We all have 24 hours in the day, but some of us feel we have no time while others seem to get everything done and still have time for fun and relaxation.

Poor time management can reduce productivity and contribute to many stress-related problems. If we underestimate the time it will take to complete tasks, we add unnecessary hassle to our day, throwing out our schedule for hours and even affecting the following day. The solution is to allocate sufficient time, plus a bit extra.

However, this is difficult for many of us. Those who are under pressure from tight deadlines, perfectionists, and procrastinators all have particular problems giving themselves enough time.
If you are in the habit of pushing yourself too hard because of unrealistic expectations and standards, time management skills can help avoid these hassles and work as a valuable stress management tool. The effort involved will be worth it for the sense of accomplishment. It will also help the quality of your sleep and relaxation, as important chores either will be done or will be allocated a dedicated time slot.

How Well Are You Managing Your Time?

To measure your current time management, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have enough time to do the things I enjoy?
  • Am I constantly rushing and often late?
  • Do I often cancel enjoyable activities because I’m too busy?
  • Do I feel there are not enough hours in the day?
  • Do I get frustrated and impatient?

Your answers may highlight a need to look at how you allocate your time and whether it is working for you. A lack of balance can lead to burnout.

Achieving Balance

Are you content with the amount of time you spend in each of these areas?

  • Work — paid or voluntary
  • Home — time spent doing regular household tasks, maintenance or gardening
  • Social — time with other people including children, friends and family
  • Personal — time spent on hobbies, relaxation, exercise and sleep
  • Private — time with partner
  • “Me-time” — time alone thinking and reflecting

If you are unhappy with the amount of time you spend on any one area, think of ways to reallocate your time. Consider which activities you would like to spend more time on, those you want to cut back on, and how you could achieve this new balance: Perhaps you could reduce the amount of work you take home, or organize a more effective laundry system.

Keep a written record of your use of time for a week. At the end of the week you will have a much clearer idea of where your time goes.

Lists

Make lists when you feel overwhelmed. Things will seem more organized on paper. Simply by writing the list, you will feel you already have begun to conquer it. Start with something easy to get you going. You can include deadlines, work and personal tasks. But beware the oppressive power of the list and remember who’s in charge! If an item has been carried over from several previous lists, cross it off — it can’t be that necessary.

Daily Time Management at Work

To keep track of your daily tasks, use checklists, Post-it notes, diaries, calendars, personal or electronic organizers and appointment books. Time often is lost due to disorganized filing systems, lack of an “in-tray” system, keeping unnecessary copies of paperwork and working alongside colleagues with a hoarding instinct.

If a meeting is dragging on, aim to steer conversation back to the matter at hand and summarize progress made so far. If appropriate, point out the time. Keep phone calls to a minimum, as they can continue longer than expected. Explain that you have an urgent task to complete, and suggest a better time to talk.

If you work from home, you will need systems for filing and making appointments. Ensure that computer data is backed up regularly to avoid loss of information. The more frequently information is backed up the less disruption is likely to take place should an accident happen and data be lost.

Peak Performance

Body clocks vary between individuals — there will be times of the day when you feel more and less energetic. Some people get most done in the morning, and others don’t feel alert until late afternoon. This can have an effect on time management. As much as possible, take on demanding tasks when you have maximum energy.

References and other resources

MyGoals.com

Personal Time Management Guide

Time management tips from Mental Help Net

Study Guides and Skills for students