Do you feel controlled by time? Do you wish a day had more hours? Can you list all the terrific things that happened to you last month?
Depending on your answers, you can tell how effectively you’re managing your time and whether you’re accomplishing personal goals. The key to productivity in any endeavor, say experts, is effectiveness rather than efficiency. Here are some ideas to use in the new year to take control of time and make the best use of it.
According to many time management specialists, effective scheduling is the key. Choose a time scheduling system with which you feel comfortable. As a family, sit down and prioritize what needs to be done immediately, soon or can wait for awhile. Color code family members and their responsibilities as you plot out who does what by when. For a sense of achievement, cross things off as they are accomplished.
Include personal goals in your schedule as well. Think about priorities and how your schedule reflects them. If family closeness is one of your goals, set up an hour a day to play with your children and an hour a week to have lunch with your spouse or partner.
If career development is most important, you could list taking a class each semester or writing a current resume. For personal health, you could block out an hour three times a week to exercise.
A common problem related to scheduling is arriving on time. If you have a tendency to run late, the problem may lie in poor planning. Being late sets up a chain of tardiness that affects the rest of the day; plus, you arrive stressed and unable to collect yourself. In order to make up for your late arrival, you fall behind on the next scheduled item and the next, until your once well-planned day has become a shambles.
Instead of concentrating on the time you’re supposed to arrive, focus on setting things in motion to get to your destination. If you have a pediatrician’s appointment at 10 a.m. and it takes 20 minutes to drive there, plan to leave the house no later than 9:40. If it takes you 30 minutes to get ready, another 30 minutes to get your toddler ready and an hour for both of you to have breakfast and clean up, start preparations for the day no later than 7:40. Some people add 15 minutes to allow for unforeseen situations.
In addition to scheduling, here are other strategies to get more mileage from time:
Pick up once a day. Most messes start because people get sidetracked and don’t finish what they start or don’t put things away when they’re finished. According to home management experts, the average American spends one year searching for misplaced objects over the course of a lifetime. Practice once-a-day pickup to help keep things under control. Designate a consistent place for items or keep them near where they are used.
Include children in this project; even at a young age, they can be incorporated into family responsibilities and jobs. Assignments may be made on a rotating basis or family members can choose what they want to do, with each person having an opportunity to have first choice but not always the same job.
Break down overwhelming tasks. Divide a larger job into more manageable components to make it less monumental. When the family room needs thorough cleaning, limit yourself to only one area at a time or give each member of the family a section. For jobs you especially dislike, give yourself a time limit.
Refuse to respond to junk mail. Separate important mail from junk mail immediately and trash the junk right away. Don’t procrastinate or you’ll find yourself rereading it several times before finally throwing it away.
By taking control of your time, you will feel less overwhelmed because you will have prioritized the things that you decide need to be done. You will feel better about what you’ve done each day and about yourself. And, for a job well done, reward yourself. After all, although the main goal is to make the most of your time, that includes having fun, too.
Sylvia W. Lee has been on staff at Parenting Now! as an editor and parent educator for many years. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education. Explore this site; visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram; or call 541-484-5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org