Now, more than ever, our work and life are intertwined. Because of the pandemic, many of us are working from home. This will most likely continue in some form, even when the pandemic is over.

On top of this, there are especially demanding periods of the year, like Christmas. Even if some of us might be in lockdown again, it can still get hectic. Christmas preparations, the end of the financial year and preparations for next year keep things busy. And you also want to feel and look your best and be festive.

During these rushed times, a lot of people don’t have enough work-life balance, and it’s very often due to poor time management. This is a time when you need to be even more vigilant with how you manage your time.

When you feel rushed and don’t achieve your goals, it also has a domino effect and lowers your self-esteem. But time management is not about managing your time, it’s about managing yourself.

Here are 5 tips on how you can improve your time management skills for the busy periods of your life and beyond.

1. Be realistic about your time and how much you can actually achieve

Being realistic about your time is one of the most important things about managing your time.

If you’re too optimistic about what you can achieve and how long it will take you, you will always work on borrowed time. And you will always run out of time because your plans are not realistic.

The key to being realistic is to know yourself and understand how you work. If you find this difficult, you can start by writing down how long different tasks take you to complete. You will soon get a better idea of the time you will need and will be able to plan better for next time.

2. Prioritise what’s important and remove everything else from your to-do list

How many tasks do you have on your to-do list? Are you constantly adding new tasks and they’re never-ending?

Effective time management is not about adding to your lists, but the opposite. Reducing your to-do list by only focusing on what is important to you, both at home and at work. At work, prioritise what is critical to complete for the company, but also for yourself to give you a sense of fulfilment. At home, complete your have-tos and prioritise tasks that give you satisfaction.

A way of shifting the tasks on your to-do list is to focus on those that align with your inner motivation and your talents.

You can ask yourself a few questions about your tasks:

  1. Do you really have to complete the task?
  2. Do you have to do it or can you delegate it?
  3. Can you reduce the amount of work within the task?

If you are a perfectionist, you might also spend a lot of time doing things in depth. Some tasks might not need this commitment, as what you receive in return doesn’t match the effort you’ve put in. This is a waste of your time and energy.

3. Protect your valuable time and learn to say ‘no’

If you find it difficult to say ‘no’ and always prioritise those around you, then it might be easy for you to feel overwhelmed. People might also take advantage of you if they know that you’ll always help. This inability to say ‘no’ doesn’t help you to remove items from your to-do list.

To have effective time management skills, it’s important to set boundaries. If you already had something planned, it’s absolutely OK to say ‘no’ to more time-consuming obligations. Learning how to say ‘no’ is key to your effective time management, preventing feelings of overwhelm and burn out.

4. Plan and structure your time to improve your time management skills

Even if you remove items from your endless to-do list and know how long they take to complete, you still need to plan when to complete them. Knowing when your most effective time of the day or week (or month) are, can help you manage your time better.

If you have set times, tasks and appointments in the week, put them in your calendar. You’ll also be able to be realistic about how much time these responsibilities take. This can be collecting kids from kindergarten, food shopping or other chores.

If you know that you are the most creative and productive in the mornings, block time out in your calendar. Then schedule your most intense work during those times. At other times, plan in lighter work like for example sending emails or phone calls.

If you tend to try to complete all your tasks at the start of the week or month, spread them out a bit. Put them in your calendar and you won’t have to think about them. When you put your to-do list in your calendar, you’ll quickly see if you’ll have time for everything and can re-prioritise if not.

Don’t forget to plan and put your leisure activities into your calendar too. We need breaks to function better, so having one calendar for both work and leisure will help you manage your time and energy better.

Plan your leisure time so that it brings you energy for your work, but don’t use it to procrastinate about things that have to be done. For example, if you know that you feel refreshed and full of energy after swimming, then you can plan to do your taxes afterwards. But don’t go swimming instead of doing your taxes, just to avoid doing them.

5. Life happens, so keep your schedule flexible to keep on top of things

Even the best-laid plans can go wrong. Or unexpected things happen that you have to make time for. Your fridge might break, there’s a water leak or you have a family bereavement. All these things will become more urgent than finding a cheaper energy supplier.

Sometimes you’ll have to be flexible and re-prioritise. That is simply human.

Another tip is to leave some time in your calendar for all the unexpected events that might pop up, big or small. With that time, you’ll feel more in control.

Putting these tips into practice will help you improve your time management skills and feel more in control of your time and yourself.

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By Marie Dewulf – photo by free stocks  on Unsplash