I generally consider myself a pretty organized person. However, I have spent the past two weeks getting my digital life organized, and wow, did it need it! Here are some time management techniques that I’ve been using to try and stay head of life.
I would hate to see what things would look like if I wasn’t organized! But truly, it’s not hard to let things get ahead of us if we are not mindful and make an effort to keep up with everything that needs our attention.
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Time Management Techniques to Help You Keep Up With Life
It’s easy to say just prioritize and all your problems will be solved! But the word priority means the ONE most important thing, and for many of us we have more than one responsibility in our lives. So how do we pick? Here are some strategies to help you prioritize:
The classic advice says to create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. What this means is that a goal to eat better is NOT a “SMART” goal. A better example would be something like batch prepare a weeks worth of salads on Sunday afternoons at 2pm.
Around the homestead you wouldn’t want to just set a vague goal go off grid. Perhaps you set a goal of installing solar panels within the next two years. Then you can work back from that goal and determine how much money you need to save each week, and any potential projects that need to be completed ahead of time, such as tree trimming or roof repairs. Put a date on your calendar when you want to be ready to get some installers out to quote, or maybe start learning about how to do it yourself.
Put Your Rocks In First
One of my favorite time management techniques is to use the mental image of placing rocks, sand, and pebbles in a jar. If you place the sand or pebbles in first, there is not room for the rocks. However, if you place your large rocks in first, then your pebbles, and then pour the sand, you can pack so much more into the jar. Maybe you could even add some water!
The jar is your day. The rocks are the things that are most important to you. For me those rocks are my kids and writing. If I get those two in first, the smaller more important things like animal care, housework, and a bazillion other things still get squished in around them.
Eat A Frog
One of my all time favorite books is Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. If you take your most horrendous, overwhelming task, and get it done FIRST the rest of your day goes so much more smoothly and you actually get much more done. Plus instead of having that dreaded task hanging over your head, you get the freedom and relief of knowing that the worst is over.
How do you know what your frog is, or what your rocks should be? Well, the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule can help you narrow things down.
The 80/20 rule generally means that 20 percent of our effort equals 80 percent of our results. When you understand what things you do that actually make a big difference, you can spend more time on those things.
For me, 20 percent of my effort in the garden is actually watering regularly. It’s a very small part of my total gardening time, but without that 20 percent, 80 percent of my plants die!
You may find that 20 percent of your workplace effort actually is making your employee money. Or perhaps you only wear 20 percent of the clothes in your closet. Look for that 20 percent, and do more of it.
Anyone with some experience with time management techniques knows that saying no is crucial. How do you know when it’s the right choice? What should you be saying no to in the first place?
Take time to plan ahead, so that you don’t have last minute things jump up and steal your precious time. Keep a calendar and use it. Maybe you can block all your appointments in one area of town into the same morning. This will save you excess driving time.
If you are asked to do something in the future, but it’s not something you would find the time to do tomorrow, chances are it’s something you should probably just say no to right off the bat. Next week or a month from now may look empty from here, but in just a short time that WILL be your tomorrow.
Take a moment at the end of each day to decide what your most important thing (or your frog) is for the next day. By deciding in advance you can get up and go with your goal in mind.
I’m a dork, so I totally do this for weekends and holidays too. If my husband and I spend all Saturday morning deciding what house project or fun family outing we want to do we’ll never get started on it right away!
Usually by Thursday we have a rough plan of what leisure or household tasks are on the docket for Friday night and Saturday. That way we can jump right in.
Turn off the notifications on your phone. I’m serious! You can leave your texts and phone alerts on. But turn off the emails, the games, Facebook. Turn them off! Every time your phone beeps or dings, even if you don’t look at it, it breaks your concentration.
You won’t forget to check for new messages in your email and Facebook, I promise! That new YouTube video will still be waiting for you when you have a few minutes of downtime later, but in the meantime, it won’t be stealing your concentration and distracting you from the tasks at hand.
Track Your Time
Maybe you don’t have a smart phone. Maybe you just don’t know where your days are slipping off to. Take a few days and track how much time you are spending on everything you do. If you have a good picture of how you do spend your time, it will make it much easier for you to decide where you might want to make some changes.
Perhaps you realize you spend way too much time in the morning making lunch, but doing it the night ahead will save you a significant amount of time each morning. Maybe you want to spend some time meditating, but realize you spend your time waiting in line texting instead. Make some swaps and try new routines!
