When life threw us all into seemingly endless days of staying at home, working from home, entertaining ourselves at home, thinking of anything we can possibly do while at home it became abundantly clear to me that time is a force to be reckoned with. Read more to know some time management tips and tricks.
Not that I call for tik-toks much, but there was one that came across my way that really got me thinking. The person filming shared how now he knows that if he could do whatever he wanted to with all the time he had (referring to the lockdown)… he would do nothing.
For many of us this could be truer than not, even though quite a bit sad. And some of us may still find ourselves in such a situation, with governments forced to keep nations under lockdown. While we may be more prepared to deal with this than we were the first time it happened, many of us who can relate to the Tik-Toker might still be struggling with more time on our hands than we even know what to do with. Or on the other side of the coin, we’re struggling with too much to do in too little time.
Either situation calls for a plan of effective time management.
What exactly is time?
I often feel, that at times a change in perspective is half the journey done.
FOR WHOEVER NEEDS TO HEAR THIS TODAY: CHANGE IN PERSPECTIVE IS HALF THE JOURNEY DONE.Tweet
So, before we get into the nitty-gritty of time management, let us ask ourselves this: what is time?
Time is a gift.
The Oxford English dictionary has a curious definition of time, “The unlimited continued progress of existence and events in the past, present and future, regarded as a whole.”
“A progression of existence.” Our existence. Time is basically our very existence. Our life is essentially time stretched out into seconds, days, months and years. Perhaps this is why we say, that when we give our time to others, we give a gift. Because we are giving others a bit of our lives as well.
Time is a priceless gift given to us. As the wise, old Master Oogway, from the Kung Fu Panda universe declares, “There’s a saying: ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. ‘ That is why it is called the present.”
And it’s up to us how well we use this gift.
Time is a choice
In a similar understanding, I believe time is a choice.
In every moment that presents itself to us, we have a choice to make. What has passed cannot be undone, and what is to come is unknown. But in this very moment we exist, you and I, we can choose how we live it.
When you find yourself aimlessly scrolling through social media apps, remember this choice you’ve been given. You alone can decide what to do with the present moment. Make the choice to swipe away from the app.
With a fresh understanding of time, let’s look at how we can manage it well.
At the start of your day, a good habit to cultivate is to make a mental list of all tasks that you need to run through during the day.
This serves as a brief reminder of what your day could look like – save for the occasional unexpected happenstance!
Having a clear idea in your mind before you embark upon the journey will keep you on top of tasks because you know what to expect and what’s expected of you. For me, it acts as a rehearsal of how my day should progress.
I also use this exercise when it’s time for me to tackle a task. Before I begin I mentally run through the activity in terms of what my purpose will be, what the end product should be, what tools I might need and such.
Once you’ve set a general plan for the day, the next thing you need to do is prioritise. Set your schedule by prioritising tasks.
A common method used includes the Eisenhower Matrix. Here tasks are prioritised as Urgent/not urgent and important/not important.
Once categorized they are then placed within 4 quadrants accordingly.
- Urgent/Important (Do) tasks are done immediately.
- Important/Not Urgent (Decide) tasks are given deadlines
- Unimportant/Urgent (Delegate) tasks can be delegated
- Unimportant/Not Urgent (Delete) tasks can be eliminated entirely
To categorise tasks it is best to review them daily and ask yourself the following questions:
“What do I need to do in 48 hours?” (Urgent category)
“Of the urgent tasks, which are more important?” (Urgent/Important category)
“Of the non-urgent tasks, which are important” (Important/Not urgent category)
As you go through categorising tasks you will soon come to eliminate tasks that waste time or don’t need to be done at all.
Do not be too rigid when following this method, the importance and urgency of tasks change from time to time. Allow yourself to be flexible.
The Eisenhower box can be used for broad plans involving weeks or months and can be used for daily schedules as well.
Here’s what my Eisenhower box for today would look like:
To do lists
I’ve never been big on Resolutions, but as 2021 came rolling, I challenged myself to make “to-do lists” a regular habit, and I can daresay, it has been going pretty well!
I use a diary to jot down daily goals that I require to achieve. This helps keep me in the loop of things when it can get too overwhelming and acts as a memory tool as well.
