Developing a System of Time Management

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I just found out it’s important when planning your time to schedule time for…wait for it- planning your time! Mind blowing, isn’t it? Now that I’ve had someone explain that to me and I’ve incorporated it into my life, it’s something that I simply can’t believe I’ve missed for all these years! How did that get by me?

I’m an uber-nerd and at just the thought of creating effective systems, well. . .  I hear angels sing. Or maybe it’s just the crazy person in my head singing. But it excites me! I love the idea of my life being a well-oiled machine of prioritized tasks and time investments. I love starting out, pen in hand, making– joyous gasp– a list! (If you’re reading this, I know you love lists, too! Only deranged wackos hate lists. And maybe people who are just naturally organized, but we hate those people. We could never hate them as much as we love lists, though!)

I’ve tried all my life to develop systems for creating order in my life. With my internal organization lagging behind thanks to my creative/ADD brain, I’ve had to find external ways to overcome that. Whether you have ADHD or time management just eludes you, or you just love those darn lists so much, I’ve put together some common themes for a successful time management system.

1. Make it work. . .for you, that is.

What is your life actually like? Who are you, what are your habits? Take mental note of your needs, expectations, what things come easily to you and what things are like pulling teeth to get yourself to do. Consider how your energy swings throughout the day and the week and your normal habits. (If you watch tv in the evenings, is it realistic to plan a schedule where you do all of your chores in the evenings?) Don’t mark your calendar and make your schedule based on how you would like your life to be in an ideal world and as if you had amazing energy all day long every day, while only having to sleep for 5 hours a night. THAT’S NOT REALISTIC! If you tend to be more tired as the week wears on, schedule more of your evening activities on Mondays than Thursdays, for example.

     For me: A time management mistake was that I would always make my plan on paper very ideal. I always planned as if I’d get up an hour and an half earlier than I had to and as though I’d stay up late at night and maintain a consistent, high level of energy throughout the day. And since I have narcolepsy as well as ADD (the one actually accounts for the other) It’s not realistic to think my life will just change and I’ll get some magic stream of energy that never wavers. It didn’t seem totally stupid while I was doing it, but now that I’ve gotten smarter, I can see how ridiculous that notion is. (To see a post of mine about unrealistic expectations, click here.)

 

2. Plan time to plan your time. 

Such a refreshing notion! This has been a key for me..and it will be for you, too, if you haven’t done it already. The reason that it’s so important is that we take all this time to set up a schedule or an organizational system for our lives, but no time to maintain it and keep it going. (I’ve tried flylady’s control journal and the Sidetracked Home Executives card file system. I started…and gave up on, both of them, although I still have my card file system in case I ever get disciplined enough to use it and I recently went back to a modified-and easier-version of my control journal.) The problem comes after we inevitably mess it up and stop keeping up with the system or schedule. We just never go back to the drawing board to iron out the kinks in our plan and to re-motivate ourselves to keep it up. If you put the planning time in your plan, you can use that time to review your goals and maybe change your strategy if it needs to be tweaked.

For me: Sundays are now my planning time. I get out my control journal and the front section is schedule/planning. In it I have a list of the two or three main tasks for each day of the week, my work goals for the year, my work goals for the month, and the list of characteristics and habits that are important to me.  Those include things I want to remember to keep up because they’re important to me (like Bible study and family time) and also things I’m not good at yet, but want to be (like mailing out Christmas and Thank You cards.) I learned the importance of scheduling time to plan time and doing your planning based on who you want to be instead of what you have to get done from a study we did on Bill Hybels’ Simplify book.)

 

3. Forget the to-do list.

Like I said above- plan based on who you want to be, not what needs to be done. Thanks, Bill Hybels. (Although I feel like the s on the end of his name makes me sound uneducated if I say it out loud. Like I’m one of those people who just add unnecessary esses to the end of words for no reason at alls. Get it?

If you get a good, WORKABLE schedule, you will have built in the time to tackle all those to-dos throughout your week or month.

For me: I would make my  weekly plan based on everything I thought I should be doing. I’d look at all the things I needed to get done: House, work, family, projects. I’d squeeze all of those goals into my schedule as if I’d be able to get them done in the first week or month. 

 

4. Pick a lane. Or in this case, a day. 

Designate certain days for certain tasks. Especially if you’re one of those people who gets stuck doing something once you get into it and have a hard time pulling yourself away. Just allow for that in your schedule.

For me: I used to try to get like 20 minutes of every single thing I aspired to do in on any given day. I actually thought it was necessary to do all the important things each day. I figured I should be able to exercise for 20 minutes then study Spanish, then read for 20 minutes, then sew for an hour then do some pattern making…and so on…for, like, 50 items each day. Instead of assuming I’ll wake up tomorrow with a triathlete’s self discipline, I changed my schedule to match my personality. Now it looks like this:

I blog daily Plus:

Mondays: Sewing, List Items to Sell

Tuesdays: Pattern Making and Sewing

Wednesdays: Sketching, Watch fashion shows, Sewing

Thursdays: Photography practice and take pics for my blog, Learning-continuing education on blogging, sewing, Youtubing, etc.

Fridays: Craftsy Sewing Class, Look at other blogs, Social Networking

Note the lack of details. This keeps the schedule flexible and keeps me from pressuring myself into squeezing an unreasonable amount if items into my day.

 

5. Keep it regular.

That way if you skip it, it’ll come back up soon. Haaaa!!! This is like the way we get to stick it to the system…that we made, of course, but it’s still satisfying! If you do your bathrooms on wednesdays and you skip this week, don’t (metaphorically or otherwise) kill yourself over it. Don’t screw up your Thursday trying to make up for it. Just wait until next Wednesday! That sounds like freedom from guilt for me, people!

For me: I don’t really have a cute story of how I used to mess this up, because I’ve pretty much always known how helpful this could be if I could get a weekly schedule in place. I’m only now getting to where I’m using-and sticking to a system. I still don’t do it very well for chores, but I absolutely HAD to make a schedule for work since I’m working at home now and it’s going off like a charm. And by “like a charm” I mean I hardly ever do what I have listed for each day of the week, but it sure feels nice not to have to beat myself up over it, knowing that I’ll get to it next week!

 

Happy Scheduling, y’all. (Hmmm, I can’t get away with saying that, but it looks just fine when I write it. Go figure.)

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