"Chaotic Days? Create a time-management “Tool Box”!
We are living through some very challenging times. Not only is there upheaval in the world around us, but the chaos seems to really affect our day-to-day living, making it hard to utilize our time well.
Adjusting to the new "norm" can be a huge challenge for those who have trouble prioritizing and figuring out what "first steps" to take, or tend to let their "to-dos" fall into the categories of "now" or "not now". This can lead to a lot of procrastination and prevents people from getting things done.
Some people are feeling overwhelmed by an increase or decrease of free time in their new schedule. Others have a life-long challenge of being disorganized or may have ADD/ADHD, which affects the executive functioning in the brain (responsible for managing time, planning and organizing, remembering details, impulse control, among other things).
When a day looms large without any structure at all, it can be very daunting to figure out where to start and how to break up the time. Add in numerous distractions, the additional care for family members, or any other factor that is normally not dealt with, and it can be a set-up for disaster.
As a life coach and productivity specialist, I help many of my clients deal with their time-management challenges by creating a time management "tool box".
One of the tools I find especially helpful is a "time map," a unique schedule that helps you block out time for the tasks/events you’d like to fit into your life. It helps pinpoint what a fulfilling, ideal day might look like, increases awareness around what your true priorities really are, and highlights obstacles that might be presently getting in your way.
When I create a “time map” with my clients, we start out by looking at their daily, weekly, or monthly "anchors,” which are tasks or routines that are done on a regular basis. “Anchors” include morning and night-time routines, self-care, family time, prep and eating of meals, chores, errands, appointments, etc.
The "time map" shown in the picture above is based upon discussions I had with one of my clients during our coaching sessions. We began by looking at what she felt was really important to include in her day (most of which she never felt she had the time to do). We then estimated how much time she thought each task would take and discussed how they could fit within a typical day.
Spending time with family was important to her. Through our discussions, she realized that bonding time could be overlapped with some of the household chores, since her family tended to do the work together. She also recognized that the study time she needed for her future certification should take place in the early afternoon, when she was more "cognitively awake".
"Anchoring" the important and consistent tasks/events into the “time map” allowed her to see if there were pockets of time still available for other things that she'd like to fit in, such as spending time with friends or running errands. Her "time map" is quite full, so adjustments would be necessary to make space. For instance, she can choose to shorten her study time or delegate household chores to family members to allow more space in her schedule.
Presently, her homework is to see how much time things actually take and compare it to her "time map." This will help us evaluate whether the amounts of time we blocked off are realistic or need to be adjusted. Some days may need more flexibility built in than others and there may be tasks that have to be moved to another part of the day or week.
There are a number of other “tools” that make up each person’s unique "toolbox." Everyone has their own strengths, values, needs, wants, and modalities (how we take in and process information). Are you visual and enjoy color-coding? Are you kinesthetic and find that writing notes by hand helps you to "capture" the info in your brain? Are you auditory and learn more by listening? Do you like recording your appointments and tasks digitally or on paper? Do you need to set alarms for yourself? Would you benefit from the support of an accountability buddy? We all have different times of the day when we are more mentally or physically awake. Are you an “early bird” or a “night owl”?
It's important to build your life around your natural gifts and tendencies, as opposed to trying to fit into something that may be the new trend but may not be right for you.
By exploring what makes you “tick” and using a "time map," you can learn how to successfully navigate your day. It's all about experimenting, becoming aware of what works for you, and making small adjustments as you go.
Successful time-management may feel un-achievable, but by using the tools in your "tool box" it is really doable!
If you have any questions or would like to explore your own “tool box,” please feel free to reach out to me.
I look forward to connecting with you!
Debra Levy, COC, ACC
A Life That Fits, LLC
Certified Life Coach & Productivity Specialist