How to improve your time management

My friends often joke that I am the busiest person they know, and sometimes I think they aren’t kidding. From my two jobs to my blog to my boxing and running I am constantly doing something, planning an event or expanding my network – which means time management has to be something constantly on my mind.

The more you commit to, the easier it becomes to lose track of time and the more important it becomes to manage. Whether it’s to make sure you get to a meeting on time, being able to fit an extra workout in, or just to help make sure you get enough sleep at night, time management is a critical part of being successful. As someone whose forte isn’t time management I’ve had to try a lot of tricks and instilled a lot of trial and error to find easy ways to be successful, and today I’m sharing some of those tips with you.

0180011) Use a planner (digital or paper)
My planner is my holy grail – in fact until I consult it I will not commit to plans. Whether you prefer to use a planner digitally or a hard copy, making sure you have a place to pencil in your commitments is essential for time management. If you can’t remember where you need to be or when, how do you expect to manage your time?

This year I invested in a new planner, called the day designer, that has truly help me set myself up for success. The planner is a day-by-day agenda that sorts my days into hourly time slots from 6am – 8pm, along with having spaces for my top three for the day, a check box to do list, space for my daily gratitude, and space to write it plans for after 8pm. It has truly become a lifesaver for helping me visual my day and time commitments. While you don’t need to get quite so detailed if it’s not your thing, having some sort of agenda or utilizing your google calendar really helps navigate where you need to be and when, allowing you to help get places on time and make sure you leave when you need to.

0462) Schedule in your travel time
So you’ve started writing down meetings and events in your planner. That’s great! But if you forget to write down where the event takes place then you’ve probably hit the wall of realizing your booked back-to-back at events on opposite sides of town.

Don’t feel bad, this happens to just about everyone when they first start trying to navigate their own scheduling. One way I’ve helped myself eliminate this is by writing down travel time whenever I write in an event or meeting. For example, if I have a 6:45pm boxing class I write it down from 6pm – 8:30pm to accommodate for my 45 minute bus ride. And when I have a shift at Lululemon I write it in as starting an hour beforehand so that I can try to allow myself time to take public transportation or walk. Then, if I’m running a little late I still know I can make it in time by Ubering.

3) Let others around you know if you’re in a time crunch
I am always the first person to acknowledge when I have a “hard stop.” By that I mean whenever I know I need to leave a meeting, dinner, party, or event at a specific time I immediately open up by telling my group that I have a specific time I need to leave. It may be letting a server know I need to leave at a certain time to make an event (this is really important if you’re in a time crunch at a restaurant that serves at a slower pace i.e. fine dining. They’re always happy to accommodate and are happy to speed up the pace, they just typically don’t want you to feel rushed), telling my networking meeting that I only have an hour because I have another meeting to get back for at my office, or telling a friend I’m grabbing coffee with that I only have until X time because I have a boxing class.

When you walk into a situation with a necessary end time, you automatically set the tone for a productive meeting, excuse yourself for needing to check your watch and keep and eye on the time, and give yourself a way to politely exit should the conversation drag on with no end in sight. This is not to say you should ever shop up somewhere and say you only have ten minutes, but letting someone know you really do need to be out the door for a coffee chat in an hour is completely acceptable, and especially in the case of work it is typically a relief for the other party as well who also needs to get back to their desk.

This should go without saying, but when you let someone know you have a hard stop, do so gracefully. Never yell at a server to hurry up with your food, don’t just get up and walk away from a meeting without acknowledging that your short on time, and don’t cut someone off mid conversation because you have somewhere to be. Treat the other party how you would want to be treated in that situation and show respect for the other person who took time out of their day to meet you. After all, we should follow the golden rule, right? 

4) Write down lists
No matter how amazing your memory is, there is no better organization tool than writing down a list of things you need to get done. Writing things down helps you grasp the bigger picture, and save you from having to repeat tasks, revisit stores, or spend an extra 20 minutes a day trying to remember what it was you forgot to do.

I use a list for just about everything. My phone has a list for restaurants I want to try, every week at work I start off by creating a checklist of what I need to get done, and every time I go to the grocery store I make a list of what I need before I go. While these are three very different types of lists, they all are detrimental to my time management – and while these are three of the main types of lists I make, this is definitely not a cumulative list of lists (try saying that five times fast).

Here’s how it works:

Restaurant list: Oftentimes my boyfriend and I find ourselves hungry and wanting to try something new. Rather than sit around Googling places to try to reading reviews, we consult my list and see what we’re nearby and want to try. It ends up savings us a lot of time making decisions before we go out, and reminds us of places we would have forgotten about if we hadn’t started our list in the first place.

Work Checklist: At my job I am a Director and a department of one. That means that everything related to marketing falls on my lap and becomes a task for me to complete. If I wasn’t constantly writing down lists and checking off what was accomplished small projects would got lost on my desk and never get finished. By starting my week with a list – and adding to it throughout the week – I am able to track everything I need to do, make sure it is accomplished, and if by Friday night it’s not checked off its the first thing I add back to my new list the next Monday.

Grocery Store List: This one is important for a few reasons. First, it helps me make sure I buy everything I need by giving me time to think about it. When you’re able to get everything in your first trip you potential time from a return trip, you’re able to navigate the store more quickly by not having to walk up and down every aisle looking at every product to try to decide what you need, and (bonus points) you don’t get caught putting random food items in your cart and spending money on things you don’t need. I love using the app Wunderlist to help track my shopping lists because I can clearly put everything on its own line, label my lists appropriately, and check things off as I put them in my shopping cart.

5) Prioritize your to-do’s
Prioritizing you to-do list is such a freeing experience. By doing this, you are allowing yourself to say what things don’t need to be done that day, removing the stress of a get it all done attitude. I especially love doing this for my work list where I am able to prioritize projects with set deadlines or that have a specific date attached to them.

For example, one week I may have three press releases to write, an article I want to read and a social media content calendar to fill out. If I know two of the press releases are time sensitive and the social content needs to be posted within the next day those three things would go to the top of my list. If the article is a great piece for my own personal knowledge but doesn’t help us meet a deadline or tactic it can sit at the bottom of my list and potentially be a task I roll over to the following week. This helps make sure that the tasks that require completing get done in a timely fashion and saves you from working late, missing deadlines, or trying to accomplish too many tasks in a day because you started with the ones that weren’t a priority.

How do you help ensure you stay on track with your time management? Share you favorite tip in the comments.

Photos by Laura Waldron Photography

5 thoughts on “How to improve your time management

  1. All of these are great tips! I always have to use a planner and make lists to keep myself from getting overwhelmed. I think prioritizing is something I could definitely do better though! Thanks for sharing this!

Leave a Reply