Taking Back Your Time: How to Tackle Time Management

Time management may conjure images of cubicles and boardrooms and deadlines at school, but time management can (positively or negatively) affect virtually all aspects of your life, including job performance, relationships, and even health and general well-being. Learning how to begin using time management strategies can feel overwhelming, however, as there are countless books, articles, and studies on the subject, many of them preaching different approaches. Fortunately, managing your time does not have to feel as complicated and overwhelming as rocket science, and by using a few simple practices, you can effectively tackle time management.

The Merits of Time Management

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Much has been said about motivation and efficiency, but both motivation and efficiency are useless without proper and effective time management. Time management separates a productive day from an empty one, and is the catalyst for consistent production and even consistent self-care. Time management has been linked to improved success in school and at work, and may even be related to improved self-esteem and success.

Time management is also a useful skill, because it makes you feel as though you have more time at your disposal. Ineffective time management strategies can lead to losing track of time while scrolling on social media, getting off task and cleaning your home when you are supposed to be working, or even spending an undue amount of time on a project and de-valuing your time. When you manage your time effectively, you may find that you are mindlessly scrolling on your phone or computer far less, getting more done in less time, and prioritizing your time with more consistency and confidence. Effective time management may help you get paid more for your work, engage more in your relationships, and generally experience greater satisfaction in your pursuits.

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Tackling Time Management

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It may initially seem to be a matter of learning how to work to improve time management skills, but the process is actually far more about individual needs and self-evaluation. What works for one person definitively will not work for another, and trying to box yourself into the needs of someone else will likely result in frustration and the dreaded f word: failure. To get started on your successful time management journey, it is vital to enlist the following practices:

  • Self-evaluation or reflection. Whether you utilize a journaling practice to conduct a self-evaluation, or you simply review your daily habits and practices and make a mental note, evaluating yourself and honestly identifying your strengths and weaknesses is vital. Conducting this evaluation will help you determine where your greatest issues are in implementing time management, and will give you an idea of where you should start.
  • Trial and error. Learning how to better manage your time will mean engaging in some trial and error. Systems have to be developed, implemented, and rearranged in order to find the system that best works for your personality, usual setbacks, and needs.
  • Ongoing adaptation. Perhaps one of the most valuable pieces of the time management puzzle is this: adaptability. Being able to adapt to unexpected challenges and changes will help prevent burnout and limit the amount of defeat you feel when your day or tasks do not go as planned. Time management is a process, and some days will lend themselves to rigid structure more than others. When work extends past your expectations, a visit with a friend extends past typical visits, or an appointment is running long, adaptability allows you to shift items around to continue to meet goals and complete necessary tasks.
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When Time Management is Elusive

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There are many different situations in which time management seems impossibly elusive. Some mental health conditions can make time management particularly difficult, as can some physical ailments. Time constraints, too, can whittle down the degree of time management you are able to achieve. When time management is elusive, it is important to recognize that starting small is not tantamount to failure. It is far better to begin in small, manageable increments than it is to jump in headfirst and ultimately abandon your attempts to more effectively manage your time, as articles on the subject can attest.

If mental health or cognitive differences make time management more difficult than is typical, starting small can mean making a commitment to get up at the same time and go to sleep at the same time every day—or even to wake and sleep within the same 30-minute window. Once this habit has been effectively established, another time management practice can be introduced. If physical ailments have hindered time management progress, it can be helpful to widen your expectations. If something “should” only take 10 minutes, add an additional five. From finding appropriate accommodations to recognizing differences in daily ability, adding some cushions of time can help.

If time constraints have regularly impeded time management efforts, there are numerous avenues to consider to more effectively manage time. This can mean cutting back on commitments, if possible, altogether or prioritizing them differently. It can also mean getting creative with multitasking. If, for instance, you have a weekly date with a beloved friend that you do not want to go by the wayside, but you also need to get to the gym or prepare meals for the week, consider including your weekly date in those other necessary tasks. Meal plan and prep together, alternating homes, or head to the gym as a pair. Getting creative and collapsing time frames is often the best way to go about improving time management when time is a precious commodity.

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This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.