Monday, January 18, 2016

Time Management Tips

A couple of months ago I did a review of Ditching the Drive Thru by J. Natalie Winch. The book encouraged me to put a little more effort into what I was eating. And I mean that in all aspects. From the amount I spent on the food to going through the drive thru. Natalie has agreed to do a guest post today. And I'm really happy to present her ideas on time management which is something I always wrestle with.

You can keep up with some of what she is doing and what she has planned through her facebook page or through her website Food Empowerment Blog. For those of you who are interested in a more healthy lifestyle that isn't overwhelming. It's a really good place to begin.

I love the New Year. 

Although I look at time as a random man-made concept, I do love the idea of marking time, of tracking it.  I think it is undervalued, though.  It is highly sought-after, since we only have a limited quantity, and should have a high value.  However, I see so many people squandering it, wasting it.  We can never get time back.  Money, we can get back.  I’m never too worried when I spend money, because I know that I can work and make more money.  But if I spend time, it is gone.  And if I work, more time is gone.  So no matter what I do, even sitting here writing this blog post, I have spent time.

The New Year always feels like New Time for me.  Not just a new beginning for new ideas, new approaches, but that time itself is somehow renewed.  Maybe it is connected to the daylight.  The days get shorter and shorter as December speeds by, and I don’t think I am truly cognizant of the daylight extending until about the first of the year.  It’s only a difference of about 10 minutes or so, and I am not particularly aware of it in the morning, but I notice it in the evening.  In pagan times, it must have been very reassuring, every year when people realized that the days were getting longer and that Spring would eventually arrive.

I love January.  It is one of my favorite months of the year.  Sure, the snow is sometimes frustrating, and I don’t like the heating bills, but it is a month that I end up spending a lot of time with my family, students are fairly low-key and I can get a lot accomplished in the classroom, and I am invigorated by newness.  We have no sports to attend in January, which changes our meal schedule to one that is more consistent; we aren’t running out the door early Saturday morning to get to a game site, or out late on Mondays and Wednesdays for practices.  There are no major Jewish holidays in January, so I have no big programs to plan and worry about for the Hebrew School.  Senioritis has not quite set in, because the Senior Trip in March still feels far away for the students.  And I had ten days off to get caught up on grading, and plan and prepare lessons.  I have organized my book bag, and updated my planner.  I always feel “ready” for the month of January.

Do you? 

OK, maybe January isn’t your month.  You have basketball, wrestling, and ice-hockey to juggle.  You are in charge of the cookie sale for Girl Scouts.  You have a major presentation for a client in two days.  I get it.  That is how September is for me.  How does one survive this dearth of time?  Prioritizing and planning.  The best advice I ever received was to write things on paper.  The visual trigger, actually seeing where your time goes, is extremely helpful in sorting out how to spend time.  In my book, Ditching the Drive-Thru, I discuss a 30-Month Plan to help people try and reach their goals.  But even setting up a 30-Month plan can be daunting if you don’t know if you have any time to spend working on goals.  Don’t know where your time goes?  Try this:

On a piece of blank paper, held landscape, make a chart with 7 columns, one for each day, then fill in your chart with every single thing that you do on a given day.  There are many things we tend to overlook when we are accounting for our time:  getting ready for work, making the children’s lunches, responding to emails and texts, doing the laundry, sweeping the kitchen floor.  Understand why:  we value neither the 10 minutes we spend nor the task we complete.  If it takes 3 minutes to change over the laundry, and 7 minutes to fold it, then you spend 10 minutes per load doing laundry.  It doesn’t seem like very much.  But if you are doing 6 loads of laundry, times 10 minutes per load, you have spent an hour on laundry.  If you spend 30 seconds per text (reading, and then responding) and you are in textversations (Winchian from the Latin “versus” meaning furrow or line of writing, line of text-writing between two or more cellphone users) 60 times a day, you have spent 30 minutes texting.  Over the course of a week, that’s three and a half hours.

Fill in your chart with a task and the estimated amount of time you spend on that task.  For example, I used 9 ½ hours for school because I am including the 40-minute each way commute time.  Looking at the picture of my chart, I realize that I haven’t read or sent a text, had a conversation with any of my family members; I didn’t get ready for bed, read a book, or sleep; I forgot about stopping by my parents’ house, checking social media, watching TV, and eating or preparing any meals on Saturday.  Try to be as complete as you can.  Then total up your hours.  It’s crazy, right?  Part of me wants to cry when I look at that chart.  It can be overwhelming.

What do you do from here?  Prioritize.  What is most important?  What can I do without? What can I move?  Turn the chart into a list: What do I spend the most time on to what do I spend the least time on.  My chart goes from school (about 50 hours) to making my lunches (about ½ hour).  I spend more time writing blog posts than I do making my lunch for the week.  I never realized that.  After you have looked at things in a time-expenditure way, rank the items by how important they are to you in terms of necessity and personal satisfaction.

Then comes the planner.  Did anyone ever teach you how to use a planner?  There are many different methods, but many people agree that “on the phone” is the least successful way to manage time.  Yes, the alerts and reminders are convenient, but we miss the visual cues because we don’t look at the month as a whole, or even a day as a whole.

Here’s a great method that was passed along to me many years ago: have a monthly planner AND a daily/weekly planner.  The monthly planner gives you the overview.  When you get your new planner, put in all of the birthdays, anniversaries, or other remarkable days.  When you make doctor appointments put them in.  Add in the kids’ school schedules, activities, and events.  As you get information about family plans, add those in as well.  All of this should go into the daily/weekly planner, as well.  I know it sounds like double work, but when you look at a coming week, seeing it all at once on a monthly calendar is helpful.  As to the day-to-day, make To Do lists in the daily/weekly planner.  If something doesn’t get done, move it to the next day.  If something absolutely MUST get done, highlight it.

There’s another thing that I forgot to put on my chart: working in my planners.  I spend about 5 minutes a day, updating my planner, maybe ten on the weekends.  It’s about 45 minutes a week and well worth it. 

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