There are 168 hours in a week. We all have the same number of hours at our disposal but how is it that some people manage to meet targets, do the school run, keep a clean and tidy home and still find time to go to the gym while others feel like they are drowning under an ever increasing pile of prescriptions, health reviews, MURs, emails and ironing? Some of us may be more organised by nature but managing our time is a skill that can be learnt with a few simple strategies.
Organising, planning, prioritising
It can be dull to plan ahead and we can lose that freeing feeling of spontaneity, but planning and prioritising your tasks can help to ensure you fit everything in that you need and want to do. Good theory, but is it achievable? Stephen Covey, life coach and author of ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’, came up with the urgent and important grid. This simple model is designed to help prioritise your time by assigning tasks into four categories:
At first glance it can be tempting to think that everything is urgent and important so all tasks are assigned to that box. A natural reaction, especially when you feel under pressure! But how about taking a step back – maybe some of those tasks, while being important, aren’t urgent or perhaps they’re urgent but not important. Once you have identified the level of urgency and importance of tasks it can help you to see what you may be able to delegate. There may also be some tasks that can be crossed off completely. Completing this exercise also has the added benefit of freeing up some head space as your tasks are now committed to paper, leaving you feeling more in control.
Don’t put it off
If you are prone to procrastination remember this – it is a learned behaviour so it is possible to change! It takes a conscious effort to unlearn it but the golden rule is to do the thing first you want to do least. It reduces stress as it frees up the mind from the nagging knowledge that action needs to be taken.
Gimme a break
No matter how much you have to do there is plenty of evidence to suggest that we function better after taking a break. A 30 minute break at lunchtime will increase your performance in the afternoon and allow you to achieve more than if you try and work all day without a break. A series of short breaks throughout the day can help give your brain that well needed rest and improve accuracy.
Battling inbox overload
Email has transformed the way we communicate, providing us with the ability to share documents instantly and pass on information. But how many of us are weighed down by a bulging inbox and no time to deal with it? Here are a few simple ways to help you win your battle with emails:
- Set yourself a period of time each day to deal with emails and be ruthless!
- Unsubscribe to junk emails that you never read, to stop them clogging up your inbox
- Create a filing system for your emails to keep your inbox clear
- If someone else can deal with the email, forward it on to them, then file it in ‘dealt with’
- Make a folder for ‘information only’ to help you quickly find details at a later date
- Answer and delete!
- Pick up the phone – sometimes it’s more efficient to have the conversation rather than a complicated round of emails.
Time for wellbeing
Time management is essential in coping with modern life and preventing stress. Good time management doesn’t mean you do more work, it means you focus on the tasks that matter and make a difference. It won’t create those extra hours in the day that you crave but it will help you use the 24 hours you have more efficiently and leave you time to relax, enjoy life more and regain control of your day.
Managing your time is about not only completing all of your tasks, but also making time for you. Looking after your wellbeing is as important as all of the tasks you have to achieve. Allowing yourself time to connect with people, engage in conversation, take notice of the world around you and learn something new can help boost your self-esteem.