Time management sounds easy. You take your to-dos, you do them on time, and then voila, you’ve managed your time. But the truth is time management isn’t a natural-born skill, yet it continues to be treated like one by women shaming themselves for not being good time managers.
Time management is actually a skill you can learn and develop with the right system supporting you. If you don’t have a good system, you’ll continue to feel overwhelmed, living in fear that you’re going to forget something that could ruin your career (dramatic, but the fear is real).
When your time management is poor, it’s likely because you’re relying on outdated methods like to-do lists, post-it notes, paper planners, or even using digital apps without an overarching strategy. It doesn’t have to be that way. This article aims to take away some of your stress by removing a significant amount of mental energy (and self-blame) when it comes to time and task management.
Dialing in your time management system
The difference between being able to take a breath and constantly feeling like there’s too much on your plate comes down to the time management system that you implement. When you have a system that actually works for you, all of a sudden you stop beating yourself up for being “bad at time management” and start knocking your projects out with less stress and overwhelm.
Whether you consciously chose one or not, you are utilizing a time management system. It just might be an inefficient one, like using multiple to-do lists, only scheduling appointments in your calendar, or keeping all of those tasks and meetings in your head.
Instead of using these types of time management systems, which ultimately make you feel like you’re bad at time management, try the time management system described here to help you get out of the vicious overwhelm cycle (but come right back, because there’s more).
Once you get your time management system dialed in by ditching to-do lists for flexible time-blocking in your digital calendar, you stop time-based self-sabotage in its tracks, and you’re able to finally prioritize your tasks in the appropriate order without having to go back over your list every time you want to switch projects.
Without a time management system that gives you clarity about your capacity and current workload, it’s easy (and common) to say yes way more than you should. But, as we all know, overcommitting is a form of self-sabotage, undercutting your ability to meet your current commitments by committing to more things than you have space or energy for. Luckily, with your new time management system, this won’t be a problem anymore.
Once you schedule time for everything into your digital calendar, you’ll be able to see at a glance how booked you are with different tasks. If you’re booked to capacity (and I recommend “capacity” is 70% full), you don’t have space for more, and you can deliver a confident and thoughtful “no” when asked if you’re available to do additional work. It also gives you an objective perspective that you can share with the people in your life who may be asking you to overcommit to things so they can understand that you truly don’t have space or energy for more.
But there’s one thing that you also have to do to make sure that self-sabotage doesn’t creep back into your calendar—stop giving your passion projects and yourself your time leftovers.
Make space for what you love
One of the reasons self-sabotage, overwhelm, and exhaustion creep into our lives because we tend to focus our time on everyone and everything except for ourselves and what we love, resulting in no time to recharge and resentment towards others and our work. Balls start getting dropped, things don’t go as planned, and the emotional patience and bandwidth you have for friends and family is nonexistent.
To keep this from happening, it’s important to build blocks of time for rest and your passion projects proactively into your calendar. This will ensure that you get the time you need to fill your cup, and that will make doing the other things on your list much easier. Plus, because everything else on your plate has time protected in your calendar to get done at a future time, you can actually enjoy that downtime without feeling that nagging sense that you “should” be doing something more productive. You have a game plan for everything else, and it doesn’t require you to work right now – so you can actually unplug and rest. Magic!
Recharging and recovery are critical to our ability to work hard over the long term and be satisfied with our lives, so don’t just leave those activities to chance – hoping you’ll have time left over after everything else to recharge. Get proactive about it.
Don’t expect to be “naturally good” at time management. It’s a skill that can be developed, especially in combination with the right time management system for you. By ditching your to-do lists for a flexible time-blocking system, you’ll get way more clarity on what your capacity is and how full your plate currently is. This system will help you both avoid overcommitting yourself (and sabotaging your current commitments and ability to recharge) and proactively protect time for rest and fun. Goodbye, overwhelm and exhaustion. Hello, enjoying life more.