Musings: Time Management
Time Management – who has the time for that?!
Ever had one of those days where you feel like you should do something, but can’t remember what? Or like you’ve got several pots simmering on the stove, juggling sharp knives and riding a unicycle?
Welcome to my world.
I recently discovered that being busy and being productive is not the same thing. Go figure.
I was running around like the proverbial headless chook (yes, you heard me, I ramped up my womble to a run). I felt that although I was very, very busy, and I was cramming so much into my day, I still didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything. So after a moment of feral panic, I sat down to figure out what I could do to change this situation. How could I be less busy, but more productive?
Analysis: Well, first I did what any effective, productive person would do. I researched. No, it wasn’t procrastination – that’s a future post! But I wanted to see what I was doing, how long it was taking me, and how I could do it more efficiently. What jobs were of great importance, what jobs were of a lesser importance? Or, what was ‘need-to-do’ and what was ‘nice-to-do’?
I found that my afternoons are probably the most hectic – and I’m sure all mums can agree, whether you’re stay-at-home, work-from-home or work from outside the home. There are afternoon snacks to prepare, homework (ugh), housework (ughx2), and preparing for dinner (this, I actually like). Plus odd projects that are work/writing related.
List: Ask anyone – I’m a List-Junkie. I love lists. I like the sense of calm and order they bring as I tick off each item, and I get to see how much I’ve done, but I also find that I can appropriately plan a schedule around the tasks that need to be completed.
Prioritise: So to cram all my afternoon tasks into my brief afternoon window, I made a list of everything I hoped to complete. Then, using my task list, I was able to consider the priority of my tasks, and listed the items of great importance first, through to lesser importance. This is my To-Do List. I’ve used my list below as an example.
- Afternoon Tea (yes, this is at the top of the list – ever tried to get children to focus on an empty stomach?)
- Play/Relax (let munchkins burn off energy so that they will settle down and focus when necessary. This applies to adults, too!)
- Dinner Preparation
- My Work
Delegate: I delegated what I could – eg; I stopped doing the kids’ homework. Just joking. Kids tidy up their toys and are responsible for their rooms, instead of me! By sharing that workload, it freed up a smidge of time. We also decided on who did what chores, and when.
Schedule: We (all the stakeholders) decided on what was a realistic length of time to spend on an activity, or how long a task would more than likely take. While the kids play/relax, I do my work. They can interrupt if someone is bleeding or something is broken, but otherwise it’s their time. No asking for more afternoon tea!
Manage: With our homework session, I made sure that I was with them, doing various sundry household tasks or dinner prep, as I found most interruptions occurred at this time. I tried doing my own work in tandem, but usually ended up frustrated at the interruptions, and wasn’t completing my work – until I realised that I could amend my schedule so that I did work that could be interrupted (Please, housework? Feel free to interrupt me!) at this time, and saved my work for a time that would involve least interruption, and I could provide the attention they needed in order for them to complete their tasks.
We now find we’re getting things done! And as we do certain tasks regularly, we’ve discovered that they take less time to complete, and therefore we have more free time – can you believe it?! While this whole process took considerable time at the analysis and planning stage, it’s actually saved us time overall, so taking the time to set our goals and plan our time has resulted in more jobs getting done and less stress.
But most of all, I changed my attitude. Life happens. While we have a timetable, it’s a fluid timetable – things can and do pop up unexpectedly on the radar, and need to be addressed. We’ve allowed for life’s little hiccups, and are a little more productive, and less busy!
But I still don’t enjoy housework.
Bear in mind, this is what works for ME. You might find something here that can be useful, and tweak to better suit your needs – or you might have a completely different way of managing your time – please feel free to share them here.
To read my article on time management for writers, feel free to visit my website: www.shannoncurtis.com.
How do you manage your time?