As a mom of two active kids, wife of someone who owns his own business, published author, daughter, sister, aunt and traveling career women, time is at a premium for me, like I’d bet it is for you.
In fact, we are not alone. Several years ago, a book titled What Women Want concluded, through global research, that what women want most is time.
Research that I conducted and featured in my own book, Too Busy to Shop, showed that women were not only multitasking, but “multiminding” – mentally juggling a complex mix of family, career, self-care, to-do lists and other thoughts at any given moment, all while physically doing other things. Hence, becoming too busy to shop. Tell me it’s not so.
Being a Type-A personality who does not often ask for help, and a marketer who focuses on women and moms, I think of managing and making the most of time as a kind of sport. I study patterns in my own life and those of my friends.
I read any points of view or research I can on the topic. I plan. I test shortcuts. I get frustrated. I do yoga.
What I’ve learned over 25 years of such time-focused activity, (okay, call it an obsession) boils down to the following time management tips that I hope will serve you well and not take too much time to read. The first four need a bit of explanation and the last six are self-explanatory.
1. Focus on your priorities
Priorities are not right or wrong. They reflect what you want to support most. Be true to them with your time.
If you can spend time on your top two or three priorities, most days you will feel happy, satisfied and like you’ve managed your time well. Notice I said two or three – you cannot support a long list of priorities on an ongoing basis (click to tweet).
My priorities are family dinners, well-adjusted kids, a learning career and ongoing health. If my kids are generally handling life well, our family can eat together (even if it’s 15 minutes in the evening). If I can learn something new at work (and do something with it!) and work out a few times a week, I have managed my time in a way that supports my priorities.
2. Avoid Lines
I hate lines. Lines are such an affront to effective time-management. It’s not just the time wasted but the mental aggravation.
- Here’s how I try to avoid lines:
- TSA pre-check
- traveling very early and very late
- printing boarding passes at home
- not grocery shopping on the 15th or last day of the month
- asking for the first time slot of the day for teacher conferences, dental or doctor appointments
- not doing anything in person that can be done online
- walking into professional sporting events 10 minutes after they’ve started
- avoiding restaurants on Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day
- Cyber Monday, not Black Friday.
3. Optimize the Little or Unexpected Times
We don’t always need big chunks of time to accomplish something. While I wait in the carpool line (a line I cannot avoid), I can sort my mail, write a few checks and read an article online vs. just waiting.
I often do my holiday shopping (what I don’t do online) in airports vs. sitting at the gate.
Meeting gets cancelled last minute? Make some new contacts on LinkedIn, send a quick thank-you note, check- in on the kids’ grades, pay bills online.
Knowing my planned schedule for the day always changes, I try to have little tasks in mind that I can quickly slot in so I can be productive on the fly.
4. Flex Your Approach
To really manage my time well, I sometimes have to be a bit unorthodox and flex what I do to manage my time. I don’t compartmentalize any more.
Some nights I have to be on conference calls during family time and some days I do a teacher conference during work time. One week I will plan and make dinners ahead for three nights and the next week I pick up dinner each night.
It’s raining? Go ahead and do the yard work in the rain (but wear boots). I give up my “sleep in” time on Saturday mornings to do yoga and sleep in on Sundays, instead.
And, I often do the following things to help manage my time, which are self-explanatory.
5. Use a slow cooker often during the week for meals that are ready when you get home from work.
6. Buy clothes that can be rolled into a ball and not wrinkle.
7. Combed hair and minimal make-up is good enough most days.
8. Never check baggage.
9. Use commuting time to think through big challenges and use time in the car with kids to talk and listen.
10. Breathe, laugh with your kids, savor good food, have a cocktail if it helps and count every day as a blessing.
The great thing about time management is that you can do little things right away that make you feel better and more organized.
Let me know your favorite ways to manage time in the comments section below!