By Guest Blogger Melissa Foster
If you’re like me, your To-do list is longer than the day is long. Every morning I wake up and wonder how on earth I’m going to get everything done. Although four of my six kids (yes SIX kids) are now college age, for many years I was navigating six children’s schedules, my marriage, my writing career, and trying to maintain friendships. Needless to say, life was a tad hectic.
I’ve come up with a few tricks of the trade to manage my time, meet my commitments, and not lose myself in the process.
Here we go! Let’s cut right to the chase…
Plan to succeed
Meeting commitments takes supreme time management and organizational skills, and anyone can have those skills—it just takes proper tools and planning. For sake of ease, I’m going to use myself as an example. My day is cut into three sections: The Top 5 List, Kid Time, and Family Time.
At the end of each evening, I write down my To-do list for the next day. I prioritize my top five tasks (The Top 5 List) based on what tasks will cause my life, or the life of others, to fall apart, if they are not accomplished. Here’s a hint, laundry and haircuts do not make the top-five cut.
Once you’ve figured out the five things that absolutely have to get accomplished, move on to your next priority list; items that should to be done today or they’ll have some sort of negative or stress-causing impact on you directly. These are items that should be done today, but can just as easily go unnoticed until the next day. Yes, these items may climb tomorrow’s list in terms of priority, but remember, you’ll be revamping the list each night, so that’s okay.
If you think I’m bananas making these lists, you haven’t raised 6 kids while managing work, a husband and life. 🙂 Making lists might seem labor intensive at first, but they will preserve your well-being, and will quickly become a source of comfort and direction for you.
Schedule your time
Time management can seem overwhelming for those who are not used to taking charge of it. The way I grab hold of my day (and my sanity) is to note approximately how much time it will take to complete my TOP 5 list. For example, my list may look like this:
- Drop kids at school 8:00 (Yes, I have to put this on the list!)
- Conference call with Sally 8:20
- Write article for Women on the Fence 9:00 – 9:45
- Write two articles for bloggers 9:45 – 10:45
- Grocery shopping 11:30-1:00
Pick up kids (There they are again!)
- Clean house
- Play with kids (Very important! Make time to engage your children in something fun).
- Call associate (by now kids are playing independently)
- Laundry (I’m sure I’ll procrastinate, so might as well add it in now)
- Prepare notes for tomorrow’s meeting (while kids are doing homework, this is my homework).
- Plan tomorrow’s LIST
- Take a walk with my husband or friend
- Put away work – spend time with family
Scheduling your time will give you a mental image of what your day will look like and give you piece of mind so you can properly accomplish the tasks at hand. Look at number five on your list—is that something that could be delayed to your “Kid Time” or “Family Time” (in other words, not “The Top 5 Time”)? If so, pressure is off.
Allow yourself to reprioritize
No one is perfect, and managing schedules and commitments can be a fluid process as your day changes. I used to think that if my schedule was delayed, the other party who was waiting for me would be bothered. Don’t get me wrong, I always try to be on time, and mindful of other people’s schedules. But, what I’ve learned is that the other party, typically, is just a normal person making it through their own deadlines. How would you react to a delay? Handled professionally, chances are that it wouldn’t send you running from your client.
Keep phone numbers handy for meetings, conference calls, and important contacts. If you notice that you are behind, make a call or send an email and delay the next event a few minutes (if you are able). Be confident and apologetic. Most people are kind and will understand.
Give yourself a break – THE “ME-TIME” SECTION
Probably the most important task that should be on your schedule is time for you to rejuvenate. We can’t enjoy our days if we are constantly running from one task to the next, always appeasing others.
Build thirty minutes into your schedule daily to read, take a walk, or even decompress watching a movie at the end of the night. Thirty minutes is not too much to ask. It’s okay, life will go on. I promise.
Remember, we can plan, but we can’t plan everything. Things will always come up unexpectedly, life will throw us for a loop, and we need to roll with the punches. But preparing for tomorrow has served me well in all my roles, and it might work for you too.
What do you think?
I would love to hear YOUR time management tips, and how you manage your day and get things done. Do you create lists? Do you just wing it? Share with our readers.
Melissa Foster is the award-winning author of two novels, Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, an online social and support community for women, and WoMen’s Literary Café, and is currently collaborating in the film production of Megan’s Way. Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, and is currently working on her next novel. Visit Melissa on her website, www.MelissaFoster.com.