One of the top questions I’m asked is “how the heck do you handle all that’s on your plate?”
If you are close to me then you will know that I am an extreme planner. Everything which offers a symbol of ordinance is something that I cherish: coloured pens, day planners, Post-It notes, any stationery. There is a sense of order to the chaos that is daily life if you’re able to see it written down. Am I a Type-A OCD control freak? Maybe…
In any event, I am going to explain how I’m able to control the orbit of the planets of responsibility in my life’s solar system. If you would like to get some pointers on how this works, continue reading. If you enjoy living in a state of turmoil, never caught up on the things you have to do, then I advise you read no further.
Tools of the Trade
The first thing you need to do if you would like to take a page from my book is purchase a day planner. Some people find their phone calendar to be their best form of time organizer; if you’re a digital person like that, then you don’t need to buy anything, but rather start actually utilizing the tool already at your disposal. I am not a phone calendar type of planner. The funny thing about our generation is that we straddle the digital age and the age of paper and pen. There is just something nostalgic to me about writing down my appointments on paper. The feel of a pen gliding on good quality stationery is something which some people go days without experiencing in this binary world.
Depending on your schedule needs, you may require a planner which allows you to use one page per calendar day. I am partial to the books which allow you to view the entire week at a glance because it gives me a visual for how to slot things in, but more on that later.
Now, I’m a two planner kind of gal: I have one which allows me to plan my week for teaching between 8:00am-3:00pm and another which houses the obligations of my daily life. I’ll probably do an entirely different post on how I manage time during the day at school, but if you are a teacher and you’re reading this, my advice is to have two planners. (Side note: my dream planner is an Erin Condren which is basically a teacher’s holy grail.)
My book of choice this year is called The Happy Planner which I purchased in Anguilla at Essentials Stationery Store. I love this planner because it has these cute little pages at the beginning of each month which charge you with some serious reflection and monthly goal setting.
I find that colour-coding aspects of my week work well for at-a-glance perusal of my planner, so I have a several packs of various coloured pens which I keep handy. I use a different colour pen for things my children have to do, errands, deadlines for courses I’m currently taking and social events. Colour association is something which I encourage my students to use during their own note-taking. Sometimes you can remember things more because the colour jumps out at you, or you can visualize things you wrote down and see the colours used. This technique is not just good for note-taking, but also for colour blocking your day. When something is visually pleasing, you want to look at it more.
I love these damn things! They are the most handy organisation invention ever and no amount of “computer age” will get rid of them. Post-Its are perfect for things you need to put on your calendar before further confirmation. Just jot stuff on your Post-It and then you can move it from one day to another if need be.
If your family is as busy as mine, it’s a good idea to stick a family calendar somewhere central. I don’t know about your family, but for mine the fridge is basically akin to the most expensive advertising space any company can purchase. I print freebie calendars from here and stick them on the side of the fridge each month so that we can all stay organized and keep our schedules synced up.
Now, I know I said that I am not a digital planner, but that doesn’t mean that Siri doesn’t come in handy. Saying “hey Siri, remind me to email Becky tomorrow at 8:00am” guarantees that Siri will place the little memo on your reminder app and a notification will continue to pop up on your lock-screen until you manually clear it. This feature comes in handy for short term planning when I’m on the go, or when I think that I might forget to jot something down in my planner. If you are a digital planner, you can also use this method to add things to your virtual calendar.
Essential Time Management
Owning all this stuff doesn’t make you a planner, though. What makes you a planner is being able to project estimated time for specific projects and setting realistic goals for your week. If you know that you want to start writing a novel, don’t plan out one hour a day for writing if this is not a realistic option for you (I am speaking from experience, here, okay…). Set daily goals for yourself which will be easily obtainable or you will become discouraged from planning. The whole point to organizing your time is to increase your productivity. If you are constantly beset with unreached tasks then your planning book will quickly become a book of your failures.
Take time to decide what you need to complete each week before you go making deadlines for yourself. Once you have done this, make a list of these tasks in order of importance. With this knowledge and awareness, you can easily set out personal deadlines in your planner.
So you have plans, but how do you make sure you actually get this stuff done?
One of the biggest time sucks (besides your cell phone) is errand running. The whole getting in and out of the car stuff and the line standing and the driving can really set you back. Slot in one day a week for errands. This will change the amount of time you spend running up and down. You can collectively hit a lot of the places you need to go in a few hours once weekly instead of spreading it out over time permitting it to eat up valuable minutes in your day. Make a list before you go to the grocery store. This will eliminate the need to run back later because you forgot an essential item. You can also do away with most of your errands entirely by paying bills online which has saved me an incredible amount of time each month.
Erase the Time Leeches
We all have things in our life which slowly eat away at our time. I blame this almost entirely on the internet and Netflix. Each day, the level of my productivity is affected by the invention of these two things. When I get home from work, there is nothing I want more than to sink into bed and binge watch something. The best advice I can give for battling your time demons is to make it harder for you to fall to the dark side. If you think that simply saying “I won’t watch TV” or “I won’t go on my phone” isn’t enough then make it more difficult to do these things. Unplug your TV and put your phone in a drawer. Having to make a conscious effort to engage in these tasks will give you pause and allow you to reflect on how much control they have over you. Before you can get a handle on managing your time efficiently, you need to know how you are mismanaging it. Self-reflection is the best way to come to this realization.
Often we fail to realize that we are in control of how we spend our time and energy. By seizing the power we can make the most of each of our days and become more productive people. I wouldn’t be able to juggle work, home, studying for my masters, writing this blog, singing, exercising and maintaining a social life if I didn’t identify where my time is often mismanaged. What helps tremendously is that I have a supportive husband who is an amazing life partner and for this I am grateful.