Additionally, looking back on tasks I’ve ticked off as done reminds me of what I have managed to achieve and boosts my confidence. It also allows me to plan ahead.
While writing down my goals, a technique I had learnt that was part of my Psychology syllabus in my first year of university 4 years ago, still comes in handy today!
I remind myself to set SMART goals! Literally and figuratively!
S- Specific: Keep your goals clear and concise, with definite deadlines
M- Measurable: Set your goals with measurable standards of evaluation that allows you to track your progress.
A- Attainable: Write down goals that are challenging but possible at the same time. Set realistic goals. Don’t go too hard on yourself but don’t take it easy either!
R- Relevant: Make sure your goals are relevant to your current situation and are within your priorities.
T- Time bound: Set a specific deadline for your goals. Deciding to complete that project “some day”, will never get it done!
Also read: Goal Setting for 2021
When it comes to increasing productivity and decluttering, there’s 3 things at least I think we can do.
Declutter your station, schedule and self!
Truth be told, I’m honestly quite the messy person. I excuse myself out of this mess by stating that’s just how I function best. When my desk is in an “organized mess” it helps me work better, and indeed I quite like the personality it brings to my work place.
Alas, however much this is true, when the time comes for me to really crack my knuckles over a task that demands more from me, the first thing I do is clear the mess right off my desk.
I organise note books and reference books, keep my stationary tidy and bin other random paraphernalia I’ve collected in a dim light. And once I’ve wiped my surface clean, that’s when I can sit down and tackle the task at hand.
Try this! Declutter your cube and you’ll find yourself feeling more organised and less flustered with renewed energy.
When it comes to deluttering your schedule, it’s much the same as decluttering your home. Take out things you don’t need, that unnecessarily take up your valuable time, much needed energy and sense of control.
No one’ s routine looks the same. Some prefer a fast paced lifestyle, while other’s like to take it slow. But very often our plan can spiral out of control leaving us to feel overwhelmed and our resources exhausted.
It is necessary to regularly review what takes up your time without your permission and often without your knowledge too!
Determine your priorities, review your commitments and be aware of when the two can go out of alignment.
Acknowledge that you cannot do everything. Know your limits and plan accordingly. A few months into university I would wear tiredness as a badge of honour, but sooner than later my mental health was way down in the dumps.
So, while you get rid of things that steal away your time, do not let go of essentials such as relationships, family time, sleep and exercise.
Factor in a half hour or more of leisure everyday.
And finally, decluttering your mind is most essential when it comes to making the best use of your time. A stressed out mind can get the job done for the moment, but in the long run it will have adverse effects on your physical, mental and social health which ultimately decrease your efficiency.
When your schedule gets overwhelming, do the top 3 most important things that need to be done for the day. Delete events that can wait for another day and re-prioritise your commitments. Serving yourself more than you can handle will discourage you when you find out you can’t cope. So here’s a life hack: be real with yourself.
Expectations from yourself and from others around you can push you to the edge, when this happens reflect and ask yourself which of these prospects are purpose driven and healthy.
Identify time traps
Time traps are activities that we perform that take up our time, energy and focus without us even knowing. They rob us of our basic resources when we least expect and when we don’t look.
We can avoid these pitfalls by staying alert and being aware of what steals our time from us.
Time traps can include spending excessive amount of time on trivial matters including social media, putting off complex, more difficult tasks for later and using too much energy on the less important tasks just because they’re easier. Additionally not making a schedule, attempting too much, inability to say no, lack of self discipline, procrastination etc.
Identify what takes away your time without permission. Pay attention to where you spend your energy and focus.
Also read: How to form a new habit
So there you have it. 5 tips and tricks that you can use, plus the Eisenhower box and SMART goal setting to help you increase efficiency and productivity.
Time management not only helps you to do more things better (or less things when life calls for it), but it also helps you to be the best person you can be!
About the writer:
Reeva de Sa is one of our newest members here at Truly Soulfully. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy. She is passionate about Neuroscience, literature and beach days too!
In her downtime you’ll either find her cycling, writing poetry, practicing her guitar or bonding with family and friends. She loves to read too!!
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Have a great week!!