Time Management’s Top 5

Nobody has enough time. It’s not a new problem, but it is getting worse all of the time.

Every day our expected workload increases. More work with fewer staff, longer commutes, and gone are the days of admins and secretaries. 24 hour communication, endless emails and impossible expectations have made it hard to even find time to sleep, let alone have a life. Finding ways to cope with it all can be near impossible.

If you work full time, as most of us do, your weekdays consists of:

return commute  1 – 2  hours (unless you live in the suburbs where some people travel double that)

work day             8 – 9  hours (if you are lucky, usually more)

meals                   1 – 2  hours (ha, ha, ha, how often do you take a lunch break and a leisurely dinner?)

sleep                    6 – 8  hours (in your dreams, this is where most of us make up for lost time)

       Total                    16 – 21 hours

This looks pretty good right? A couple of hours for housekeeping, an hour or two for your family and a couple of hours for everything else. Except family time includes meals, homework, activities and bathing. And everything else includes showering, going to the gym, and talking to your partner (provided you remember who that is).  And where does the time come from when it does’t fit neatly in all of these boxes? Usually sleep. And notice what isn’t on the chart? YOU!  Is it any wonder that time management is such a hot topic.

The Books

Time management books professing solutions abound. Unfortunately, many seem to rehash the same tired ideas over and over. There are some exceptions and a post will follow in the near future listing them and honoring those wonderful authors who actually provide fresh ideas.

Meanwhile, here is what you will get from most time management books (not necessarily in this order):

Time Management Top 5

  1. Prioritize
  2. Organize
  3. Simplify
  4. Outsource
  5. Stop procrastinating

Sound familiar? Probably, it is the stock and trade of every book and course on the subject.

As you know running a household is nothing but time management. This site provides plenty of tools for the first four. If you try them out, the last one should take care of itself. Procrastination stems largely from fear, confusion and/or dread. Simple tools and outsourcing the worst bits should eliminate these, enabling you to move forward.

So, let’s quickly look at the first 4 items:

Prioritize

We all know this one; it is the focus of most books. They tell us that we would have lots of time if we prioritize. That may be true, but if you are a working parent, a carer for a loved one, or are trying to stay on top of things with an injury/illness, then you have more priority #1s than you know what to do with.

That is one of the reasons it is not one of our first tools. You probably already know what what your priority #2s are; they are the things that never get finished because you are scrambling after your priority #1s. If you have time for more than your first priorities, you probably don’t need as much help as you think.

That said, the best time to prioritize is after you get enough of the chaos under control that you can breathe. So best to get that first.

Organize

So, here is the next problem with these books. They love to talk about taking a day, a week or more and focusing on getting organized. Lets be realistic, who has that kind of time? Also, big organization projects are like New Years resolutions – they are the hardest to sustain. They also tend to provide solutions that are one size fits all. Let’s face it, if keeping a tickler file would work for you, you are probably already doing it.

If you have no systems and you have never tried them, definitely read a book or two and find something that works. If you have read three or more books and still are stuck then another book isn’t going to solve the problem.

You need new habits, not new systems. Real organization comes in little routines that fit in to your life, not big projects you can’t maintain.

Simplify

Again, great concept, but like organization, the books ask us to take huge chunks of time to de-clutter and downsize and with everything on our plate, good luck with that. Most of us just don’t have the time. So simplifying, like organizing, needs to be tackled in small, manageable chunks, preferably as an ongoing routine.

Outsource

For our purposes, we will consider automation part of outsourcing. This is the real gold of time management books, and is rarely covered very well. This should be your first step in time management. Before you have time for everything else, you need to make time. And this is the big win to outsourcing, automation and delegation; it creates time.

Once you have created time, you can start prioritizing and organizing, which will create even more time. Before you know it, you will actually have enough for a change.

So, to wrap up, most time management books are crap, some are awesome (more to come on that) and they almost all get it in the wrong order. So here’s my order:

  1. Make more time (outsource, automate, delegate)
  2. Get a grip on the crazy by creating good habits and routines (organize & simplify) – and no, I don’t mean throw away all of your stuff.
  3. Relax and Have more fun (prioritize)

What could you do less of? What could you give away? Where will you be this time next year; will you still be having the same problems? Or will you have made some changes?

 

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