Where did the time go? It’s 4:00, and you’re only halfway through your to-do list. It would be so nice to spend the evening with a friend – or just stay home and rent a video. But there’s no time to relax; you’re too busy. How did that happen?
The answer to this question is important. General statements like, “It’s my job,” or “It’s my family,” won’t help. And they aren’t even the truth. The problem isn’t with your job or your family; it’s with how you deal with them.
Unless your job requires it, you probably don’t give much thought to how to manage time. Most of us follow a routine, which helps, but we aren’t used to managing time consciously. With no understanding of time management strategies, we make three typical mistakes.
We do too many things.
We imagine that things will take less time than they do, and we think we can squeeze “just one more thing” into our schedules. Start looking at how long things really take, and allow some time for the unexpected. Then you may find that you need to manage one less thing, not one more.
We do things for the wrong reasons.
One of the most common reasons for doing things is making other people happy. Often referred to as “the disease to please,” this problem affects most of us to one degree or another. But it creates serious problems for the chronic people-pleaser. When deciding how to respond to a request, it’s important to consider something more than the warm fuzzies that will come from saying yes. Ask yourself these questions:
- What will I have to give up in order to do this? Saying yes to one thing means saying no to another – possibly several others. Make sure to include “time for me” when answering this question.
- How do I feel about doing this? If you’re uncomfortable with the request, there’s probably a good reason. It might be more difficult than it appears to be, in which case you’ll be investing a lot more time than you thought. It might be a bad idea, and the repercussions will cost you.
- Am I taking on someone else’s responsibilities? Letting others off the hook is seldom a good time management strategy. Yes, it may be quicker to do it yourself – this time. But what about next time? And the time after that? It’s usually better to hold people accountable than to do their work for them.
We insist on doing things perfectly.
Perfectionism is a real time-killer. Some things need to be done precisely, like the timing of planes taking off and landing on a busy runway. If you’re bringing cake to a party, must it be homemade? Even if it needs to be gluten-free, you can probably find a place to buy one. It won’t be as nice as homemade – but it should be good enough. And sometimes “good enough” is what’s best for us.
Of course, there are other ways to manage your time. Setting achievable goals, breaking things down into smaller chunks, avoiding interruptions – all of these will help. But if you’re doing the wrong things in the first place, is doing them more efficiently really the answer?
Boundaries and Time Management
Knowing how to set boundaries is one of the most effective time management skills you will ever learn. Usually you’ll need to set them with others, but sometimes (as in the case of doing things perfectly) you’ll need to set them with yourself. Whatever the boundary is, setting and maintaining it will free your energy for the things that matter most to you. And isn’t that what life’s all about?