Time Management for When the World Has Turned Upside Down
By Monika B. Jensen, Ph.D
Time management is probably one of the most popular courses in professional development programs. There is always a new idea, a new technology, or a new system claiming to be a magic bullet. But, after more than two decades as a human resources executive and corporate trainer, I can tell you there is no particular pill to make an instantaneous dramatic change. However, there is a small system of progressive actions you can take to become the keeper of your own time.
The process is easy, but not simple.
This guest blog, brought to you by patdoyle.ca, is going to walk you through what it means to make life-time changes to manage your schedule. It works now in our new world of remote working, and it works when you will return to your place of employment.
How much time will it take? Aren’t we trying to save time?
The reason why people continue to take time management courses is that those fast gimmicks don’t get to the heart of the issues behind what is causing clogged schedules and pressure-filled work weeks. A good time management regimen adjusts behaviours.
By recognizing bad habits that contribute to time wasters or improper boundary-setting, we can find you more free time.
When we identify good behaviours that help make your world a productive and happier place, we create enjoyable schedules.
Changing behaviours and habits takes time: 21 days. That’s almost the wait period of isolation for the COVID-19 virus!
So where do you start?
Let’s begin with the 10 Tips of good time management practices that I wrote about in my April 7 blog, summarized in the chart below. And we’ll expand on each one to give great tactics about how to do this when working remotely:
Decide to spend your time in the service of you: your values and your commitments.
Interestingly day-to-day, everyone has the same number of hours. The way people use these hours, frees their world to find opportunities or closes their world to manage stress.
Do you want to have more control over your time? If the answer is yes, then great.
Are you prepared to do some tough boundary-setting work to get there? If the answer is yes, I applaud you. That’s the first step, and you just finished it.
Start by recognizing who makes demands upon your time.
Make a list of all the people who make demands upon your time. Please include yourself in this list!
Now, look at this list.
Are the people who are commanding the most time from you the most dear to you? If they aren’t, your schedule isn’t in alignment with the way you want to live. This is your next step.
Allocate some hours each week to spend with the groups of people you have identified.
Some of these hours may be commitments to work. Block these in first.
Is the ideal work schedule you are creating 40 hours or less? If it’s more, ask yourself if this is what you want. If it isn’t, figure out a way to do things differently. We are the creators of our schedules.
Remember to put in time each week to deal with emergencies.
Create time to homeschool, if you are fitting that into your remote work schedule.
Set boundaries to manage unreasonable demands.
Deciding to manage your time may mean that you only look at emails during certain times in the day. It may mean you take phone calls and return them at certain times in the day. We call this setting boundaries.
Not agreeing to take on more tasks until the ones assigned to you are finished, is another example of setting boundaries.
Resetting demands may require identifying the most critical deadline. You may suggest that a project or initiative shift to a colleague. You may decide to make a pitch for more resources. These are all valid questions to ask, and the professional tact to take. Good managers, directors and executives recognize this and will work with you.
Recognizing which tasks to delay or shift comes down to setting priorities.
Identify and set your priorities.
Use the two-step process to list the things to be finished. While doing this, recognize who is responsible for each activity and its overall project or goal.
Then put them in groups according to:
- Must Do’s
- Should Do’s
- Nice to Do’s
Review and adjust your priorities and tasks daily
Consider your priorities as being flexible since circumstances change over time. For example, what a B is today may be an A tomorrow when the deadline is nearer.
Use collaboration tools with colleagues and bosses so that they can see the progress of your priority projects. It may free you from some update meetings. Found Time!
Create a daily routine for regular activities
One of the healthiest practices we can create for ourselves is to have a routine on weekdays and weekends. That means creating a morning schedule that accommodates activities to prepare you for the day ahead.
- Wake at a specific time.
- Exercise at a specific time.
- Prepare breakfast and eat at a specific time.
- Dress for the day ahead at the same time each day.
- Plan your workday in order of intensity of work required. Slot times to do different types of intense work at specific times. If you have more energy in the morning, do your most difficult work then. If you have a burst of energy every afternoon at 3pm, maybe it belongs there.Adjust your schedule to your rhythms, if possible.
- Stop working at the same time each day.
- Schedule some rest time before dinner.
- Prepare dinner and eat at a specific time.
- Slot in some restoration time, and times to do activities with your loved ones.
- Go to bed at a regular time.
Eliminate unnecessary and inappropriate activities.
If it doesn’t fit with how you want to live, is unnecessary, or doesn’t give enough value to your life, consider eliminating it.
When reviewing your tasks and your priorities, seek ways to delegate activities.
That means that when you are working from home, give your kids some tasks to do if they are old enough to help. Assisting with making breakfast, clearing the table, setting up the homeschool area: these are significant tasks to delegate to your kids and make them part of your functional schedule.
Set up a private office and a separate homeschooling area. Keep these separate from recreational and rest areas, if at all possible.
Turn things off that you don’t need, like any sounds that ping on your computer or mobile devices to alert you about a notification. It also means turning off music and television, both of which can be distractions. More importantly, this form of multi-tasking creates changes in the brain that stops us from being able to concentrate as long.
Set up times for when your homeschooled kids ask you questions. Set up half our classes, where the children do their work, and, you do yours. Use the next half hour to answer questions, move around, and take a mental break. Repeat this cycle a few times each day. You will discover that you have accomplished more in less work time and that there is less anxiety once everyone in the household has adjusted.
Use timers to block quiet work time and independent work time.
Do difficult tasks when energy is high.
We all have natural energy cycles. As mentioned earlier, complete the most difficult tasks when you have the most energy.
Make your schedule work for you!
These are easy solutions, but they aren’t simple to implement. It will take retraining for the people around you to recognize and accept your new way of working. Be relentless but kind in pursuit of control of your schedule. It’s the only way to make your 168 hours per week the underpinnings for an enjoyable life.
About Aviary Group:
HR Executive and Mediator Monika B. Jensen, Ph.D, founded Aviary Group to deliver top-level people-management and negotiation skills to companies in the public and private sectors. The Company is highly regarded for its ability to investigate, propose and facilitate organizational change.
Working with in-house HR Teams or the Board of Directors, Monika has saved companies millions of dollars through workplace investigations, conflict resolution and workplace restoration. She also draws on her education in sociology and psychology to inform professional development and one-to-one coaching, both of which are often required to rebuild positive and productive work environments.