We're all convinced we are super, uber bad at time management.
I don't know the myth or mystery behind it but I've yet to meet the person who is like, "ME?! HECK YA, I DOMINATE TIME MANAGEMENT... I ROCK THAT THINGS LIMBS OFF! I AM AN ABSOLUTE ANIMAL WHEN IT COMES TO MANAGING MY TIME."Yea, if that person does exist then I want to meet them... and maybe date them... and then marry them and follow them around drooling while I watch them tackle their day with a productive vengeance.
Time management seems like one of those weak spots. One of those things we have not quite mastered yet but we really hope to (dot dot dot) someday. But you know what? No more, friends. NO. MORE. Today I am coming at ya' strong and saying: We are done with being the Debby Downers of Day Planning. You hear me?!?! If you are too weak for the contents of this post then please exit my blog now. Otherwise, guzzle a 5-hour energy shot and repeat this credo after me:
"I, ____Insert name here or nickname you've always wished people would call you by____, do hereby swear to stop whining and walking around weeping in the organization section of Target. I am going to stop thinking that Etsy shops are my cure-all and that one more set of funky, oval to-do list sheets is going to make my time management skills any bit better. No one needs oval to-do list sheets... not even me. I am vowing, today and for the rest of my life, to rock the face off time management like Honey Boo Boo child. I am going to be a beast with appointments. I am going to be a tank when it comes to tasks. And I am going to STOP telling people that I am awful at time management and instead tell them that I am the girl/boy on fire before diving into a rendition of notes that Alicia Keys will always hit better than me. And that's alright... because my talent isn't singing anymore, it's time management."
No frills, no ruffles- you need a system.
"Buying a new planner, and new dividers, and funky post-it notes, and sweet little stickers and these oddly shaped clip thingers that are an absolute anomaly to me but cute nonetheless are going to make me an organized person! Suddenly I am going to show up to meetings early with a coffee in hand feeling like a million-and-two dollas."
Yea, you know we've all eaten that idea up like cake. Like fluffy, white birthday cake. But can I debunk the lie? And tell you it's simply not true? No amount of cute accessories will make us better managers of our time. A day planner = tool. A rack of highlighters = tool. Babycakes, step. off. the. tools. and. get. yourself. a. system.
You have to know the inner workings of your productivity and workflow if you ever want tools to help you down this yellow brick road of time management. I may as well sacrifice this entire blog post to the gods of bad Wizard of Oz References by saying that Dorothy's shoes, as bangin' they looked, held no power until she knew how to click those rubies together. I don't care how pretty we can make our organizers look, we need to get into the habit of creating a system that we go back to day after day after day. Without the system, the frills fail us.
You need to come into the ring already knowing yes, this works for me or no, that has never worked for me. And girl, it if it has never worked for you then, chances are, it's not going to work this time around either so please spare yourself the trip to Target for a new planner and just step off for a second.
Lock + key your week before it begins.
I schedule everything into my planner on Sundays so that I can walk into my week knowing what is ahead. I sit down, with tea in hand, on a Sunday night and I map out: what are the projects I need to finish this week? Who are the people I need to see? What emails need to be sent? Do not pent this kind of info up in your head and walk into the week overwhelmed. Write it all down and go from there.
I walk into the week knowing the tasks I want to accomplish and, more importantly, where they are actually fitting into my day-to-day schedule. After Sunday, that calendar is lock + key. I don't push my limits, I don't cancel things, I stick to the tasks I know I need to get done.
Don't let "Where" dictate your "What."
Let's just be clear: most day planners revolve around where you need to be. Martha Stewart will even go so far as to tell you what day to go to the grocery store and cheer on your son at soccer practice (Martha, I don't have a son... please hop off my swag with your assertive planner tendencies). I know that if my week revolves around the places that I need to be then I will get way less done. To have a productive week, I must accomplish tasks and push projects forward, regardless of where my meetings lie. Therefore, I use a daily planning sheet to make sure I stay focused.
Get my daily template here.
Printing out these sheets and stacking them in a big ol' binder has been the key for me, especially with a crazy travel schedule. I know where I need to be (but it does not dominate my whole day), who I need to follow up with, the big tasks and nitty gritty. Gratitude is also a very important chunk of my day so I make sure I keep a running list of thank you's so I can spread them out after the day winds down.
Know thy peaks + valleys.
Hours vary for everyone. Some of us work a 9-5 day while others are up at all hours of the night cracking away at the workload. Instead of beating your head against a wall when you lose an hour of productivity, key into when you are the most focused in a day, when you get the most things done, when you tend to slump in your chair and hate your life a little. Schedule the daily workflow into those peaks + valleys.
Be realistic. & plan accordingly.
I am a retired member of the "I used to want to do 27 things in one day until I realized it was physically impossible and my limbs were weeping" club. Time management and day planning means nada if you are constantly setting unrealistic expectations. Know your limits. Know how long a task normally would take you and schedule out from there.
I try to enter into each day with at least 4-5 smaller tasks to get done of 1-3 bigger tasks. Some days I will dedicate an entire day to 1 project while other days I am in serious need of having a bunch of mini projects done. Go at your own pace and know it isn't the end of the world if a task is not completed. You'd rather the work be on par than frazzled but finished at the 5pm hour.
This is just the first of several posts that will trot your way on time management as I learn the crooks and curves of it myself. I would love to hear from you and gather some tips on what works and what doesn't work in your own time management habits. Let's chat in the comments below, boo.