Part of pre-planning is knowing how YOU work. Plan around your energy levels. If you are a total morning person, knock out your most important task first thing. If you are like me, and a total dud in the afternoons, don’t set that time aside for brainy activities. If you are a night owl, plan out your most important tasks for during those quiet dark hours.
This time management technique can make such a huge difference in how much you can get done with very little effort. All you have to do is know your own internal schedule and plan around it.
We can sometimes be tempted to get more in by cramming more work into every moment of our time. This works occasionally, but eventually it WILL backfire on you. You can’t produce your best work if you are not physically at your best.
Make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep is super duper important. When you don’t get enough sleep your body will run on adrenaline. You may feel fine for a while, but you won’t be able to tell that you are not at your best. You may even think that you need less sleep than you actually do, because you can’t wind down. But when we are calm and well rested, we can work faster, better, and ultimately we are happier.
The same advice goes for eating well. If our diet does not have enough nutrition for us, we may not even notice for a long period of time. We become so used to feeling sub par we may not even realize that we are lower on energy or are getting sick more often. Eat a diet that feels good and gives you enough nutrients to actually live on.
And ditto for exercise. The more we do it, the more energy we have. The hardest part is getting started. Luckily for us homesteaders, many of our essential chores are physical. Generally multitasking is not an effective time management technique, but any time you can pair some exercise with another task that needs to get done is one of those rare times that multitasking is totally worth it.
Have a Routine
A solid routine can save you so much time. For example, every morning I head out to the kitchen, and empty the dishwasher. I don’t have to think about it. It’s just what I do the first time I step into the kitchen. From there, all the dirty dishes go straight into the dishwasher. Those two minutes of morning routine save me so much clean up time and the unpleasantness of dirty dishes all day.
When something is part of your routine, you just know it’ll be taken care of. You don’t have to worry. And you can know how long those routines take you and not overbook yourself each day.
You may not think of cleaning up as a time management technique, but it can sure make a difference in your ability to get things done. If your physical space is cluttered and messy it will be harder to find what you need. It’s harder to concentrate. Take some time to get your belongings under control.
I’m a huge fan of decluttering. If you haven’t used something in a year, it’s highly likely you don’t need it. And if you do end up needing it, it will probably be pretty easy and cheap to replace.
It may seem like it’s smarter financially to hold onto things just in case, but how many times have we purchased something only to find something that would have been just as adequate a couple days later? Also consider the cost of storing, maintaining a larger house, and inevitably repairing things that have gummed up from not being used.
Cut Down On Digital Clutter
Like I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve been working on getting my digital life in order lately. It was quite the job, but boy was it worth it! I had reached a point where I either needed to downsize, or start paying for digital storage. And I sure as heck wasn’t going to pay money for that!
It’s been amazing how much less distracting it is when I sit down to work or take care of online business to have everything organized and easy to access. I don’t have important numbers and information stashed in multiple places. It’s all in one place now.
4D and Two-Minute Rule
If you haven’t heard of the 4Ds or the 2-minute rule, they’re pretty handy. The two-minute rule means that if you can accomplish a task in less than two minutes, just do it! Seriously, just get it done, off your mind and out of your hair.
The 4D rule includes the 2-minute rule with in it. When going over your list of things to do, first, delete anything that doesn’t actually have to get done. Bam! One less thing to do.
If you can’t just delete a to-do item, delegate it where possible. Maybe you can hire someone to do tasks you just never get to. Maybe there’s a technological tool that can do it for you. Perhaps a family member or spouse would like to trade responsibilities and you take on a task of theirs you could do more quickly or easily.
If you can’t delete or delegate, and a task takes 2 minutes or less just get it done right away. Don’t postpone those little things or let them pile up.
And lastly, if something simply must get done and it needs a significant amount of time to complete, schedule it in. Put it on your calendar. Set aside a chunk of time and hold yourself to your appointment.
In my family, this is yard work. Our half acre lot can take a long time to mow. If we don’t set aside an evening or part of a Saturday to get it done, it can get overgrown SUPER fast and take even longer to mow. Our weeks can look very different, so we have to make sure we leave some time open to take care of the yard.
Not all of these time management techniques will work for you, and that’s okay! Pick one or two to try at a time. Once you feel you’ve mastered some of them, you can add a few more if you need to. Time is one of our most precious assets. Use yours wisely!
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