1. Keep a weekly activities schedule and a monthly calendar. Include scheduled appointments, time for yourself and loved ones, social/recreational events, etc. If you are trying to make something a priority, e.g., exercise, make sure to “schedule it in.” And remember that time management is not only about getting things done. It also increases your efficiency, so you can have more leisure time and enjoy that time more fully (i.e., since you won’t be feeling guilty about neglected tasks).
2. Keep a To-Do List with an ABC priority system. Each day, write down 5-10 things you would like to accomplish. Then prioritize the activities using the following criteria:
- How does each task fit with my personal & professional goals?
- What are my deadlines? Which tasks are most pressing?
- How important and urgent is each task relative to the others listed?
A = important and urgent, e.g., planning for child’s birthday party tomorrow
B = important but not as urgent, e.g., progress on a work project that is due next week
C = relatively less important and/or urgent than other tasks on the list.
3. Another way to prioritize tasks: Do, Delay, Delegate, or Dump. Especially consider delegating or dumping “C” tasks as categorized above.
4. Use behavioral principles to manage your time. Use a pleasurable activity to reinforce a less enjoyable task by doing the latter one first. Build in rewards for accomplishing things don’t feel like doing. Or give yourself a negative consequence for failing to do what you need to do (but don’t beat yourself up!).
5. Use odd hours to get things accomplished. Do some dusting while waiting for a delivery person. Organize your wallet/purse if left waiting for a medical appointment.
6. “Clean as you go.” Wipe up the water you splash while using the bathroom sink so there is less opportunity for mildew to grow. When you open your mail, make four piles: bills to be put in a centralized place; items to file; junk solicitations to recycle; and window envelopes to throw away.
7. Use the “Swiss Cheese” approach. Take small steps toward completing major tasks. If you have a basement full of junk, bring one item out with you (to donate or discard) each time you are there for any reason. Address and stamp envelopes for holiday cards if you do not yet feel like writing them.
8. “Chain” your shopping and errands. Think about what you have to do in terms of geographic location, so that you can knock out more errands in fewer trips. This type of planning can save time, (gas) money and wear & tear on your car.