a few things clear:
- Which hours of the day you don’t want to be disturbed at all, except in case of an emergency.
- What counts as an “emergency.”
- When you are free to take quick phone calls or answer simple requests.
- When is work time and when is personal time.
4. Account for Good Distractions
No matter how hard you try, you will get distracted here and there. That’s a fact of life. Furthermore, no one can work for hours on end. We all need breaks to help is stay productive. The best thing to do is to accept that distractions will happen and try to incorporate them into your schedule.
Block out some downtime during your schedule every day. This may mean setting aside a few minutes here or there for a cup of coffee, a walk in the corridor, or a trip outside for some fresh air. These breaks are especially important if you work at a desk all day long.
You can also use your breaks to try some stress management techniques, like breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
5. Stay Away From the Bad Distractions
If there is a good side to distractions, there is also a bad side. If a distraction takes up too much of your time, you will find yourself greatly behind on work or in achieving your goals. So, get to know which distractions tend to drain too much of your time – and then make every effort to avoid these distractions.
For example, you may want to stay away from social media during the workday. You may also want to keep your email window closed until you are ready to sort through your inbox. The same goes for application notifications on your cell phone.
6. Don’t be afraid or feel guilty in asking for help.
I see this all too often in my work with clients where we have a mentality that we should be able to “do it all” and if we can’t then “why bother?” This all or nothing thinking will get you nowhere, leave you feeling inadequate, and is a negative cognitive distortion. You would never expect your loved one to “do it all” so why would you expect that of yourself?
Time management requires discipline, planning, a strong attitude, and the help of a few good tools (ie technology applications, calendars, sticky notes etc). But if you get it right, it will definitely pay off in terms of higher productivity, lower stress levels, achieving your goals (both short and long term) and a more positive mindset.