Twenty-four hours may not seem like a lot of time when you consider all that you need to get done in that time, day after day. But have you wondered how some people seem to be in control of their time, while others are frantically trying to race against it? The key lies in organizing your time and your day, so that you are able to accomplish all the important tasks for the day and are left with time for yourself.
Plan ahead. Make a to-do list for the following day. Include action you need to take with regards to work, home, family, social life and your personal time. Break down the steps into details. For example, if “Plan Mike’s Party” is one of the main tasks, break it down as “Call and order cake,” “Send out email invitations,” “Shortlist game ideas.”
Start your day early. Give yourself enough time to get ready, attend to your children’s or family’s needs, drop kids off, drive through traffic and get to work, or wherever you need to be on time. The key to organization is to allocate ample time, by starting out on or ahead of schedule.
Combine related or similar tasks. Try to run several errands in one trip. For example, you could go grocery shopping, get your car serviced, pay a visit to a relative who lives nearby, and drop off the dry cleaning in a span of a few hours. That way, you have the rest of the day to do all your other work. It helps if you set aside a specific time, periodically for errands, so they don’t interfere with your schedule.
Plan for contingencies. They are bound to occur, and when they do, have a Plan B to get your schedule back on track. Do not set very tight schedules with no elbow room. Draw up a schedule that will accommodate changes by anticipating emergencies, events or detours such as a child falling sick, appointment cancellation or traffic delays.
Evaluate and make changes to your schedule periodically. If after a few hours into your morning you realize you are way off schedule, stop what you are doing and take another look at your day planner. Be realistic. Re-adjust priorities so you can get the most important tasks for the day accomplished first. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle, be it at home or at work.
Train yourself to utilize “free” time. There are some things you can strike off your to-do list while you wait at the Doctor’s office, at the train station or while you are waiting for your order at a restaurant. Make a phone call. Check email. Review a paper. Put the finishing touches on a presentation. Practice breathing exercises. Learn to include these chunks of free time into your schedule, and make a plan for how you will use those minutes.
Use a planner. No matter how good your memory is and how much you pride your organization skills, putting your schedule down on paper makes tracking your day easier. When unexpected delays happen, a planner helps in re-scheduling your day.
Set aside some time for yourself to avoid burnout and monotony. This is the part that gets left out of most people’s schedules as they organize their days. When you divide your time into work, family and errands, be sure to include some time where you can do something exclusively for yourself. Even if it is just taking a 20-minute walk, a nap, catching up with a friend for coffee or reading a book, unless you make it a point to add it to your to-do list, you probably won’t make time to do it.