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.
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.
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.
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.
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