Lesson 2: Time Management
By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
- Recognize how you spend a typical 24-hour day
- Recognize steps toward better time management
How do I spend my time?
Do you feel like you never have enough time in the day? Do you fall behind on job duties and chores until you feel anxious and overwhelmed? If so, you must learn how to manage your time more effectively.
People who are successful both at work and at home manage their time well. One of the first steps toward successful time management is to begin to identify how you spend your time.
To take the first step toward effective time management, complete our How Do I Spend My Time? Worksheet.
Watch the video below to learn some tips for time management.
Response: How do I spend my time?
Once you've recorded your results, you may be surprised at how you spend your time.
Turn your worksheet over and write down the things you wish you had more time for. For example, do you wish you had more time with your family? Friends? Yourself? Explain, and be specific.
On the next page, we'll talk about learning how to manage your time more effectively so you can incorporate these activities into your life.
Learn to manage time effectively
Take out your "How Do I Spend My Time?" results. Follow these steps to learn to manage your time more effectively:
- Using a clean sheet of paper, list your tasks.
- Estimate how much time it takes to complete each task.
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks from your list, drawing a line through each. (Are you doing these tasks because you must or because you feel you should?) Notify others if necessary, explaining that you're currently too overwhelmed. You've already freed up a significant amount of time.
- Delegate some tasks to others. Are there tasks your spouse, children, or coworkers could be doing? Put a checkmark next to tasks you'll delegate, or pass along, to others. Write name(s) next to each task. Successful delegation takes some finesse.
- Prioritize your tasks by numbering them in order of importance. If you have difficulty establishing what's most important, ask yourself what's necessary to fulfill your basic needs, what's necessary to be successful at work, and whether you have any deadlines to meet. If so, write them next to the appropriate tasks.
Creating an action plan
Once you've prioritized your tasks, create an action plan for each large task. An action plan is a list of steps that must be done to complete a larger task or goal.
To create an action plan:
- Determine the measure of success for each task.
- List each step it takes to complete the task.
- Establish the best way to complete the task. Consider experimenting with different methods and asking for advice.
- Find ways to multitask, or do more than one thing at once.
- Assemble the people and resources you need to create your action plan.
- List possible rewards or incentives.
You've made a significant investment learning ways to better manage your time. Do your best to follow through with your action plan. Share your plan with your mentor or supervisor, fine-tuning the plan if necessary. Refer to it when you feel overwhelmed. And learn to say "no" to new tasks. When you're ready, refer to the list of things you wish you had more time for and begin folding those things into your routine.
More time management tips
- Get up early.
Getting up just an hour earlier can make a tremendous difference in how your day is structured. When you get up early, you have more time for life's unplanned emergencies, such as car trouble, childcare issues, sickness, or miscellaneous errands. Consider going to bed a little earlier to make up for lost sleep.
- Turn off the television.
According to the American Time Use Survey, Americans older than 15 spend an average of 2.8 hours per day watching TV. If you watch two or more hours of television a day, consider cutting back or turning off the TV altogether. Computers and mobile devices can also be a distraction when they're not being used for anything productive, so you may want to cut back your time on them as well.
- Use a calendar.
Keep a calendar of important professional and personal appointments and events. There are several types of calendars ranging from to-do lists to day planners and desk planners to online calendars (which often are part of email programs like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook) to calendar apps for mobile phones and tablets. Choose the type that is easiest for you to maintain.
- Plan meals in advance.
With a shopping list and coupons in hand, grocery shop for an entire week or two. When feasible, buy in bulk. It'll save you time and money. If you know you'll be particularly busy one week, prepare something you can freeze and reheat easily.
For more information and tools to help you set professional goals, check out these resources.
- Mind Tools: Provides several tools to help you be successful in the workplace; topics include improving job hunting, time management, memory, creativity, and decision-making.
- The Balance Careers: An article on setting and keeping goals.