Time Management Methods to Try

3 Time Management Methods You Should Try (Plus My Favorite Free Printables)

It doesn’t matter whether you spend your day in an office, work from home or devote your time solely to managing a household. We all seem to share the same struggle: how to find time management methods that make the best use of our time.

I mean, I’m sure you can relate. You have a million things you could be doing, but instead you find yourself once again checking Facebook or raiding the fridge or flipping mindlessly through channels.

I know I’ve been there.

While different time management methods work for different people, here are three I’ve tried over the years that made a profound impact on my productivity. Give them a try yourself and see which one turns you into a time management ninja.

Checklists

This was the system I used for years, and it worked like a charm. Really, right up until the time I started working from home, a daily checklist helped my household operate like a well-oiled machine.

What I Love About Using a Checklist:

• It isn’t rigid. I never feel like I need to do certain things at certain times.
• It’s comprehensive so it covers everything I need to do each day.
• It’s motivating because I want to run through it quickly and have the rest of the day “off.”
• It creates a natural routine for my days.

Now, if you don’t get a thrill out of marking things off a list, you might not find this system as motivating. Plus, I found it didn’t work well when I began working from home and after my husband got sick. My days became too unpredictable and my time more limited. As a result, I became frustrated that my checklist routine was constantly disrupted.

However, that doesn’t mean a checklist won’t work for you.

Amy Bayliss created the one I used and loved. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find an editable version you can use to create your own perfect checklist.

To-Do Lists

Once my checklist system started sputtering, I began looking for something different to manage my productivity. Since my free time was limited, I decided a to-do list of priorities would work best. That way I could focus on what was most important each day and not feel guilty about what was left behind.

What I Love About Using a To-Do List

• It’s flexible and can be customized based upon what was happening each day.
• It’s freeing because I don’t have to stress about less important tasks.
• It’s effective because it makes me focus on my highest priorities.

Some people suggest you pick only major task to put on a to-do list each day while others suggest a total brain dump a la Getting Things Done.

However, I settled on a system that I read about on Entrepreneur.com. I’m embarrassed I can’t find the article to give credit where credit is due, but the author’s system included eight items for each to-do list. On work days, six items were work-related and two were personal. On Saturday, the to-do list had six personal items and two work-related tasks. Sundays were free days with no to-do list.

Time Blocks

I used my to-do list system for about two years and really liked it, but over time, it seemed to lose its effectiveness. I blame it largely on user error – I was putting time-intensive tasks on my list, making it impossible to complete them all each day. That, in turn, frustrated me. So I decided it was time for a change and am now trying time blocking.

Time blocking involves setting aside specific times of the day for specific tasks. So, in my world, 9-12 may be work time, 12-1 might be cleaning time, and 1-2 might be for errands. You can block time for reading, recreation or anything else that strikes your fancy.

What I Love About Time Blocking

• It takes the guesswork out of the day. No more wondering, ‘what should I do now?’
• It’s flexible. If your day is predictable, you can use the same schedule over and over. If not, change it up as needed.
• It forces me to be realistic. If I know a typical article takes me two hours, time blocking makes it painfully obvious I won’t be writing three articles each day.

Some people use sticky notes on a large wall calendar to make it easy to rearrange schedules and reuse common tasks. However, I have found I love using the “Today’s Plan” sheet from I Heart Organizing. You can find it as part of the free Time Management Printable Bundle on this page.

While I love time blocking, I find it makes me a little stressed as well. If I don’t get things done in the time expected, I start feeling anxious and behind. To compensate for that, I’ve started blocking in “Flex” time which can be used to catch up on anything I might not have completed earlier in the day. It also makes the system feel a little less rigid.

My Current System

Using the Today’s Plan sheet, I’ve created something of a hybrid system for myself.

I time block in the appointments column, and then I use the “Let’s Do This!” section to make a to-do list/brain dump of everything that needs to be done. However, I don’t obligate myself to do any of those. If they fit into the day, that’s great. If not, I carry them over to the next day.

Then, I time block “Cleaning” for part of the day and for that, I go back to the trusty checklist I shared above. I work my way down the checklist during my cleaning time and then pick up where I left off the next day. This means everything doesn’t get done daily, but it is a vast improvement from my let-the-dirt-accumulate-for-a-week-and-then-clean-like-mad system.

Which time management methods have you tried and loved? Let me know what you love in the comments below or on The Mighty Widow Facebook page.

Note: Amazon links in this post are affiliate links

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