Over the years my role has changed. I went from a high school student to a college student, to a teacher, to a parent. As I transitioned to each new phase in my life, I found that I struggled with learning time management again. This is something I have always prided myself on being exceptional at, and to struggle with it was tough. I eventually compiled a list of tips on managing time to help myself during these transitions, and now I want to share them with you.
- Time management is fluid. We are constantly moving from one phase of our lives to the next, so we cannot expect what we were using during college to work as a mom. Embrace the change.
- It looks different for every person. Just like it changes with different phases of life, it also changes from person to person. You cannot manage your time the same way someone else does and expect it to work. You are you, they are them.
- It takes a plan. It’s not something you necessarily need to write down every step unless that’s your style. But it is something that takes conscious awareness and practice.
- Dedication and effort are crucial. It’s easy to make a plan, but to follow through and stick to your plan will be the deciding factor of success.
Very few people have one or two parts of their lives they need to manage. The majority of us are juggling work, school, families, social lives, religion, and more. It can be a hard balancing act, but here are the tools that have helped me.
- Set a day to plan. Every Sunday afternoon I sit down with my husband, pull out our calendars, and discuss what our week will look like, who needs to be where, and how we will work together to accomplish it. This is not a big planning meeting for us, it’s usually casually done sitting on the couch while a TV show plays. The weeks this doesn’t happen, it usually turns to madness.
- Prioritize your week. I walk through everything I need to do for the week and make a decision on the importance level. Either I absolutely have to be there, it’s flexible when it happens, or it’s not a need. The work commitment I made for midweek? That’s an absolute. My son’s doctor’s appointment in the afternoon? It can possibly be flexible if needed, those can be rescheduled. Going to the waterpark with friends on Friday? Not a need, but definitely a want.
When I take the time to categorize these events, it helps me in those moments of feeling overwhelmed with my load for the week. As my Friday fills up with other work commitments or obligations to my church I made last minute and I start to wonder how to make it all work, I remember that going to the waterpark is not an absolute, it can and will be dropped if needed. That leads me to my next point.
- It’s okay to say no. If adding more to your plate is causing problems or making it harder to keep those non-negotiable commitments, start by cutting out the events in your life that are not needed.
- Delegation is your best friend. No, I did not say “making everyone else take care of your problems” is your best friend. But giving others opportunities to help themselves and you can have a high payoff. For example, while I was teaching first grade, I offered to stay after school to help a student read. With everything on my plate, did I have time to help this student? Absolutely not. But did I anyway? Absolutely.
A few weeks in, my principal caught word of what I was doing, and while he admired it, he helped me find an alternative solution. He told me there was a free after school club that the student could attend where someone could sit with him every day, one-on-one to read. I passed the torch to the after school club and it was so freeing to know that the student was still being helped, and I had an extra half hour every day. Delegation at its finest.
- Be organized. Organization is placing something in structure or giving it order. This means for some people, like me, a neat planner with straight lines and color-coded highlights for each event is “organized”. For others, that may mean a messy notebook with everything written sporadically throughout. Find your definition of order and go with it. Trying to manage your life the same way as someone else will not make you organized, it will make them organized.
For me, these are tried and true tips that have guided me through every different stage of life. I’ve been prioritizing events for years now, they have just changed from college classes and social events with friends on the weekends, to my kid’s activities and park play dates with neighbors.
My last tip, which I find the most important to remember, is that you can start today. If you need better time management in your life, there is no need to wait for a new year, just start with a new day! Tomorrow, prioritize your events. The following day, delegate a few to-dos. On any given day of the week, sit down and plan out the next 5-7 days. Don’t wait for some big moment to organize your life, it can happen any time!
What methods do you use for time management? How has it changed over time for you?