I hate to say it, but when I manage my time well, it’s because I’m paying attention to the obvious. Sadly, I haven’t always been very good at noticing the obvious.
No doubt some of you mastered these time management tricks years ago. But I’m pretty sure some of you are right where I am–struggling to pay attention to the things right in front of your face. For you, I’m sharing my own personal time management reminders today.
They may be obvious to some, but it took me a whole decade to figure out these 3 rules. Hopefully, that means someone will find a shortcut today.
1. Do a reality check.
I believe in hoping for the best. But I’ve learned the hard way that I may want to stay up till 2 a.m. to finish my big project, or for my kids to skip their naps for fun plans, or to visit 5 different relatives on Christmas Day.
But I know from experience that I can’t stay up till 2; that no plans are fun with sleep-deprived kids, and that if I’m not exhausted by the second Christmas Day get-together, then I certainly will be by the third.
I’m trying to train myself to do a reality check before making plans. How are things really gonna shake out? I can’t always know, but I can come pretty close if I stop to think about it.
2. Time management is energy management.
For years, I thought time management was about time. So when I planned how to spend my time, I would look at my calendar and book up the vacant hours.
Those plans worked on paper–but I couldn’t follow through in real life. Because time management isn’t just about time: it’s also about energy.
These days, I’m paying attention to not only how much time events take up on my calendar, but how much–and what type of–energy they demand from me. I’m asking myself, how does this event affect me? Do I have the time I need to recharge? Can I maintain this schedule? If I can, will I even enjoy it?
I’m especially guilty of ignoring the Energy component during the holidays. I’ll pack in the activities–only to find myself too exhausted by the living of them to actually enjoy them.
3. Think 3 steps ahead.
Laura Vanderkam compares time management to chess. Master chess players don’t just think about their next move; they’re always looking three—or more—moves ahead. They anticipate outcomes and make contingency plans. That’s the only way to win.
I’ve been training myself to think ahead when I schedule my time. I’ve been deliberately thinking through possibilities and making contingency plans. Not for everything, of course. But I have been taking Laura’s words to heart: “if the stakes are high, it’s good to be in the habit.”
When it comes to logistics, I don’t think well on my feet. It’s enormously helpful for me to think through contingencies beforehand, instead of when I’m in the midst of a crisis.
Can you relate to my personal rules? What rules shape your personal time management?