Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks you are expected to accomplish on any given day? Time is a precious commodity, one which we can never create more of. Each day will always present us with 24 hours - no more, no less. Time management exercises are a good way to assess how you are currently spending your time, and how you could improve your overall scheduling capabilities and work habits to decrease your stress levels and become more efficient and effective throughout the day.
Many individuals view time management exercises as just another waste of their time, ignoring the fact that one week of intensive time-tracking can truly free up a large part of each day. Think of it this way - isn't one week of tracking everything you do worth freeing up numerous hours of your future time for the enjoyment of hobbies and relaxation?
If you are currently frustrated with your lack of free time and are struggling to deal with high levels of stress, consider implementing the following time management exercises into your daily routine to help you develop a more efficient and effective scheduling system.
Essential Time Management Exercises
(1) Tracking. Start with this simple time management activity. Write down every single thing that you spend time on each day for a week. Similar to when someone must record every calorie while strictly dieting, you must treat your minutes as calories. They are precious, so why would you waste them? By no means do you need to track things to the exact second, but it will be helpful if you can estimate, as accurately as possible, how you are spending all of your time on a daily basis. As a general rule, record all activities to the nearest five minutes (30 minutes or 35 minutes, not 33 minutes and 10 seconds). This will make the time management exercise of tracking seem a bit less tedious, therefore increasing the likelihood that you will stick with it for an entire week (if you have a very consistent routine, tracking your time for only a couple of days may be all that you need to find where you are wasting the most amount of your time).
(2) Analysis. This is another key time management exercise. If you spend your entire week tracking each minute of your schedule, but then file away your notes, never to look at them again, the tracking process will be worthless to you. Once you complete the period of time that you decide is necessary to accurately track your schedule (a week is best to see trends on the weekends as well as throughout the week), sit down and scrutinize every detail. Was there a day when you spent more time on a specific task than you had hoped? Did you return to some activities over and over again without any reasoning? Something as small as checking your email for 5 minutes 12 times per day leads to the loss of an entire hour of free time! What if you had three unnecessary habits like that? You can now see how easy it is to waste time. Analysis of your detailed schedule will allow you to reveal what you are doing effectively and what you are doing ineffectively, therefore helping you reveal habits that you should continue to emphasize and those that you should completely eliminate, or at least severely reduce.
(3) Goal Setting. You have now recorded and analyzed your schedule. The next time management exercise to employ is that of goal setting. Without implementing goals and guidelines, you will be unable to improve your productivity and efficiency. Goals can be anything. If you would like to have time to workout at the gym three days per week, schedule that into you day. If you would like to have an hour each night to read a book or watch TV to unwind, schedule that in as well. There are obviously daily chores that cannot be eliminated, such as cooking dinner and doing laundry, but there are ways to make them more efficient (plan your meals ahead of time, do laundry during your hour of TV watching, etc.). You will not need to plan your day out completely for eternity, but having a strict schedule as you make big changes in your lifestyle will help keep you on track, and therefore keep you from reverting back to wasting time. Oftentimes, it is easy for people to do work after hours because they make it a priority. Don't worry, if you don't finish something before quitting time, it will be there for you tomorrow! Unless there is an urgent work deadline, teach yourself how to separate work and home. Your family and friends will greatly appreciate it. It is essential that you learn to make your hobbies priorities as well. Hobbies are often brushed aside for work projects, etc., when really, these are the activities that help you relax and enjoy life.
The main key to increasing your free time while decreasing your stress levels is balance. Time management exercises will allow you to determine whether you are spending your time wisely or just going through the motions each day. You never want to spend the majority of your time without purpose. As stated before, time is a precious commodity, so why waste it?
One tool that will compliment these time management exercises quite well is a planner. In today's society planners are found in numerous varieties. Computers and smart phones allow personal calendars to be edited on the go, and yes, there are still "old-fashioned" notebook-style planners as well. Choose whichever version works best for you, and use it to save yourself more time. Having one set document/notebook with all of your dates in it makes it much easier to stay organized in the long run.
When it comes down to it, 24 hours is all of the time a day will ever have. Take a week to complete these time management exercises and you will not only be more effective and efficient in the projects and hobbies you choose to pursue, you'll also be much happier.