If you regularly feel rushed, arrive late, forget important events, or can’t complete tasks, there are many tweaks you can make to make your life a lot easier. Which of these seem right for you?
- Set Clear Goals: Clearly define your short-term and long-term goals. Knowing what you want to accomplish helps you prioritize your tasks and allocate your time effectively.
- Prioritize Tasks: Identify the most important and urgent tasks. Use techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix, which categorizes tasks into four quadrants based on their importance and urgency. Focus on high-priority tasks first, but don’t let the others fall by the wayside. Schedule those at a time you know you can commit to getting them done.
- Plan Ahead: Create a schedule or to-do list that outlines your tasks and activities. Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps using action verbs and details. For example, instead of just listing “bread,” say “buy pumpernickel bread at Wegmans.” Set deadlines for each task to stay on track.
- Avoid Procrastination: Procrastination can compel you to action, but if it causes you chronic stress, that’s not healthy. Combat it by breaking tasks into smaller parts and eliminating distractions.
- Set a Timer: This simple tool has so many uses. I often set a timer to work on something I’m dreading or hate doing. Set a timer for 5 minutes to fold the laundry, and it’s suddenly a game! If you are chronically late, set a timer to leave 10 minutes before you think you should. For slogging through bigger projects, try the Pomodoro Technique (working in focused bursts of say 25 min. with short breaks of 5 min.).
- Use the 2-minute Rule: If you spot a task that can be done in 2 minutes or less, just do it!
- Delegate and Outsource: If possible, delegate tasks that can be handled by others. This frees up your time to focus on higher-priority activities. This takes practice, because there is time and energy required to identify the right person, articulate what you want them to do, and get them up to speed. Consider outsourcing certain tasks if the cost of doing so is less than the value of your time spent doing them.
- Practice Time Blocking: Allocate specific time blocks for different activities and tasks. This helps you dedicate focused time to each task without interruptions. Avoid multitasking, as it can lead to reduced efficiency and quality.
- Batch Tasks Together: Task batching is a way to focus on certain types of things at one time, like designating a certain time in the day to deal with email; or certain days to schedule meetings or appointments.
- Learn to Say No: Understand your limits and learn to decline requests or commitments that don’t align with your goals or priorities, or that just make you say, “Ugh.” This is also called creating and maintaining healthy boundaries. Saying no respectfully allows you to protect your time and energy. And you don’t have to provide a reason nor an explanation. Just, “I’m sorry, I can’t make it,” or “I’d like to support you, but I can’t do that thing right now,” is sufficient.
- Avoid Overcommitment: This also relates to being clear on your boundaries and what’s comfortable or doable for you. Be realistic about what you can and want to accomplish within a given time frame. Overloading yourself with too many tasks or commitments will only lead to stress, resentment, and subpar results.
- Take Breaks and Rest: Regular breaks are essential for maintaining productivity and preventing burnout. I was shocked when I trained with a run/walk method to run my first marathon (many years ago). Walking 1 minute every mile over 26 miles actually allowed me to achieve a faster overall pace than if I had run straight through. Allow yourself time for rest, relaxation, and self-care. Recharge your energy to stay focused and motivated. And, know when to call it a day.
- Review and Reflect: Regularly assess your progress and identify areas for improvement. Reflect on how you’re managing your time and make adjustments to your approach as needed. Similarly, taking time to prepare and plan is time well-spent.
Now, define a specific behavior you want to develop (i.e., “I want to arrive 5 minutes early to every appointment or meeting in the next week”), pick a strategy you think will help you achieve this goal, and commit to trying it. Don’t forget to review and reflect!